Holiday Watch: Finding Christmas

ChristmasShare_IMG_0218.jpgIt’s the holidays and life is handing you lemons. Clearly there is only one option that doesn’t involve lemonade: house share. It’s the only answer. If you do it, maybe…just maybe…you will end up Finding Christmas.

New York ad exec Sean (Mark Lutz) is about to propose to his girlfriend. Too bad she wants to take a break. His assistant, Mia (Cristina Rosato), suggests the house swap to give him the chance to regroup.

North Carolina repairman and wannabe singer Owen (JT Hodges) finds out his ex-girlfriend of seven years (broken up eight months ago) is now engaged. In an emotional tail spin, his veterinarian sister, Ryan (Tricia Helfer), tells him to take a chance on finding happiness and swap houses.

Sean ends up in Owen’s cosy if heat-challenged rustic house. Owen finds himself in Sean’s decorated, guitar-accessorized loft. Sean is helped out by Ryan; Owen is shown the ropes by Mia. Long story short: except for some minor bumps, love blooms…slowly.

A toast — to the best house swap ever in the history of house swaps.

…uh, no. It’s not. One of the problems with making a film using the formula of The Holiday is that you have a high bar to reach for. As with Debbie Macomber’s Trading Christmas, it doesn’t quite make it.

Of the two stories, Owen and Mia’s is superior. Owen comes off as a nice guy. He’s a bit naive about the big city, but he doesn’t come off as a hick. Mia is savvy and genuine. Their adventures in eating and open mikes are solid. Ryan and Sean, on the other hand, take a while. Ryan, a single mom, is predictably cautious. Sean takes a while to warm up to the place (maybe it was that finicky heater in Owen’s house). That the town is calm to the point of bland doesn’t help. It might have been better if they’d explored Ryan’s vet duties more.

The antagonists aren’t much to write home about. Sean’s ex-almost-fiancee comes off as shallow and comes and goes rather quickly. Owen’s blink-and-you-miss-it dalliance with opportunistic model Halo is about as fulfilling as Mia’s never seen absentee boyfriend. As for Ryan…her complication is Caleb, her young son. While Ryan tells Sean that Caleb “seems to like you”, this is based on one very brief meeting near the climax that doesn’t earn her Caleb’s emotional bonding as excuse.

The ending is…there. Everyone’s coupled up, but we don’t get a clue if anything is going to last.

Finding Christmas is one of those movies where I have to find more fault with the script than with other elements. The Sean/Ryan half especially needed more attention to give the actors something more to play with. It isn’t terrible, but it should have been better to match with the quite watchable Owen/Mia half of the movie (which is what’s padding the overall rating). The formula has been proven to work if all the pieces are there. The trick is with assembling those pieces.

  
Story:★★★☆☆ 
Acting:★★★½☆ 
Antagonist:★★½☆☆ 
Denouement:★¾☆ 
Overall:★★★☆☆ 
3 of 5 

For more movies, go to the list at: Watching the Holiday Movies

Photo: Crown Media

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