6 January 2010 | jamesg-14
A cut above the rest
Every Christmas my wife and I make a point to watch as many Hallmark, Lifetime and ABC Family holiday movies as possible. We have sat through a lot of dreck and truly painful, endless, tiresome TV movies. This came as a genuine surprise. As much as I've come to expect the hokey, predictable story lines and cliché characters, this movie doesn't exactly break from all that completely, but I was impressed by how entertained I was. Here are some of the reasons: (1) This takes place in real central California locations, not a Canadian city or town pretending to be "Christmastown, Anywhere." (It's usually part of the fun guessing if the locale is Ontario or BC, and here it's actually where it's pointed out to be, which is unique.) (2) There are three or four comic lines of dialogue that made me laugh, even howl, out loud (with the movie, not at it, which is also unique). (3) Gammon's performance as the dad; he has made a career out of this type of character and he is spot on. Actually, all the actors do a great job with their roles; even the contemptible ex-boyfriend is done so well he's actually enjoyable. Jason London is perfect. (4) I was able to sympathize with both the "city boy's" situations and "country folk's" reactions to him. (5) There are a couple of animals (vicious dog and wild horse) whose depictions are very well handled and convincing. (6) What starts out as a probable "Meet the Parents" rip-off goes instead in its own direction to tell a different story. (7) Though it is predictable, the reconciliation between father and daughter (in the shadow of her late mother's memory) is handled so well that it actually brought a tear to my eye (something NONE of these TV movies has EVER accomplished). Yes, there are a couple of lame elements: blatant product placement for Kay jewelers, a tree-lighting ceremony that takes place in daylight, three brother characters that aren't developed, and a career/life decision the protagonist makes at the end that isn't too believable. But the joys far outweigh the problems. I wasn't expecting to enjoy it nearly that much.