Holiday Watch: Farewell Mr. Kringle

Christmas movies are a lot like romance novels in that most of the time they must adhere to very familiar and well-worn tropes. Farewell Mr. Kringle succeeds in giving us a well-balanced amalgam of the familiar while still being not only engaging but likable.

Christine Taylor plays slightly jaded big-city reporter Anna Wall. She’s given the assignment to get the story of a man who renamed himself Kris Kringle (William Morgan Sheppard); a man apparently so beloved that a town renamed itself Mistletoe and adopted a Christmas theme just to honor him. Along the way Anna meets a handsome big-city-former-divorce-attorney, Mark Stafford, who returned to his childhood home of Mistletoe. All-in-all, pretty standard stuff.

Screenwriter Robert Tate Miller turns things on their head a bit. His restraint in giving an honest, straightforward story with very little treacle or melodrama allows FMK to rise above more pedestrian Christmas fare. Also, at just 84 minutes, this is a very tight story. Scenes aren’t unnecessarily prolonged nor is there much in the way of filler. As a result, the film moves at a good pace, with every scene having meaning. About the only stumble comes at the end, which did feel just a little rushed. Also, as is typical with many Hallmark original movies, the denouement seems a bit cut-off–a scene, or maybe a line or two short. But that’s a minor quibble.

Tangent: As I was watching this, I kept thinking that I’d love to see a movie where Christine Taylor and Kristen Bell played sisters. Don’t know what sort of story, but their resemblance is something it would be a shame not to take advantage of. End of tangent.

What I liked about this Kringle is that while he seemed delusional, he wasn’t. He understood the situation. If anything, he was very much like Scrooge after Ebeneezer’s reclamation.

There was also a great dynamic of the three main characters that Anne played off of: Mark, Kris, and the town of Mistletoe. While she entered as a cynic (for valid enough reason, I think), at no point did she come across as the all-too-often-seen holiday denier. Being a good reporter, she kept an open mind. She didn’t need a push to move on, just a bit of a nudge from a kind old man, a lovely age-appropriate man, and a town that seemed like a comfortable place to put down some roots. As I said, it was honest without being in-your-face about it.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also give props to Kevin Connor, the director, as well as the editors for a well-balanced piece. The movie was never visually static or hectic; the soundtrack never allowed the story to seem dead or dull, and wasn’t obnoxiously manipulative. The supporting cast, too, had the necessary feeling of small-town quirkiness without going over the top.

[Update: I’ve subsequently watched this film with someone else. The comment I said the most was that it “felt natural”. The dialog was natural. The background sounds and background dialog rounded out the main action, giving scenes a welcome added dimension. Basically, all the little things that make a movie seem “real” instead of “reel” were present–much to my delight. –CJ]

Is this the best Christmas (or Santa) movie you’re likely to see? Probably not. But it’s solid. It’s entertaining without being cloying. It’s romantic without being a “chick flick”. It’s heart-tugging without being maudlin. It doesn’t try to be more than what it is–in fact, it’s probably better than it thought it was. Check it out.

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

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

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