Dec 4, 2014

Review: The Christmas Hope (2009)

I've finally and thankfully arrived at the final movie in this sappy Christmas trilogy which began with The Christmas Shoes and was followed by The Christmas Blessing. To be honest, my first question was (Spoilers) who is going to die this time? (End Spoilers) TCS and TCB seem to love that topic. Mixed in with some inspirational moments and sprinkled with just a little bit of Christian values, it's clean family entertainment.

There are some returning crew members like Lawrence Shragge for the score and Wesley Bishop for the teleplay, but not much more beyond that. There are however some returning characters from The Christmas Blessing which is standard practice for this series, but not a single returning actor. So yes, I kid you not when I say that Neil Patrick Harris' character has been re-casted. He has pretty much no incentive to return anyway, but why the Nathan Andrews character wasn't written out is beyond me.

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Genre: drama
Directed by: Norma Bailey
Produced by: Ellen Rutter, Kim Todd, Karen Mayeda Vranek, etc.
Written by: Wesley Bishop
Music by: Lawrence Shragge
Running time: 90 minutes
Production company: Craig Anderson Productions, Beth Grossbard Productions
Distributed by: Lifetime Television
Country: United States, Canada
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Madeleine Stowe, James Remar, Ian Ziering, Tori Barban, Phillip Jarrett, Jayne Eastwood, Devon Weigel, Rebecca Gibson, Daniel Boiteau, Garth Merkeley, Mariam Bernstein, Alicia Johnston, Sean O'Brian, Susanna Portnoy, Omar Alex Khan, Aaron Hughes

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Synopsis


Emily Adams (Tori Barban) lives with her single mother Traci (Devon Weigel) who works as a waitress. Traci is planning on giving her a special DVD with a song she wrote as a Christmas gift for Emily, but is tragically killed in a car accident. Patricia Addison takes Emily's case and tries to find her a home despite the fact that she brings back bad memories of her dead son Sean. Meanwhile, Dr. Nathan Andrews (Ian Ziering) is trying to find the parents of the first patient he ever lost, that very same Sean Addison.

Review


The Christmas Hope is as safe and predictable as you can imagine. A teenager with a hoodie and toque turns out to be an eat-and-runner at the restaurant Traci works at. Thankfully, she's got heart of gold. In fact she's so good and so "pleasantly" quirky that her death comes without an ounce of surprise. The pickup truck accident scene is also scrubbed of any hint of violence. I understand why that is, but it couldn't the scene have been edited in a way that isn't so obvious about its intentions? It's like having one of your parents covering your eyes during that sex scene in a movie.

So Emily is taken in by Patricia temporarily because of her inability to find a foster home during the holidays. Her uncomfortableness with Emily being there is pretty awkward and really forced. I understand it but it could've been done more convincingly. Her husband Mark however is overjoyed by her presence (overly so) and he thinks it would be great to have her stay with them over Christmas.

I suppose this is the biggest problem with The Christmas Hope. Everything is overblown, overly obvious and overly forced. There's absolutely no restraint in any way and that goes for its references to God as well. TCH as opposed to its predecessors is far more obvious about its Christian roots and makes no apologies for it.

Now as far as Nathan Andrews' character goes, he's played by Ian Ziering and he does OK I suppose. It's just that he was played by Neil Patrick Harris before. It's not even like Harris was any good in the role, because he wasn't. You just can't replace name recognition like that. If they really wanted to have that doctor angle, get another doctor who happened to be there during Sean Addison's surgery. Wesley Bishop likes to have returning characters though, so I guess it was unavoidable.

What makes it even worse is that they re-shot some scenes that took place in The Christmas Blessing instead of using actual footage from the movie since they had to accommodate the new actor. The scenes aren't the same at all which I can say since I saw TCB right before TCH. I guess they weren't counting on people watching these movies all back to back, but I did. You hear that? You didn't fool me you guys.

What I can say is that Norma Bailey does a better job at properly filming The Christmas Hope than Karen Arthur does with The Christmas Blessing. That's not a difficult thing to do but Bailey does seem to struggle in getting good performances out of two key actresses: Madeleine Stowe and Tori Barban. I remember Stowe very specifically being bad in Octane, so I wasn't really that surprised that she played her character with an eternally emotionally drained face. Child actresses Tori Barban however is unable to convincingly do drama, so a lot of the time her face is hidden when it comes to those scenes. She's a kid though, so I'm more inclined to put the blame on Bailey.

The Christmas Hope wouldn't be a sequel to The Christmas Shoes if it didn't have a cheesy song right? Well it does, but at least it's a bit of a better song. If going by songs, I'd rank the series as 2, 3, 1. But that's not how this works. Despite being a bit of a better crafted movie, The Christmas Hope is the worst of the series because of its script which is always painfully obvious without fail. Imagine, it's like playing poker with someone who's forehead displays what they're thinking. There's no fun to be had in that.

Rating


4/10