Father and son. They were strangers until the Christmas of a lifetime.
1930s America: Buddy (T.J. Lowther) lives a simple life with his cousin Sook in the untamed wilds of Alabama. His parents are A.W.O.L., but an opportunity arises for him to sojourn to New Orleans and hang with his dad, the Fonz himself. Henry Winkler stars as Buddy's father, known only as "Dad," a scheming "entrepreneur" as he refers to himself. In actuality, Dad is not much more than a con artist, whose modus operandi includes wielding his charms, getting cozy with some of the more affluent lonely ladies in town, and bilking them out of mad coin.
With the arrival of Buddy, Dad sees a superficial vehicle to wow the ladies even further. Somewhere in the recesses of his hollowed-out conscience, he may truly love Buddy and seek his acceptance, but at the beginning, the kid is just a cute, little urchin.
The latest scheme Dad has on the broiler is an airplane race, with his guy sporting the fastest bird. His priority has been to raise enough capital—through his own funds and the funds of other "investors"—to reap some serious profits from what he considers a no-lose situation.
Peripheral to these matters are his increasingly aggravated son, a potential love interest (a wealthy one at that), Emily (Swoosie Kurtz) who sees through Dad's shenanigans, and Emily's Aunt Cornelia (Katharine Hepburn), a crotchety old lady who holds no reservations about telling Emily that Dad is a scumsucker.
Well, this is a Hallmark made-for-TV movie, so someone here must undergo some serious life changes. Dad, of course, is the character who needs the biggest boot-to-the-skull epiphany, and it comes in the form of a tragic accident. Who is the victim? Well, I'll leave that a surprise.
Needless to say, by the end of the film, you're going to get your fill of tearful revelations, marriage proposals, sage advice from grizzled elders, lots of vulnerability, and a freak snowfall.
This is sweet, harmless stuff. Saccharine, yes, put not so overly syrupy you'll feel like emptying your stomach contents all over the coffee table. The plot, based on the short story of the same name by Truman Capote, is pretty straightforward and not entirely original (though Capote may have forged this particular storyline.)
What I did like about One Christmas was the ending. It was bittersweet, and not just a feel-good cop-out. I can appreciate when filmmakers, even when dealing with TV Movies-of-the-Week, opt for a realistic ending instead of having everyone hopped up on the warm-and-fuzzies.
What I didn't like about this disc was everything else. Artisan has provided as base a model as one can get for DVD's. There is NOTHING. It even gives my friend's copy of Cliffhanger—one of the first DVD's made, which is nothing more than the movie and a dreadful main menu—a run for the money. Scene Selections and Play Movie are all that exists on the menu. I was grateful even for chapter selection.
The film is full screen only and the picture leaves a lot to be desired. The colors are bland and washed-out. The sound is a Dolby 2.0 mix, but with movies like this, sound usually doesn't play a critical role. Still, it's just further evidence of a who-gives-a-crap presentation.
The Fonz and company are released. Artisan, deemed a habitual offender, is exiled to Neptune. Court adjourned.
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