Directed by: Martha Coolidge
Starring: Steven Weber, Patricia Velásquez, Molly Shannon.
Four words: Groundhog Day meets Scrooged.
With those four words you have pretty much the exact start beginning and end of this predictable piece. It is unfortunate that both of the above films star Bill Murray as while watching this I found myself thinking, ‘this would have been better with Bill Murray’.
The obvious focus of the film is on a selfish, business driven, divorcee and father who has 12 days in which to fulfil the perfect Christmas Eve. Any failure brings him back to the beginning of the day in an effort to be less selfish and make the day better for everyone.
Films like this are pretty much a by the numbers job for both the director and the stars. Martha Coolidge, who has had a terribly spotty career, directs this with all the anonymity of a made-for-TV director. Molly Shannon and Patricia Velásquez have incredibly little to do. Shannon, who can be hilarious, plays Angie the angel who oversees the ethereal hospital to which Steven Weber is sent at the end of each Christmas Eve. She performs the role with a smidgen of humour and as with most appearance I can remember her in seems to be having fun.
Velásquez plays the role of the Latin American business woman Isabel, who is looking to offer a company the opportunity to expand into Brazil. She has very little to do and what she does do could have been done by any ‘Latin American’ actress. The character is incredibly obvious; a businesswoman who is more interested in the personality and interrelationships of the prospective partner than of their business acumen.
Weber plays Calvin Carter, a businessman who has built up his ailing father’s discount store business from the brink of failure. He is the sole focus of this movie and therefore has to be interesting and engaging in order for the movie to have any chance of working. He generally succeeds with this task but, as mentioned above, Bill Murray is the obvious comparison and it is not favourable for Weber.
The comedy in this is very, very gentle, perhaps too gentle. The sentiment seems to be applied with a trowel and involves an ex-wife, a son in a Christmas concert and a father who is slowly degenerating. I guess this is generally what you should come to expect from a TV movie. Scrooged and Groundhog Day certainly had mawkish ends but, when coupled with Murray’s incredibly cynical starting points, the release for the characters involved was, if not realistic, certainly understandable. Weber’s character here doesn’t seem too bad at the beginning, maybe a little misguided and over-ambitious but he never seems like the type of person who would need angelic intervention rather than a bit of familial guidance. I have to commend the film for one slight plot point that I shan’t reveal here but I was convinced wouldn’t happen.
I certainly cannot recommend purchasing this film but if it is on at Christmas and the only alternatives are the Tori Spelling version of A Christmas Carol (called A Carol Christmas, it does exist, unfortunately) and The Great Escape (for the 700th time) then, well, watch The Great Escape. But if that’s not on then you will probably enjoy this more than Tori Spelling or a Christmas special of Heartbeat.