Holiday Watch: The Case For Christmas

Santa Claus sued for emotion distress? An earnest but untested lawyer? A lovable little girl? No, this isn’t an iconic street between 33rd and 35th. And that’s good. That’s already been done so well that the copies have only been poor imitations. Still, there is a lot that is familiar in the Hallmark Channel movie, The Case For Christmas.

Dean Cain stars as Michael Sherman, a struggling lawyer who got a late start on his career. His wife died a few years back leaving him with bills and loans he’s still trying to pay. He’s also raising Lily (Helen Colliander), their very kind, happy, and normal daughter. When he’s presented with the opportunity to make some money representing a client he believes to be wrongfully sued, the hijinx begin.
Of course no story about Santa on trial is complete without someone to play the big guy. George Buza ably handles the role of Kris Kringle. Though some fantasy elements find their way into the story, in the spirit of the great Edmund Gwenn, Buza never lets his character chew the scenery.

The Case For Christmas walks a tightrope between being one of the over-the-top fantasy Christmas movies and being too earnest for its own good. With only one small exception, it finds the balance and holds it. As is the case with all too many of these kinds of movies, the villains are the weak link—though, to be fair, they aren’t nearly as weak as in so many other holiday movies. The chief antagonist is a business exec trying to besmirch the name of Santa in order to replace him with his own creation geared to selling his products. His lawyer is a little more cartoonish, but still manages to fit into the general tone of the story.

Of course there needs to be one additional element: love. As with that numbered street movie, there has to be a love interest and that is found in Lauren, played by Rachel Blanchard. I should say “ably played”. In the hands of a lesser actress, Lauren could seem weak, or needy, or manipulative. Instead, she seems real.

I have to give kudos to the writers: Tom Amundsen (screenplay), Rickie Castaneda for doing well with material that could easily have turned into a creative minefield. I also have to give a nod to Timothy Bond for maintaining an honest, hopeful tone.

While a lot of The Case For Christmas seems familiar, I think it’s familiar in the “respectful homage” sort of way as opposed to the “beating a tired trope with a stick” method that is often seen. Instead of a copy, it’s a re-imagining. Points need to be given for giving a familiar story a new spin. It shouldn’t be compared to the original classic, but accepted for the above-average holiday movie it is.

3.75 of 5 

Photo: © 2011 Crown Media/The Hallmark Channel

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

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