Holiday Watch: Debbie Macomber’s Trading Christmas

In a nutshell, the premise is 2006’s The Holiday except played with different situations/characters. It basically is about two people finding unexpected romance after they swap homes for the holidays. However, while the premise is familiar, this isn’t just a slapdash redux of the previous film.

Faith Ford (Emily) and Tom Cavanagh (Charles) play the house-swappers. Emily is a 2nd-grade teacher in a small, Christmas-happy town in Washington state. Charles is a serious author in Boston desperate to finish his latest novel. When Emily’s 21-year-old daughter says she wants to just hang around her Boston College digs instead of coming home for Christmas, Emily decides to surprise. And thus, the house swap it catalyzed. Thing is, Emily’s daughter has no intention of staying in Boston, and instead heads out to Phoenix with her boyfriend.

As this wouldn’t be a promising romance at all if there weren’t prospective pairings, we get Charles’ brother Ray (Gil Bellows) and Emily’s best friend Faith (Gabrielle Miller) walking in on Emily and Charles, respectively. Faith manages to thaw Charles’ emotional barriers by becoming his de facto story editor. They bond over his work-in-progress novel as well as Faith being considerate enough not to actually get in his way…in fact, she also keeps the friendly town-folk at bay so he can work.

What surprised me was how much I liked the Ray/Emily romance…and that’s due in large part to Gil Bellows. He was pretty amazing. It’s not like he had to carry Faith Ford, but the character he crafted from the script was likable on just about every level. Ray was simply a nice, solid guy. You couldn’t help but root for him.

There really isn’t a lot to say about the story. Even with two main plots and one sub-plot going on simultaneously, it wasn’t terribly complicated. I don’t mean that to be a negative. The movie delivers what you expect. Except for Gil’s performance, nothing really makes this movie stand out from pack of good-but-not-great movies that are still enjoyable to watch.

3.25 of 5 

Photo: Copyright 2011 Crown Media Networks, Inc./ Photographer Chris Helcermanas-Benge

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

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