Judge Bryan Pope needed some strong eggnog to help wash down Hallmark's Christmas confection.
This season, love takes center stage.
Provincial living is the cure for a heart made cold by the Big City? That's a bunch of bunk, as anyone who grew up in a rural area will tell you. Still, it's a familiar theme, and this time it's tackled in a Christmas movie courtesy of the Hallmark Channel. The Christmas Pageant is a holiday trifle made a little more bearable by the always appealing Melissa Gilbert.
She plays Vera Parks, a difficult, tough-as-tinsel off-Broadway director whose career is put on ho-ho-hold when circumstances force her into directing a small-town Christmas pageant. Before you know it, she's dashing through the snow to Main Street, USA. There she finds the likes of Edward Herrmann, Candice Azzara, and Alex Hyde-White playing up the folksy charm in supporting roles and waiting to reduce Gilbert to a pile of warm holiday goo. (Also worth noting is Steve Lawrence as Vera's agent, channeling Sydney Pollack in Tootsie.)
It's a tired premise, and the results are predictable and cloying, but Gilbert has a swell time harrumphing, rolling her eyes and registering general disapproval at every turn. Even when she's barking commands ("Where's my peppermint tea?!"), she's hard not to like. She exudes that boundless energy and charm she's had as far back as Walnut Grove—and darn it if I didn't start kind of rooting for her to give in to the Christmas cheer.
The Christmas Pageant is riddled with holiday movie clichés, including a rekindled romance, impossibly cute and kind children, a ceremonial tree lighting in the town square and, of course, a Christmas pageant. What little tension there is comes from an out-of-place medical drama that is resolved almost before it's introduced. After all, what would a Hallmark movie be without a Christmas miracle?
Not destined to be a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but this is harmless holiday fare for the entire family.
The DVD package was obviously put together by the Grinch when his heart was six sizes too small. There's not a single bonus feature, and there are no subtitles. On the plus side, the film is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and the colors are bold, the lines crisp and clean. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack nicely balances music and dialogue, making for a pleasant listening experience.
For an inexpensive, last-minute stocking stuffer, you could do worse. Not
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Vivendi Visual Entertainment
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