Dec 18, 2014

Review: Window Wonderland (2013)

I went ahead with another Hallmark Christmas TV movie, this time about two would-be-lovers who work as window dressers. It's a job that melds art and marketing together which speaks to me personally since it's my field. I was honestly looking forward to seeing the kind of work that would be featured in the movie actually. Christmas window dressing is a pretty cool subject for a movie if you ask me, so I was pretty impressed that a good idea like this could be found in a Hallmark original movie.

Store windows at Christmastime have actually always meant something to me. It's maybe a bit silly I guess, but I still remember looking at the awesome Ogilvy Christmas window display in Montreal that my mom would take my sisters and I to go see every year. People would all huddle around, looking at at the mechanized characters, usually animals, skating around in what was a beautifully detailed environment. It's an early Christmas memory of mine and although I don't go see the Ogilvy window every year anymore, I have fond memories of it.


Genre: comedy, family, romance
Directed by: Michael Scott
Produced by: Randy Cheveldave, Barbara Fisher, John Morayniss, etc.
Written by: Tippi Dobrofsky, Neal H. Dobrofsky
Music by: James Jandrisch, Jeff Tymoschuk
Running time: 90 minutes
Production company: The Hallmark Channel
Distributed by: The Hallmark Channel
Country: Canada
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry

Starring: Chyler Leigh, Paul Campbell, Naomi Judd, Terence Kelly, Matty Finochio, Cameron Mathison, Eric Keenleyside, Christie Laing, Tobias Slezak, Daniella Martucci



McGuire's department store has just lost its head window dresser which leaves two aspiring employees to step into the role: Sloan Van Doren (Chyler Leigh) and Jake Dooley (Paul Campbell). Sloan takes the opportunity very seriously while Jake appears to treat it as a joke, resulting in some conflict between the two. With each having a window of their own, it's their job to prove to their boss Fitch (Matty Finochio) that they're the right one for the job.


Is it just me, or does every single Hallmark Christmas movie start with the same old cityscape establishing shots? It's probably not just Hallmark that does this but I swear that pretty much every TV Christmas movie I've seen does the same thing. I wouldn't be surprised if Hallmark has a bunch of these city establishing shots archived for when directors need them.

The set up of Window Wonderland is painfully obvious with its two main characters who are completely at odds with each other. (Spoilers) You know that they will end up together. I knew they would end up together while they were getting ready for their work day at the start of the movie. (End Spoilers) You even have a wise old man as well as a wise old woman who guide the characters in their own ways. What I'll say is a positive is the unique angle of window dressing which isn't something I've ever seen and makes for a good Christmas-themed story.

Completely unlike other Hallmark Channel movies, WW is buoyed for once by competent acting. Leigh and Campbell are able to bring humour in a convincing way despite some really uneven dialogue. It doesn't go perfectly, but both of them are able to salvage what they're given to a certain extent. The shortcomings of Window Wonderland are far from their fault.

Even Matty Finochio who I've never heard of is actually pretty funny as the sarcastic boss of Sloan and Jake. There always has to be someone of dubious fame in a Hallmark movie and that role is filled by Naomi Judd. I suppose she's not dreadful, but she's far from wonderful too. Her plastic face just came off as a bit too distracting. Rich boy Kenneth (Cameron Mathison) isn't a very great character either and as Sloan's boyfriend, you can smell trouble from him in his very first scene. More restraint there would've been nice.

For the most part, Window Wonderland avoids being overly-schmaltzy, but it can't get out of the trap of being completely run-of-the-mill. The primary reason for that is how the relationship between Sloan and Jake develops. (Spoilers) Jake and Sloan end up locked inside McGuire's and they spend what turns into a romantic night together. Technically, Jake knew all along how to get out of the store which would've been good for Sloan to know since she had an important dinner with Kenneth. Jake keeps her there to do what he can because he loves her. (End Spoilers)

(Spoilers) This leads into the conflict between the two which pretty much boils down to "You were dishonest with me, I can never trust you again!" (End Spoilers) WW ends up being all rom-com typical and is interjected with a few too many cheesy scenes. Another thing that really rubbed me the wrong way was how annoying Jake would be when Sloan is talking with rich boy Kenneth. He doesn't give them space when it's clear they want it and he just has to be all smarty pants with his interjections. It's just a little thing that annoyed me and if anyone did that kind of thing in real life, I don't think it would be too appreciated by any party.

In the end, I came away impressed with Window Wonderland. You have to remember though that this is relatively speaking. Compared to other Hallmark Channel pieces of "art," Window Wonderland is up there among the best that I've seen. At the same time though, it can't really escape some of its more nagging problems. It's completely run-of-the-mill, makes itself completely obvious from the get-go and it does have a bit of a cheesiness problem. The big positives here are the leads as well as the unique window dressing plot line. I honestly would've liked more of that.



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