Appellate Judge James A. Stewart once got a car for Christmas; one part each year.
"They're really in love. That can make you stupid sometimes."
In the original O. Henry short story, The Gift of the Magi, newlyweds screw up their first Christmas with gifts that, while originally appropriate, somehow miss the mark because of the sacrifices to buy them: she sells her hair to buy him a watch fob, while he parts with his watch to buy combs for her.
Most of you know at least the basic concept of O. Henry's tale, so you might be curious as to how it might be adapted to modern times of synthetic wigs and cheap digital watches. Naturally, someone had to answer that question. Gift of the Magi was made for the Hallmark Channel last year; it appears on DVD this Christmas.
In Gift of the Magi, which immediately lets you know it's not a period piece with lingering opening shots of a modern waterfront, Jim and Della are young newlyweds, each with a hobby: he lovingly fixes up a 1955 Chevy Bel Air, and she still pursues old-fashioned, non-digital photography. He covets an original steering wheel, and she dreams of a zoom lens; you can see how this is going.
One of the things you might be curious about is how the TV movie stretched a very slight story to almost 90 minutes. For a while, anyway, Gift of the Magi makes a very good job of it. The best part is that the movie shows the strains that a young married couple might be under nowadays: Della (Maria Sokoloff, The Practice) takes a second job, while Jim (Mark Webber, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) wears himself out to babysit for a friend in need. Even when Webber and Sokoloff are doing separate scenes, their characters' love for each other comes through, making for a sweet and credible holiday story. The worst part is a contrived confusion involving (false) suspicions of adultery. Webber and Sokoloff handle the moping this plot twist entails well, but it ruins the momentum of what was shaping up to be an excellent holiday romantic tale.
There are nods to the original story: Jim works at the Magi's Crown Tavern, and it's set in the town of Dillingholm, a play on a name in the original.
Gift of the Magi looks beautiful; that modern waterfront, and the streets of Dillingholm, are picturesque, and the production makes the most of them. However, you will notice that, while it's apparently set in an American town, it doesn't quite look like one. I was thinking Halifax myself, but it turns out that it was Dublin, Ireland.
There are no extras on the DVD, but there's the option of downloading free holiday songs if you're making a purchase at Christmas 2011.
Gift of the Magi isn't bad, but if writer Jennifer Notas could have steered away from that one last romantic comedy cliché, it would have been much better. Sometimes it's best to go with the flow of pure treacle, at least at Christmas.
Guilty of not living up to early expectations, but the sentence is suspended.
After all, this is Christmas.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Vivendi Visual Entertainment
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