14 December 2002 | Victor Field
For Kathy Ireland devotees, Christmas freaks, and royalists.
You've heard of "King Midas In Reverse"? Kathy Ireland is Orson Welles in reverse - meaning to say the swimsuit model-cum-actress-cum-designer-cum-Christian's never done a movie as BAD as her debut ("Alien From L.A."). "Once Upon A Christmas" continues this tradition, though not alas for lack of trying.
This TV movie is based on the premise that Santa Claus has become disillusioned with his day job, what with so many naughty people in the world and anti-Kringle websites ("Jingle bells, Santa smells..."); but his good-hearted daughter Kristin (Kathy, but who else?) still feels there's a chance for December 25, so she agrees to try and change the mind of the Morgans, with the future of Yuletide at stake. But the father (John Dye) is business-minded, his children are avaricious and intent on getting rid of every potential substitute mum, and their uncle (Wayne Thomas Yorke, in the movie's best performance) is hardly the ideal guardian. Plus our heroine's sister is little more than the Grinch in human form...
All of which could, in better hands, have proven to be a decent little seasonal movie; it certainly has good intentions on its side, and isn't too shameless in its pitch for the "Touched By An Angel" audience (I knew John Dye had been on it, and I bet myself that Kathy had also been alongside Roma Downey at one point. I was right). But better writing and directing (Steven H. Berman and Tibor Takacs respectively) would have helped, with the amusing earlier scenes at the North Pole wiped out by the poorly handled climax; decent special effects - Kathy's sleigh ride makes "Superboy" look good - and child actors who can actually act wouldn't have gone amiss either. For a movie that's supposed to be about restoring the Christmas spirit, this is fairly low on spirit itself; it's never really as heartwarming as it should be, and depressingly short on humour as well (the villain gets surprisingly little time, with the emphasis on the family).
Kathy Ireland is, however, endearing (as well as looking a treat throughout - as the credits point out, "Special Thanks to The Kathy Ireland Signature Collection"), and the movie is more bearable than "Ernest Saves Christmas" or the "Miracle on 34th Street" remake. It would be nice to think that the sequel ("Twice Upon A Christmas") is an improvement, but I'm not holding my breath. (For those wondering why this is good for royalists, a certain Edward Wessex is one of the executive producers. Well, he has to do something...)