This movie premiered on the Hallmark Channel Saturday but it took us a few days to watch it. I first saw it advertised last year, on Christmas Eve. Then it’s been appearing as a banner ad in every other Christmas movie played on Hallmark thus far. Heading into the weekend, they even had a counter up on screen – “X-amount of hours, X-seconds until Northpole!” Clearly, there was a lot riding on this film and hence, a lot of pressure on me personally. So when Saturday night rolled around, I just couldn’t do it. Watched Blade Runner instead and you know what? That is just not a good movie. A stunning, stylistic masterpiece which had a big effect on me growing up but as far as a movie goes, forget it. Not much of a story, not much interest in the characters other than them looking cool, and so much bleakness without any emotional connection.
That’s my review-within-a-review for Blade Runner. Here’s my review-within-a-review-within-a-review for Northpole: It was good. I can see why Hallmark went with all the build-up. They must have poured more money into this thing than all their other Christmas movies this year combined. Maybe ever! Just the opening CG shots of the town that is Northpole probably cost more than “A Cookie Cutter Christmas.” And it was money well-spent, I say, as Hallmark needed a hit. Maybe even more because it looks like this is just Step 1 in building the Northpole franchise. But first we have to save Christmas. Christmas is in trouble. A Northpole elf named Clementine looks up at the Aurora Borealis and tells us this very thing. She does know that this is a naturally-occurring phenomenon, right? But Santa, standing next to her, confirms her worries and this is when we discover that Santa is none other than Robert Wagner. Clementine asks Santa how they can fix it and he just nonchalantly says something like, “When you figure it out, let me know” and then walks away. Jeez, thanks for nothing, Santa! Aren’t you supposed to be in charge of this whole Christmas thing? Now I know how the police must have felt when they questioned him about the suspicious drowning death of his former wife, Natalie Wood, back in 1981
But luckily, Clementine is a spunky elf and won’t take “Robert Wagner doesn’t care and is probably still hiding something” for an answer. She is going to figure out what’s wrong with Christmas and save it. As usual, this is our fault. You see, it’s all part of an eco-system. Santa brings us toys, which increase our Christmas spirit, which causes magical, sperm-like energy bolts (they draw these at some point and my “sperm-like” description is apt) to go into the sky, which causes magic snow to fall in Northpole and that’s what gives Santa and his elves all the power to make us more toys. So our lack of overall spirit is causing less magic snow to fall, which means they won’t be able to sustain Christmas and the town will explode (I think). This implies that our Christmas spirit is at an all-time low. A lot of movies like to imply this. But how exactly did that work during, say, the World War II years? I know we had swing music and everything but still, you have to imagine that a lot more people were bummed out during the holidays. I guess that none of the tragedy that took place during that major worldwide conflict of which many lives were lost doesn’t quite compare to our modern existence of text messages and gluten allergies. Are we more connected or less connected? Even the bleak world of Blade Runner never saw this coming.
Anyway, besides Northpole, there is this other town. I don’t know where it’s supposed to be but it’s small and snowy (real snow!) and Tiffani Thiessen lives there with her son but not her former middle name. At first it’s kind of jarring but you get used to not saying “Amber”, just like we all got used to dropping the “Cougar” from John Mellencamp’s name. And this new version of Tiffani Thiessen does a good job. Believable as a mom, looks good, I at least kind of care about her. She could use some help from The Zunes though when it comes to making me believe the kid who plays her kid is actually her kid but I understand how that can be tricky. She is single and a reporter who has just moved to this new town with her son right before the Christmas break. Probably not the best time to move but it happens a lot in these films. Unfortunately, this town has lost their Christmas spirit, due in large part to the fact that their annual tree-lighting ceremonies have been canceled. Why have they been canceled? Money, stocks and bonds, the glass ceiling, I don’t really know. It’s not very clear to me but again, we’re all used to this by now.
As a reporter though, TT is determined to get to the bottom as to the real reason why the tree-lighting ceremony has been canceled. She suspects foul play. Good thing she never gets to meet Robert Wagner Claus later in the movie. Tiffani’s son is a kid named Kevin. I don’t like him as much but he is a hardcore Christmas nerd so at least I can respect that. He’s having a hard time adjusting in this new town. Luckily, Professor Charles Xavier installed a version of Cerebro back in Northpole and Clementine is able to hear Kevin’s lamenting. She gives him a magical microphone so they can talk more frequently and discover they have a lot in common. Well not really, they just both want to save Christmas. Clementine eventually makes herself known to Kevin and takes him to Northpole. For what I’m not sure but I was happy to be back. Again, Hallmark takes a quantum leap in production value here. The magical town looks great and I would much rather be there than whatever Canamerican city that TT and Kevin live in. Or just about anywhere.
You know what else got a little extra Christmas magic ? The script. That baby has been punched up. There were table reads and at least several coats of polish. The dialogue is much snappier than we might be used to, noticeably so, and it further goes to show that Hallmark wasn’t going to let this thing fail. That said, it does get a little strange when they try to unravel the mystery of why the Christmas tree-lighting ceremony was canceled and what an equally mysterious corporation has to do with it. I won’t go into details because I don’t want to spoil them for you but really because I don’t fully understand them. I do give them credit for trying a slightly different spin though. And at least said spin vaguely involved someone who is now deceased. I was starting to get worried that no one in this movie was going to be dead. At first I thought for sure that Kevin’s dad had passed but nope. Turns out he’s very much alive, just a deadbeat, I guess. We never really get the whole story from Tiffani Amber Thiess–oops, I mean, Tiffani Thiessen. Maybe that is going to take some getting used to.
Another thing I want to give props too is the character of Clementine. Ignoring for a second that her relationship with Kevin is a little weird, given their age differences (she’s 13 and he’s…10?), I do believe she is who she’s supposed to be, which helps make me believe in the movie too. It’s kind of like Dr. Loomis in Halloween (the original, I mean). He’s beyond certain that Michael Myers is dangerous and should be locked up and if he’s not, whoa baby, we are in SERIOUS TROUBLE. Because he’s so believable in that instance, I too am appropriately scared of Michael Myers. In the case of Clementine, it’s more just that I believe she’s an elf who really wants to save Christmas and her town of Northpole, which I guess is a little bit different than stopping a murderer. Though I do want to say again that I have some serious questions for Robert Wagner about what really happened out on that boat near Catalina Island in 1981. Hopefully they will address this issue thoroughly in Northpole 2, coming next year. With Christopher Walken making a guest appearance?
So to wrap things up, the pros were unprecedentedly high production value, characters I mostly liked, and a generally well-executed Christmas movie at a time where Hallmark desperately needed a win. Cons were a less likable kid, a mostly tepid romance between Tiffani Cougar Mellencamp and some teacher who spent a lot of extra time at her house for some reason, and the suspicious, somewhat unsolved drowning of Nathalie Wood. It also actually felt like Christmas so you know what, I am ready to break out the eggnog, even though we are still over a week away from Thanksgiving. And for this I’m going just straight classic ‘nog.