Alex: In this case, the Christmas Star is Nikki, a famous (sort of) pop singer and played by Shannon Elizabeth. Of course Christmas movies are not necessarily new to her either. She got her start in a sublime little picture called Jack Frost about 16 years ago. Check out the trailer below and don’t worry, it’s not the Jack Frost starring Michael Keaton that came out a year later. I wouldn’t do that to you.
So Shannon’s got some good experience to draw from here. Now if it were me, I would be afraid to do another Christmas movie. It’s kind of like why I never went to see Pablo Cruise when I noticed they were playing at various county fairs and Indian casinos over the past decade. Because they were my very first concert, when I was 6 years old. So I was afraid that if I saw them again, years later, and God-forbid, something happened to me that caused me to die, my concert life would be bookended by Pablo Cruise. Sure, I saw a ton of more respectable artists but nobody will care. All that will matter is that it started with Pablo Cruise and ended with Pablo Cruise. And I can’t have that hanging over my head. I guess I could maybe see them someday and then immediately see someone else in concert the very next night but still, that will be a scary 24 hours for me. Plus it’s possible that the Pablo Cruise-in-concert window has closed forever now anyway.
But I guess with these Christmas movies, it’s a little bit different. Because they are truly a last stop. I’m pretty sure that no actor of any familiarity has ever done one of them and then parlayed that into some kind of a comeback. It’s like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube. So regardless of death, Shannon’s career will likely be bookended by Christmas movies and I have to assume she’s made some peace with that.
As well she should too, as there is no shame in starring in Christmas movies. As long as you don’t sing really, really badly in it or show up with a ton of plastic surgery and–uh…oh boy. Oh no ‘cuz that’s exactly what Shannon does in Catch a Christmas Star. Although to be fair, her face doesn’t necessarily look all that carved up, it just seems like it could be made entirely of wax. Maybe it’s the make-up though. Or it’s possible she’s been made of wax this whole time, I’ve never really checked. I did look her up online to verify that her first movie was indeed Jack Frost (as you may guess, the factual integrity of this blog is of the utmost importance) and discovered that she is 40. But she doesn’t look 40. So I guess I’ll give her that.
Then there is the singing. Like I said, she plays a pop star – Nikki (no last name). To prove this to me, the movie has a lot of scenes where she does sing. Because I just wouldn’t believe it otherwise. And I think it actually is Shannon Elizabeth doing her own stunts here. It’s gotta be her real voice because for the life of me, I can’t figure out how they could possibly bring in a real singer that sounded that rough. Please believe that I am not just saying this to be rude or snarky or make jokes or because I am some kind of musical, elitist pig. I am just an ordinary schmo, who, like other ordinary schmos, has seen plenty of American Idol auditions where half the people that come in can sing and the other half are embarrassingly off. To me, and I would assume to everyone, there is no doubt that Nikki falls into the latter category and since there are plenty of them in the former, most never getting anywhere near even the American Idol Top Whatever, I don’t know why the producers didn’t just make one of their voices come out of Shannon Elizabeth’s mouth. You don’t need any big stars or anything, just some gal who can carry a tune.
Once again, to be fair, not every single note Nikki sings is a kill shot but there are some absolute howlers and just the general tone of her voice isn’t pleasant. The movie makes this much worse by constantly having people say what a beautiful voice she has. And by having her sing so damn much. Like I said, they could easily get away with just telling us she’s a pop star and maybe show her in the studio for a second making strainy faces and I’d believe them. But no, they throw her right into the shark tank. 5 minutes in and she’s singing our national anthem. Talk about a baptism of fire.
I just realized that I have mainly focused on criticizing Shannon Elizabeth here and haven’t even told you much about the movie yet. Although I hate to say it but that kind of was the movie for me. And I must be a terrible person because her character actually wasn’t bad in the film. She didn’t annoy me like so many of these other spunky, quirky little rodents I am supposed to care about and not want to accidentally push into a cement mixer. As far as I can tell, Nikki is a good, sweet person and maybe I just should have heard her first, seminal album that gets brought up a few times to really get her as an artist. She’s from a small town in Jersey and after coming to New York to promote her new Christmas album and play a big show on Christmas Eve, she crosses paths with her old high school sweetheart. This dude named Chris. I don’t think I recognized him from anything and I spent most of the time trying to figure out what was wrong with his hair and where his eyes went sometimes. There were moments where I could have sworn he didn’t even have eyes. So see, I am an equal opportunity critic.
But since this is a family Christmas movie on the Hallmark Channel, we’ve got to check the body count here. One dead wife. As in, Chris’ wife and the mother of his two children. She died 5 years ago in a car accident and he has been a lovable Mr. Mom ever since. And she died right before Thanksgiving so that tends to make the holidays tough. That is so often the case with these movies too. Whenever they play the death card, that deceased loved one almost always passed away right around or before the holidays. I guess to just make us care even more. If they had died in, say, May, I’d be like, “Meh, who gives a shit? The holidays will be a nice change of pace for the people dealing with the loss. Maybe even a distraction since that is the only way they might think of this loved one more around that time of year.”
To my knowledge, Chris is not able to make furniture but he is a teacher and coaches high school basketball and of course, is Mr. Mom. My wife says that is an acceptable substitute. Turns out Nikki thinks so too and has never stopped loving him. He seems to have carried a torch for her as well, which his brother very inappropriately reveals to Chris’ children. Luckily, they don’t take it as any kind of slight to their deceased mother. Chris and Nikki rekindle their relationship but of course, it is quite a challenge to make something like this work out, with her being such a big star (sort of) and him being such a mild-mannered, occasionally eyeless smalltown boy. There are paparazzi, a jealous actor ex-girlfriend, and a record company label exec who does not seem to care if we know that he is both Canadian AND a zombie.
There’s another common thread with these films. Many are filmed in Canada even though they are supposed to take place in New York or Seattle or some other place we care about. That means they frequently use Canadian actors to fill some of the smaller roles. Not necessarily an issue for me but I do find it interesting that it is seemingly impossible for them to hide their accent. Yet we have people like Dr. House and Bridgett Jones who can conceal theirs, ones which require a much higher degree of difficulty to conceal, flawlessly. And most of the time, since these characters don’t have a ton of lines, it comes down to two words – Out (or anything with “out” in it – eg “about”) and Sorry. Just don’t say “oot” and “sore-ee” and you should be fine, Canadian bit players! Yet they just can’t do it. Shannon never had to deal with this kind of crap on Jack Frost.
And that’s what it really comes down to here. That’s what it’s all aboot. Is Catch a Christmas Star better than Jack Frost? Has Shannon Elizabeth left this movie world in a better place than when she found it? Jeez, that’s a tough one. You are really putting me on the spot here. I am going to give you a very non-committal Yes but that is only because I have changed a little bit in my old age and would now probably prefer to watch movies about a pop singer and widow who sometimes doesn’t have eyes fall in love over Christmas instead of a girl getting murdered in the bathtub by a wisecracking snowman who came to life. I guess I’ve lost my edge. So sue me. But there is at least one thing that still remains – my love for Pablo Cruise. Keep reaching for that rainbow, boys, because love WILL find a way!