Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Holiday Torture at its best

Every end of year holiday season is filled with traditions and comforting touchstones that are revisited annually. You're allowed to get away with eating too much, acting like a goofy kid about presents, wearing awful holiday-themed clothing, and generally being a sentimental sap about everything and any thing.

An example of this is the holiday movie theme programming that takes over the Hallmark and Lifetime channels beginning around Thanksgiving and kicking into high gear the minute that December 1 hits. These channels air, and in many cases produce, a shit-ton of  holiday  Christmas (who am I kidding with this PC crap?) movies until the new year is upon us.
I'm "lucky" enough to not only have the regular Lifetime and Hallmark channels, which intersperse their Xmas movie roster with sitcom reruns and Martha Stewart, but to also have the specified movie channel versions for both networks, which exclusively play these sappy movies 24 hours a day.

Every year I complain about these movies; they're so bad, so earnestly cheesy, so tooth-achingly sweet. Yet every year I watch as many as I can without turning my brain to mush. And the plots! The scripts for these movies are beyond ridiculous; uneven story structure, stilted dialogue, horrendous pacing; and that's not even getting into the bad acting that happens in 99.8 % of these things. Even when the producers have managed to snag decent actors there's no saving some of these. Let me describe what happens in three (three?! yikes) of the movies that I've watched (so far) this week - title, plot, actors etc. may or may not be 100% accurate:
"The Good Witch's Gift" - This is a Xmas themed sequel to I guess a series of Lifetime movies about a good witch played by the chick from JAG, who's married to the police chief (played by hottie Chris Potter) in some small town.
*This is one of the first rules that you need to understand about ALL of these movies - they take place in these weird small towns. Even when the movies start out with our protagonists living/struggling in the big bad city, they always end up in a small town. These towns are the most generic and slightly creepy places you've ever seen, where everyone knows everyone and people are totally nosy and always giving advice that nobody wants; always set in locales that are either generically "California-y" or "New Englandy", but are almost exclusively filmed in Canada.
Anyway, in this Good Witch movie some dude that has just been paroled after doing time for robbing the town's bank, comes home to supposedly bond with his child and ex-wife. The chief suspects that he's returned to dig up the bank cash that he thinks the dude's hidden somewhere because it was never located. In the meantime the police chief and the Good Witch (who is like psychic or something? and is constantly manipulating all of the characters in this movie to do the "right" thing) are planning their Xmas eve wedding that the whole town is invited to. There's also lots of other little side stories that are too boring or nonsensical to mention. One thing that confused me which I'm sure was explained in one of the previous Good Witch movies, was that this whole town seemed to know that the Good Witch was a witch and no one batted an eye or seemed to care. Very odd.
Verdict/Grade = because they've got Chris Potter going for them I sat through the whole thing without bleep-blooping forward through any of the cheesy parts. I give it a B, which is high marks for one of these.

"The Christmas Shoes" - It's only the hypnotic power of Rob Lowe's endless hotness that allowed me to sit through even half of this cheeseball movie. Right out of the gate you need to know that this movie is from a book by some cheesy Christian romance author, who in turn based her book on a country song by the same name. Yes, an actual country Christmas song inspired a book that inspired a movie. The plot of the song/book/movie is that some high-powered asshole lawyer who never has time for his family and hates Christmas and kittens encounters a poor young boy who has a mom that's dying of cancer and she used to be a dancer? or play the flute or something musical and the kid wants to buy his mom this pair of red shoes for Christmas since it will be her last one on Earth. The kid's dad is a real sad-sack who is drowning his sorrow in booze and can't help the kid out with money or attention so that's where Rob Lowe comes in. And he takes pity on the kid for some reason and ends up buying the shoes for him and then learns the meaning of Christmas and puppies and changes into *Awesome Dude (rule #2 - there will always be a character in the movie that has a radical personality change from mean/stressed/neglectful/drunk to winsome/extraordinarily kind). Verdict/Grade = C;  Rob Lowe's beauty only goes so far

"The Christmas Blessing" - So get this, the greedy producers evidently saw how well "Shoes" did and decided to make a sequel that supposedly takes place 18 years after the first story but in fact was only filmed 2 years later. Rob Lowe is back in a cameo (with seemingly cake flour brushed into his sideburns to indicate the passage of time) as the high-powered attorney who is now so good and wonderful and milque-toast that it's embarrassing. Lowe is in the film for a total of 4 minutes as the rich dude who saves the day at the end of the movie by buying a house that will be turned into a daycare center. Don't worry, it doesn't make sense even if you've watched it. The movie's main characters are played by Neil Patrick Harris, henceforth called Doogie, who plays the kid from the "Shoes" movie all grown up and a doctor in "Boston", and my favorite vehicular manslaughterist Rebecca Gayheart as a teacher who's just moved to the small "New England" town from Texas. Also featured is the guy who played the dad in the original, but this time sporting a beard that they also flour dusted, and the annoying kid from Two & A Half Men filling in the *child role in the movie. (Rule #3 - there's always at least one kid who has a major plot point)
The plot for this one is all over the place. Doogie is an intern at some hospital in the city and loses a teen on the OR table and freaks out about it and decides to "take some time to heal" by running home to his papa. We're supposed to figure out that Doogie has run home a lot over the years when things got too stressed, and spends his time there reminiscing about his mom and making his dad sad all over again. So this time when he comes home on "vacation" from the hospital he finds that his dad is in full-on empty nester mode; he plans on selling the house and his successful mechanics shop, dating his bookkeeper, and possibly buying a RV and moving to Florida. Doogie is not happy about any of this because he is a selfish wanker. Doogie starts volunteering for an after school program at the elementary school and starts dating Gayheart's character named Callie. One of the kids on the basketball team that Doogie coaches is the 2 1/2 kid who is also really poor, with a sad-sack drunk of a dad and a dead mom (just like Doogie was!). There are about 5 million story threads tangled up here that are so poorly thought out it's frustrating. Doogie's dad gave the Christmas Shoes to charity and 2 1/2's dad picked them up and gave them to 2 1/2 and told him they were his dead mom's dancing shoes. These shoes by the way? Are the fugliest things I've ever seen in my life (red silk brocade flats (!) with gold filigree on them), but throughout the movie they are held aloft like they're Dorothy's ruby slippers.
So randomly an hour in we find out that 2 1/2 has like Marfan's syndrome and his little heart is so diseased that he only has a little time left to live. Both the kid and the dad act like they've known this the whole time but they never actually say this so you're left feeling weird (this won't be last time this happens). Then we find out that Callie has Hep B and cirrhosis of the liver (the hell?!) and will die on Xmas Eve (just like Doogie's mom!) if she doesn't get a liver transplant. It is also not clear if/how long Callie has known about her illness. Such poor writing. If the ending hasn't already been telegraphed for you, 2 1/2 of course dies and his dad gives Callie the boy's liver. And right before the kid died he gave Doogie back the shoes to give to Callie. ANYWAY, the movie ends with some charity concert for the daycare center and who shows up but none other than Blake Shelton who is a real-life country music star and who thanks Rob Lowe's character for bringing him there to perform. As if a Grammy winning artist would really fly all the way from Nashville to a small town in "New England"  Canada for some dumb daycare center opening. Wait! Were the producers being all meta and is Blake Shelton the guy who sings "The Christmas Shoes" song? Meh, I don't care enough to look it up. Verdict/Grade = C-/D+; if I ever meet NPH, the first thing I'm asking him is about this turd.

Next on the my viewing docket this week is something called "Comfort & Joy" with Nancy "don't go messin' with Jo Polniaczek" McKeon. And I'll hopefully be recording one of my holiday movie faves starring Heather Locklear about a sad-sack divorced mom who has a Christmas fling with a hot 20 year old. I can't remember the name of it, but that's what IMDB is for.


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