This is no dream! I watched this entire film the other night, a brand new Christmas movie on the Hallmark Channel starring Harry Connick Jr., Connie Britton, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Lyle Lovett, and God knows who else. I also lived on a dying planet and learned how to play the recorder but I’m pretty sure that part actually was a dream. And technically, I don’t think this movie was new as in, just made just now. I think it was one of those theatrical releases that didn’t come out in the theaters but it was definitely new to the Hallmark Channel and that’s good enough for me.
Not being a Hallmark original movie or older, made-for-TV movie that they absorbed, that means the production value was a little higher than what we’re used to here. And it also means both good and bad things. While Harry Connick Jr. may not be an accomplished thespian, he is certainly a bigger star than most of the leading men contemporaries of this genre and as such, has generally more charisma. Connie Britton probably is a more accomplished thespian and I’d say her charisma factor is higher too. They play a married couple and you actually could believe that they are a married couple. Willie Nelson is an angel and Lyle Lovett is an eccentric neighbor musician, so that’s all pretty believable stuff as well. The only thing I had any trouble swallowing was Kris Kristofferson as HCJ’s dad. Not that Kris Kristofferson couldn’t be a dad, he just comes off as such an old west kind of dude that it’s hard to imagine him in the modern world. Plus his eyes have become triangles. I’ve never seen a human or any non-jack-o-lantern with eyes that triangular so that just makes the whole thing additionally surreal.
But while the higher production value gives us better acting, less Canadians, and scenes in a multitude of locations that are not Canadian either (nor even Los Angelinan), it also means that the people responsible for making this movie have less chance of being completely insane or at the very least, giving us those magical WTF moments that I find so fascinating and charming. Everything made relative sense, nothing was particularly shocking, and at no point did I question reality. I found myself missing these things, or the lack thereof.
Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that story was tight as drum though. They go with a pretty classic trope of a guy who hates Christmas. Why does anybody hate Christmas? Because they’re a scrooge and/or something terrible and tragic happened to them around Christmas time. In HCJ’s case, it was the latter. When he was a kid, he and his brother got ice skates for Christmas and went out on a frozen pond. The ice broke and the brother drowned and it’s been haunting HCJ ever since. There’s logic to this and God only knows how I’d deal with such an awful thing myself but his hatred of Christmas feels too over-the-top and he has a child of his own now. Regardless of how broken up you still are over your brother’s passing, it’s not like you can hold Christmas completely responsible for that nor do you want to just automatically ruin a beautiful holiday for your son. Weirder still is that he DOESN’T necessarily hold Christmas responsible. He mostly seems to blame himself. So why hate Christmas? And his parents, who he never actively blames either?
But like so many things in life, everything changes when he meets Willie Nelson. The red-headed stranger agrees to sell HCJ his beautiful house for next to nothing. And it just so happens that this home is on some legendary street in Austin, TX where all the houses go so absolutely nutballs for Christmas that they end up on Travel Channel specials about neighborhoods that go absolutely nutballs for Christmas. Did I mention that it also just so happens to be almost Christmas now? So all the neighbors are gearing up for the big decorating spree, much to HCJ’s chagrin. Wah-wah. Here’s the weird thing though. Belated spoiler alert, Willie Nelson is an angel. I mean his character in the movie is. Or maybe he is AND his character is but my point is that this whole selling-the-house-for-next-to-nothing business appears to be some form of divine intervention, all that so HCJ is forced to confront Christmas head-on and in the process, finally learn to forgive himself for his brother’s death. But that house had to come from somewhere, right? Whose house is/was it? I can believe that angels (or at least, Willie Nelson) can work magic but creating a house out of thin air and then making sure that everybody in the neighborhood and on the Austin zoning board believe that this house has always been there seems like a stretch. The other possibility is that it is a real house that truly has always been there but, again, that means it had to be somebody’s house and I’m wondering who that person is and where they are now. Maybe they died and went to heaven and thus….it’s God’s property now? Will that hold up in court?
There’s another big problem with this divine intervention business. As the holiday season rolls around and everyone on this legendary street starts putting up their insane Christmas displays, HCJ doesn’t budge one bit. Even though he got what amounts to a free house and the fallacy behind his hatred of Christmas has hopefully now been well-documented in this review, he is not changing his ways. He even goes so far as to throw away some of the decorations his neighbors were kind enough to donate. But then….and here comes another spoiler alert….his own Kris Kristofferson father dies in a car accident. HCJ’s son was in the car too but only has a concussion. It all happened because the son wanted to stay at grandpa’s house until it got dark so he could see the Christmas lights. Now the son hates Christmas too and blames himself for the accident. FINALLY, HCJ can see the error of his ways. It took his son adopting the same attitude to finally turn things around. But Kris Kristofferson had to die for this! Granted, he was old and his eyes were triangles but still, if angels can work magic and show up in the right place at the right time to give people houses just so they could learn the true meaning of Christmas, (and they do things like this often in these movies), couldn’t they have stopped an old man and a kid from getting hit by a truck?
Don’t get me wrong though. I believe in God myself and have never myself adopted the “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?” viewpoint. I don’t feel that it’s incumbent upon the Man Upstairs to intervene in our daily lives and manage all outside forces in a way that we consider fair. Quite the opposite, in fact. But when I see a movie where angels or Santa or some other magical being actually does intervene in ways that are relatively trivial, it makes me wonder how their priorities work. And in this case, it might be even worse. Since HCJ was not getting the message, not dealing with his own issues or learning to embrace Christmas, was it divine intervention that actually caused the tragic accident in the first place? I shudder to think.
Luckily, we don’t have to answer these questions. At least not right now. Hallmark was nice enough to give us a glimpse of Christmas future by airing this film, along with many other classic yuletide reruns, in July. And not only that, they showed us plenty of snippets from their 12 original Christmas movies coming into our homes and our hearts this holiday season. I wasn’t able to glean too much from said snippets (I think one of them involved cats) but just knowing they’re on the horizon is a beautiful thing. For reminding me of this AND sweater vests, I am going to go easy on “Angels Sing”, ratings-wise. It’s still too early for Eggnogs, even for me, so how about I give it………
3 Mint Juleps