Dec 8, 2014

Review: Recipe for a Perfect Christmas (2005)

It's pretty amazing just how many Christmas TV movies there are out there. Between Hallmark, Lifetime and ABC there's enough out there to satisfy all tastes I would think. Well actually that's probably not very true. Most of these movies all follow the same general storyline which is usually someone disliking Christmas or having the wrong idea about Christmas, later finding the true Christmas spirit within themselves come Christmas morning.

I'd like to see something different for a change but I doubt that'll happen any time soon. People seem to like their candy cane coated, family romantic comedies that always have a happy ending. Smart businesses give people what they want, so there's no reason for Hallmark, Lifetime or ABC to change their course.


Genre: comedy, romance
Directed by: Sheldon Larry
Produced by: Steve Solomos, Michael Jaffe, Michael Prupas, etc.
Written by: Rachel Feldman, Susan Nanus
Music by: Amin Bhatia, Ari Posner
Running time: 87 minutes
Production company: Jaffe/Braunstein Films, Muse Entertainment Enterprises, WildRice Productions
Distributed by: Lifetime Television, Muse Distribution International
Country: Canada
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Christine Baranski, Carly Pope, Bobby Cannavale, Monica Parker, Kristen Hager, Tracy Dawson, Peter Cockett, Garwin Sanford, Clive Walton, Fulvio Cecere, Louise Pitre, Dean Armstrong, Jonas Chernick, Lubomir Mykytiuk, Scott Gibson, Lina Giornofelice, Michael Rubenfeld



J.J. (Carly Pope) is a hardworking assistant to the food critic at Glow Magazine. It's a job that opens up however and J.J. is chosen as the successor. She's given a list of restaurants to go to and two weeks to come up with an original column. Her estranged mother Lee Bellmont (Christine Baranski) suddenly shows up at her apartment and makes herself at home, much to the dismay of J.J. With a lot of pressure from her new assignment, chef and restauranter Alex Stermadapolous (Bobby Cannavale) presents a possible out.


The first problem with Recipe for a Perfect Christmas are simply the characters. J.J. is hardworking, she's attractive, she's smart but she's a magnet for bad men who just take advantage of her. Poor J.J right? Ah, but this Alex fellow now. He's also very hardworking, attracting, smart and he just happens to be a good guy. Couldn't they be together? It sounds like a match made in heaven (Spoilers) Don't know why I'm bothering to put the spoiler tag, but why yes they do end up together. How lovely and unsurprising. (End Spoilers) It's all just a little too convenient.

You might think that's pretty bad, but it gets worse. Christine Baranski who is prominently billed here probably plays the most irritating character I've seen this holiday season so far. She's a commanding, busybody seductress who's obsessed with her appearance. She's also very knowing and can read people just like that which is why she's able to identify J.J.'s most recent boyfriend as a "player." He bails on J.J., saying that her mother's right and that he is seeing someone on the side, but I'm pretty sure he would've bailed just because of her mother anyway.

Things don't get any better with Baranski making such a fool of herself as the movie goes on. Did you ever want to hear her sing a reggae version of Good King Wenceslas? I know I didn't. I suppose that Baranski is a good casting decision for a role like this, but that doesn't make Lee Bellmont a good character. She's not easy to watch and (Spoilers) she doesn't even grow by the end of the movie either. She finally gets her way in forcing J.J. to get a makeover which isn't a really good Christmas message either. Was J.J. not attractive enough or something? It's baffling really. (End Spoilers)

There's a bit of a food angle with Recipe for a Perfect Christmas but it's pretty undercooked. J.J.'s food "criticism" is limited to just naming all the ingredients in the food she tastes. Nothing more than that. The restaurants she goes to are all quite stereotypical as well, as if it couldn't be an Indian restaurant if there weren't curtains and belly dancers all over the place. Probably the worst food moment of them all is what begins as J.J. visiting Alex's restaurant to try his food that all of a sudden turns into a romantic montage where J.J. is accepting forkfuls of food from Alex. It's undeniably silly.

The chemistry between Carly Pope and Bobby Cannavale isn't really there either unfortunately and it's not like the script for Recipe for a Perfect Christmas even allows them to develop any. There's practically no screen time devoted to their characters together, so it makes it pretty hard to buy their relationship at all.

Recipe for a Perfect Christmas only has one ingredient in its pantry: sugar. Sacs and sacs of sugar that it tries to coat everything with. It's sure to satisfy someone looking for an easy Christmas I guess, though I was left with a whole bunch of nothing with this one. Humourous moments are quite cringey and the romance is poorly developed. It also doesn't help that crisis resolutions are very convenient and quickly put into place. This is a junk food movie that is more like a recipe for a mouthful of cavities.



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