6 December 2010 | vchimpanzee
Mostly pleasant family movie with important lessons
Jake (Philip Winchester) has not been able to focus on a single job or stay in one place ever since the death of his wife. But shortly before Christmas, the brakes go out on this pickup and a mysterious woman named Molly (Yara Martinez) shows up and knows exactly what is wrong and even his what he needs to fix the truck. She disappears as suddenly as she appeared, but she has given Jake an address and a job.
In Portland, Oregon, Trish is an English teacher whose husband is a cop. Their teenage daughter Dana is having trouble with calculus, but her mother has high expectations of her. Their younger son Toby is wearing a ratty jacket and carrying an old backpack, saying he gave his friend Mikey (Jackson Pace) his new jacket and backpack.
One of Trish's students is Mikey's brother Justin (Cameron Deane Stewart), who is good at math and a basketball player. But Justin is not doing well in Trish's class; the latest assignment is to write about a life-changing event. Justin lost his father in the Iraq war several years earlier, and while that is his topic, he is having great difficulty writing about it. Trish doesn't care if he's having trouble--either he finishes the paper or he's off the basketball team. And when Justin's mother Cindy (Jana Lee Hamblin) shows up late for a conference with Trish--well, that's just too bad. Never mind that Cindy is a waitress (at a restaurant Trish's husband likes) with a pile of bills marked "final notice". Justin has to work to help pay the bills, though somehow he finds time to skateboard with his friends (they're really good!).
Trish gets distracted and wrecks her car. When she wakes up in the hospital, everyone thinks she is Cindy. She is wearing Cindy's clothes but doesn't know a thing about Cindy's life. So she has to struggle to learn everything about Cindy, with the excuse being that she is recovering from her injuries. Furthermore, Trish learns a lot about herself from those who don't realize Cindy is actually Trish.
Trish is able to help her new family in ways Cindy couldn't, but she has difficulty on the job. That's okay, because something magical happens there.
Cindy's family has a new neighbor--Jake! And his presence ends up making a real difference in the family's life. Especially with the help of quirky Molly, who keeps appearing and disappearing without explanation.
Justin finds out what he needs to do, as he tutors Dana and spends time with Jake. This is not, however, "The Parent Trap"--no one explains where Trish is all this time, and she doesn't seem to be missing.
After some adversity and a few more miracles, an event in Trish's life repeats itself, and once she finally realizes what has happened, Trish can do some things differently this time.
It's a Christmas miracle, indeed.
Everyone involved gives a good performance. While the V-chip rating is G, there are some difficult moments. After all, we're dealing with people who lost someone in war, and more of life's real difficulties. This is acceptable for children because it could happen to them. But this is not some sugary-sweet version of what happens.
Since Nancy Travis is listed as both Trish and Cindy in the credits, I assume she played Cindy when Cindy was Trish. This makes sense if Travis is first in the credits. She did a wonderful job in both roles.
I haven't succeeded in finding who played Trish's husband but he was great when he had to show sympathy.
I will say many people will probably like Yara Martinez in her off-the-wall performance as Molly, which starts out normal but gets increasingly silly and uninhibited. Personally, I couldn't stand her.
There was music in this movie. But that was background music without lyrics, which was somewhat listenable. Then there was a lot of unpleasant noise that had words in it, which some people will misuse the word "music" to describe--especially early in the movie. I suppose this is necessary to get young people to watch.
It was a wonderful effort.