Make no mistake, this movie is only a 8/10 but I was forced to give a 10/10 due to unfair low ratings on here. Also, as a self-appointed armchair movie critic, I shall give here a scathing critique ref. those 2 missing stars. Now, and without further ado, I'd like to say:
BRING BACK CHIP! Give us a Nutcracker-Chip 2.0 sequel!!!
I find myself sadly in an alternate universe not of my choosing, confined to watching Lifetime movies. Needless to say, I've been agonizing over many dull storylines and terrible acting. Not with A Very Nutty Christmas. This little film stands out from the rest thanks to the talented cast and is a joy to watch, so much so that I've already watched it 6-7 times. This embarrasses me to no end, you understand, therefore I had to create this alternate ID to conceal my true self and thus provide an accurate review.
It was only after my casual 3rd watch that I came to IMDb to try and figure out if the guy at the end is the same Nutcracker we see at the beginning. (No spoilers!) Then, misfortune had me look up the name of the protagonist and... More on that, soon!
Barry Watson is packing major charisma and is a delight to watch. His Chip is the reason I can't get enough of this unpretentious little film. He gives it his all. Not once does he drop character, even when in the background, he's always up to something cute. Every time I watch it, I notice new cute stuff he does, and I wonder if it was in the script. I'm still wondering if where Chip puts the whip (in the bakery's kitchen) was actually Barry's clever acting choice. (No spoilers!) Every little thing he does, every single expression of his is infinitely engaging. The way he yelps "they're singing!" with utter joy about the carolers, his goofy grin & eyes while he cracks nuts... he is a sheer joy to watch! He captures his character's innocence with disarming charm, and his performance is akin to that of a Patrick Duffy in Man From Atlantis, or a Robert Hays in Starman. Going back much further in time, I'm thinking he's reminiscent of Johnny Weissmuller's little boy charm, which that actor brought to his Tarzan. Which brings me to this sidebar pondering:
Why are Oscars, Emmys or Golden Globes only given to dramatic performances that, usually, either make us feel bad or stem from a film which no one watched because it bored us to tears before we flipped channels, walked or dozed off? Why isn't comedy, laughter etc. ever rewarded? Evoking positive emotions in your audience, making them laugh, comedy... this is often much harder to play, and deserves its rightful rewards and awards! It's long overdue. It's time. Plus laughter is life-saving, drama is life-sucking. I choose movies that make me feel good. For the rest? Turn on the news, folks!
Watson here effortlessly goes through a wide range of emotions, that encompass much more than innocence: with subtle nuances, Watson alternates from wonder to effusive glee, to unbridled joy, as Chip marvels at the world around him, delights at carolers singing---and joins in with such a powerful rendition of the lyric "O Tannenbaum", it made me wonder if this completely unknown actor had perhaps been hiding on Broadway doing musicals..? Maybe he is an opera singer with a prolific discography that I'm unaware of? At any rate, Chip the Nutcracker takes the viewer by her hand and won't let go until... sadly not the very end. When Chip goes, the magic goes with him. As it should be. When watching again, I can't wait till he appears. It ought to be noted that Watson also brings quite a bit of humor to this part, oftentimes a tongue-in-cheek wink at the audience (such as in the whipped cream mustache scene & many more) without ever resorting to being condescending, and never acting like he's too good for the part and he's doing you a favor to even show up. All in all, it's a masterful performance that this skilled actor plays like a seasoned virtuoso. I wish him much success.
Now for the rest, some good and some bad...
Rizwan Manji provides wonderful support actor comic relief. It's great to see Conchata "I y'aint cleaning dat!" Ferrel doing something other than being an unpleasant b-word biker-granny-housekeeper... but she seems a bit out of her depth playing nice, and is under used. Overall, I liked her in this. Marissa Jaret Winokur delivers. Now for the bad:
I didn't care at all for the set decor, namely the bakery. The window coming from the back of the actors provided too much light and was very distracting; it didn't look like a real kitchen, it looked more like an office closet, and this decor hampered the kitchen scenes a bit. I'd say get rid of the person in charge of set decor for the sequel. Even the houses were unremarkable.
My one critique for Barry Watson? Posture, my dear good fellow, posture! You are playing a toy solider, a wooden nutcracker, we need your posture to be perfect. Stand tall, shoulders back and move with a bit more stiffness. Evidently, I'm not talking about all the scenes, but certainly when he walks he should have marched. When he stands, he should have been more impeccably erect. This guy will never win Dancing With the Stars! (Didn't Melissa or Marisa learn anything to help him here?) So his ice-skating and ballroom stints are sorely lacking in good posture. Critic's confession: I only noticed this the 3rd time I watched it, so we'll give him a pass. The guy is so good in this, but he's not perfect. However, Chip is. I hope to see improved posture in the sequel.
Also, his costume didn't fit properly. I understand they're on a budget, but floppy pants are ill-fitting. They're too flimsy, they needed stiffness. Jacket could have been taken for alterations as well. Ok, he's a toy but I need better visuals. Keep that in mind for the sequel, gang!
Melissa Joan Hart... I'm so torn about reviewing her! I completely understand the harsh critiques. For the bad: she comes across as wooden, with mainly only one expression, and her performance falls completely flat when she has to show romantic feelings towards Chip (kissing scene)... there's none. Thankfully, Barry Watson more than compensates here, acting for two, and manages to bring the chemistry level up to where it should be. I wish MJH's acting coach or director would have here coaxed a bit more out of her. Sadly, she's playing it like he's her brother more than a love interest. Come to think of it, she always plays the same character. (Herself?) Having said this, I'm also cursed with a face frozen in one dull expression & whatever I feel, it either doesn't transpire, or the opposite emotion does! So I understand, but I'm not an actress! MJH is a beloved "relic" from the 90s, as most of us are, and luckily for her, she is likable. I'm not sure why but she is. Good for her! She seems to excel in playing "annoyed" (see theater scene, where she is excellent) but she thankfully doesn't play b-wordy the whole time, unlike most of these Z-list Lifetime actresses who seem to resort to this dull acting crutch, lest they'd drop character whenever another actor takes their turn reciting their lines at them. Now that is unwatchable!
Melissa did look gorgeous in almost all the gowns she tried, and she looked her best in the glittery lavender number. Pity they didn't showcase her in that one , but I hope she kept it along with the rose tee and skirt. And her remorse at the theater was very well played and came through beautifully, making it a surprisingly very poignant scene, in the midst of this lighthearted comedy. Overall, her performance rises to a B- and that's good enough for Lifetime.
The other actors provide good overall support. Now. For the awful. As I was saying, I went to Barry Watson's page to see what else this unknown---yet very talented---actor has done. My stomach instantly turned when I saw the photo of the kid from 7th Heaven at his profile. What the what?!? Are you kidding me right now?! I can't stand that kid! He actually is this guy?! The "I'm too good looking to be in this show, but I'll do you a favor and show up but I'm not happy about this & I'll make sure you know it!" sullen faced annoying brat!? That guy can't act!!! He (and his "sister") is one of the main reasons I couldn't stomach that show to watch past the pilot! (And, thus, I never knew his name.) I mean there is NO way that kid grew up to be talented and ended up in *my* little film here! I can't get enough of of Chip. Fat chance it's the same guy! (I'm so revolted, I think I need therapy. Let's go in denial.) Actually, I've decided that IMDb is wrong here again, and has merged two Barry Watsons pages by mistake. So there! In conclusion:
Bring back Chip for a Very Nutty Nutcracker Christmas sequel, please!
A different female character is needed so she doesn't know who he really is... (I mean the Nutcracker, not the actor!) I'd like to suggest Lifetime actresses who can act, and with a pleasant disposition, such as Laura Breckenridge or Arielle Kebbel, if they're available. Yes, I give this film a resounding and glorious 8/10. As Chip himself said it, when it comes to A Very Nutty Nutcracking Christmas...
Can we do that, again!?