Dec 3, 2014

Review: The Christmas Blessing (2005)

Did we really need a sequel to The Christmas Shoes? Although I don't have any numbers in terms of viewership, I think the film did quite well. Judging from the popularity of the song by Christian group NewSong as well as how the book became a best seller, TCS probably did exceedingly well. A sequel was probably predestined before production had even started for The Christmas Shoes.

Neil Patrick Harris plays the returning character of Nathan Andrews who was the young boy from the first movie. It's kind of weird to see him in a role like, this but taking a quick look at his filmography reveals that besides some important TV roles, he was in quite a few TV movies for whatever reason. The Christmas Blessing was pretty much his last real TV movie experience and no surprise there. In 2004 he had had his big cameo in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle where he famously played himself. He's moved on to better things now, like hosting the Emmy Awards and of course the upcoming 2015 Academy Awards.


Genre: drama, family, romance
Directed by: Karen Arthur
Produced by: Tom Cox, Murray Ord, Jordy Randall, etc.
Written by: Wesley Bishop
Music by: Lawrence Shragge
Running time: 96 minutes
Production company: Craig Anderson Productions, Beth Grossbard Productions, Alberta Film Entertainment, etc.
Distributed by: Columbia Broadcasting System, Net5, New KSM
Country: United States, Canada
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Neil Patrick Harris, Rebecca Gayheart, Angus T. Jones, Hugh Thompson, Shaun Johnston, Rob Lowe, Robert Clinton, Wanda Cannon, Patricia Casey, Jesse Lipscombe, Jay D. Sodergren, Margherita Donato, Carey Feehan, Rick Ash, Kate Ryan, Olivia Cheng, Blake Shelton, NewSong


It's some years later since Maggie Andrews (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) died and her son Nathan (Neil Patrick Harris) has become a full fledged surgeon. Operating on a teen involved in a car crash, Nathan promises to have him home for Christmas. Sadly, the operation does not go well. This prompts Nathan to quit being a doctor and go back to his home town to move in with his father (Hugh Thompson). This is where he meets young Charlie (Angus T. Jones) who's also lost his mother as well as teacher Meghan Sullivan (Rebecca Gayheart) who trying to raise money to buy a daycare house.


The first thing I noticed about The Christmas Blessing is how its cinematography doesn't measure up to its predecessor. Action is very poorly captured and it's not even like The Christmas Shoes is a cinematic marvel either. The camera swoops around for no reason other than to look bad and unprofessional. There are also quite a few times where the story is handled in choppy fashion and that's not even including the usual TV movie cuts going to commercials.

The dialogue in The Christmas Shoes was laughably inspirational and moving so it was a relief to see some of that eliminated from The Christmas Blessing. That's not to say that Wesley Bishop has been able to conjure up any magical dialogue here. For the most part everything is pretty flat and awkward. It feels very much like TCB belongs exactly where it is, on the small screen. It's hard to believe that even Neil Patrick Harris can seem to be as flat as roadkill.

The story itself is perhaps a little less thin overall compared to The Christmas Shoes, but it's also a whole lot more ridiculous and run-of-the-mill. Take Neil Patrick Harris' character Nathan Andrews. He quits being a doctor to go back home where he meets his love interest Meghan from Texas. He hides his being a doctor because he needs time to figure out things on his own I guess. He even has to sneakily pretend to have gone to some first aid classes when he demonstrates his abundance of medical knowledge. You know what's coming of course in terms of the conflict.

Personally I think it's pretty dumb for Nathan not to have come forward when Meghan says that she's actively looking for doctors to volunteer time for needy children in her daycare house. Does Meghan really have to become angry when she finds out though? It's that whole "You lied to me! How can I ever trust you again?" thing that you always see from romantic comedies and this one is among the worst examples of that.

Nathan also happens to be a skilled mechanic, he volunteers at the local elementary school and he's just a super nice guy. Already that makes him eligible bachelor #1 in town no? Hey Meghan, guess what? He's a doctor too who seems to specialize in many different things. Don't tell me that's not a pleasant surprise. But no, she can't take dishonesty because she got too much of that from he cowboys back in Texas.

The Christmas Blessing is also quite manipulative and tries to comically double up on The Christmas Shoes. (Spoilers) If you can believe it, there are two characters that face life-threatening conditions now. Charlie has some sort of heart condition (that just adds to the ridiculousness of him being any good at basketball) and Meghan has a liver problem. (End Spoilers) There are even two big songs this time, one from NewSong of course and the other from country star Blake Shelton who makes an actual appearance in the movie. The songs are mercifully less annoying though and also less memorable.

There's a lot that's wrong with The Christmas Blessing. It leans on The Christmas Shoes very heavily when it can with lots of flashbacks, but also tries its best to be more dramatic and more heartwarming. It tries to be bigger but fails miserably in that aspect. With flat performances, unsure dialogue and a complete disconnect with reality, The Christmas Blessing is definitely at home on TV.



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