Holiday Watch: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It seems to happen every Christmas: your beloved uncle brings home a perfect-for-you stranger just before the holiday and he makes your ill-suited boyfriend suspicious and jealous. Amazingly, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year does better than most at keeping an entertaining balance.

First, a disclaimer: I’ve thought the star of the film, Brooke Burns, was the bee’s knees since back when she played Jessie Owens during the height of Baywatch. As a result, there is a major element to this film that made me want to like it from the start. I like to think that, in spite of that, I can be objective. In any event, your meterage may vary.

As I mentioned at the opening, this is a fairly standard Christmas light-romance. Successful, yet focused, single mom, Jenny, has a serious boyfriend, Richard, who isn’t exactly a match for her–though not ridiculously so (at first). Still, it feels like she’s settling. Enter jack-of-all-trades and nearly perfect match, Morgan: a kindly rogue/vagabond who helped out Jenny’s beloved like-a-father Uncle Ralph (played to great effect by Henry Winkler).

While the “white knight” aspect of Morgan, constantly rescuing Jenny from the vicissitudes of the holiday, could seem manipulative by the creative team, here they seem more organic than usual. The character isn’t perfect, he errs at times, but it isn’t important for him to be perfect. What’s important is that he fits with Jenny–which he does, like the proverbial glove.

What makes a likable movie from a fairly hackneyed setup is that Jenny’s frustrations arise from the situation Uncle Ralph has created. She’s not antagonistic to Morgan–in fact, she’s a very good host. Additionally, Morgan doesn’t set about wooing her. He’s OK with heading back to his life…which isn’t to say that he isn’t more than willing to stick around.

The only weakness in the film is Richard. I moan about the mis-matched suitor a lot with romances. It’s not that the character is particularly over-the-top (though he does toe the line a bit), but more that he and his family come off as a bit boorish toward the more blue-collar types–like Uncle Ralph and Morgan–despite their presumed good standing.

The clincher comes with the satisfying denouement. Too often these sorts of movies reach a climax and just end–they don’t wrap everything up in a great big bow. It’s important for writers (and directors and editors) to realize that the ending bows are important. Though it lasts for maybe 30 seconds, it gives the audience a sense of completion and provides a sense that they will live happily ever after without actually having to take us there.

All-in-all, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year has become one of my favorite light romances. It’s simply an enjoyable movie–one that I happily watch outside of the holiday season. For me, what makes it well above average is that the lovely Brooke Burns is in it (and she looks fabulous here; I hope she got to keep the wardrobe). Combine that with a very engaging performance by Henry Winkler and a wonderfully balanced rendition by Warren Christie (Morgan), and you get a better movie than you probably expected.

4 of 5 

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

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