Judge Dawn Hunt eagerly awaits The Good Witch's Gardening Tips to help her terminally gangrene thumb.
There's magic in the air.
The Good Witch's Garden is the second in the long-running series of The Good Witch films shown on the Hallmark Channel. The films revolve around Cassandra "Cassie" Nightingale (Catherine Bell, JAG), the titular character who moves to the sleepy little town of Middleton and shakes things up with her unconventional ways. Those unconventional ways usually involve herbs and plants and what can be seen as magic or just really well-developed intuition. There aren't bursts of CGI lights flowing from Cassie's fingertips or a glowing aura or anything like that, it's left up to the viewer to wonder how things work out the way they do.
In The Good Witch's Garden our story concerns the bicentennial celebration of Middleton combined with the arrival of handsome and mysterious stranger Nick Chasen (Rob Stewart, Nikita). Cassie has decided to rent out Grey House, her beloved ancestral home, converting some of the unused bedrooms into a bed & breakfast. Along comes Nick to serve as her first tenant. However the mysterious Mr. Chasen has an agenda all his own, and no one suspects him faster than Chief Jake Russell (Chris Potter, Heartland), Cassie's boyfriend. Though Cassie urges him to simply allow things to play out and trust her, he looks into Nick, especially once Chasen reveals he is a distant relative of Cassie's. And it turns out Jake may be on to something when Nick reveals papers which entitle him to Grey House and he serves Cassie with an eviction notice.
While Cassie and Jake deal with Nick and his ability to charm the town and turn them against Cassie, each member of the Russell family has their own path to navigate. Grandpa George (Peter MacNeill, Call Me Fitz) suddenly becomes the belle of the ball, or at least the Middleton Gardening Club, which brings up feelings he hasn't had to consider in a long time. Teenaged Brandon (Matthew Knight, My Babysitter's a Vampire) has some new friends who are into questionable activities. And when they pressure him to join them in becoming part of the town's nuisance problem, Brandon must decide who he wants to be. Young Lori (Hannah Endicott-Douglas, My Friend Rabbit) is paired up with a classmate for a school project. The problem is the classmate always runs off just when it's time to get down to business, leaving Lori to either confront her or handle the load herself.
This choice to include the entire family is a really smart move as we aren't forced to endure several twists and turns regarding the main storyline but rather it's able to be presented in a more realistic manner and pace. Though the problems the family struggles with aren't life-threatening, they are life altering, and more importantly, things most of the audience can relate to. This being a Hallmark film, there are no true scares or moments of peril to be found, nor is there any overt sexuality. Instead the banal whole movie can be seen as prosaic, with little making your pulse jump for any reason.
But that's not a bad thing. In fact, such parameters give the actors room to really breathe life into their characters, which they do, but none to such effect as Catherine Bell. Her portrayal of Cassie is the reason there have been seven movies in the series so far. To coin a phrase and embrace the pun, there's a charm about her performance which draws the viewer in. The essence of that charm is sincerity. Cassie may cause the townspeople to wonder whether or not she is a witch, but she wears her heart on her sleeve. Bell's ability to depict Cassie as a multi-dimensional yet open person helps captivate the audience and allows them to connect with this other-worldly woman.
As this is a television movie the video is a non-surprising 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. It's a good thing there are no CGI effects to speak of, as the video isn't high-def, though it holds the black levels well and doesn't betray any pixilation or other distortions which mark a lower-resolution transfer. The audio is a Dolby Digital 2.0 track and serves the film well, as there is nothing here requiring a higher quality track. The dialogue blends well within the space and the levels are well balanced overall with nothing broadcasting itself out of turn. There are no bonus features.
I'm a fan of The Good Witch movies and have been waiting for the release of The Good Witch's Garden for years. Hopefully, the success of the disc will allow Hallmark to push forward the other films' releases sooner rather than later. I recommend a purchase for fans of the series.
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