E1 Entertainment // 2008 // 88 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Christopher Kulik (Retired) // December 23rd, 2009
A little hustle on the prairie!
I have nothing against made-for-TV movies. However, there are many which I feel just belong on TV for occasional showings rather than DVD releases. The target audience should be able to catch it while channel surfing sometime, right? Well, the exception seems to be Hallmark originals, which have enough power to get a Danielle Steele fan to put her latest best-seller down.
Filmed on the cheap in Canada, Mail Order Bride is another one of those regurgitated Hallmark Channel movies which looks like it was made simply to fill an hour-and-a-half timeslot. Despite a not-bad hook (for a western drama) and an attractive cast, this one is on a never-ending course to the bargain bin at Wal-Mart.
Living in Boston during 1888, slick con-woman Diana McQueen (Daphne Zuniga, The Sure Thing) is tired of being owned by Tom Rourke (Greg Evigan, My Two Dads), a smarmy bootlegger who acts as if he owns half of town. When one of her friends tragically dies before leaving for Wyoming as a mail-order bride, Diana sees a chance to rob Rourke and escape. The only problem is, will she be able convince lonely rancher Beau Canfield (Cameron Bancroft, The Beachcombers) she is who she says she is?
Mail Order Bride isn't a terrible movie, it's just not a very good one. One of the most disappointing aspects of the script is in its chickening-out of some ideal comic opportunities. When Diana gets to Wyoming and pretends to be this mail order bride, it opens the door for some funny situations (like how she doesn't ride horses, although the letters previously exchanged say otherwise). Instead, the screenwriters simply squander many of these moments for the sake of dull straightforwardness.
We never come to care about Diana or her predicament, even if she's a woman who never had a taste of true freedom. There's also no chemistry between her and Beau, although the actors are not entirely to blame, as the moronic lines do much of the damage. One such example is when Beau is in bed after getting his ass kicked by Rourke:
Beau: "Who took off my clothes?"
Diana: "I did!"
Beau: "Thank you!"
Beauty-wise, Zuniga is dynamite at age 46, but she doesn't exhibit an ounce of spark. She was the reason I opted to view this film, as I loved her comic chops in The Sure Thing and Spaceballs, but she's wasted here. Bancroft is alarmingly bland as the rancher, looking constipated in certain scenes. As for Evigan, he's simply monotonous.
E1 Entertainment gives us an okay DVD. The 1.78:1 anamorphic image is generally clean and the stereo track is serviceable. Closed captioning is provided. Extras are welcome but tiresome, as we get interviews with the cast and crew over the course of four featurettes. This is typical Hallmark promotional dreck, with repetitive input and a nauseatingly cheery narrator. Also included are extended interviews, adding up to 11 minutes.
E1 is free to go, but the film is found guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (CC)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated