Holiday Watch: The Wishing Tree

Final Photo AssetsEvan Farnsworth (Jason Gedrick), a widower teacher at a boarding school, helps and watches over three students “orphaned” at the school over the Christmas break. What could possibly go wrong?

First, let’s get the title out of the way because it might confuse you. The eponymous wishing tree is used as a catalyst for some of the plots, but it really isn’t terribly integral. It’s just a plot device whose importance is exaggerated by being featured in the title. If you lower your expectations of its importance, you’ll enjoy the movie more.

The story itself has a number of arcs. Enough, in fact, that it’s difficult to know exactly which one you should be paying attention to. Is it Evan’s budding romance with the new theater teacher, Clarissa (Erica Cerra)? Is it his relationship with troubled teen Drew (Richard Harmon), trying to guide the unhappy kid onto the path of nice? Is it the relationship between Drew, nerdy entrepreneur Albert (Amitai Marmorstein), and nervous singer Juliet (Emmalyn Estrada) — who has crushed on Drew for years? And then there is Drew’s mother Amanda (Carrie Genzel). Because the family provides so much funding to the school, she feels that her every conditional threat needs to be heeded in her favor.

Because of the variety of arcs, the crises are numerous. Will the school close? With the wishing tree get enough money? Will Jason find love? Will Drew? With Amanda take her money and run?

What I like about this movie is that it doesn’t follow the holiday movie formula. Sure, all the usual tropes are present with the typically predictable outcome, but by not having a strong A story, just a lot of B and C stories, there is plenty of opportunities to learn about and enjoy the main characters.

I’m still not sure how I feel about Amanda, because there were, essentially, two of them. You had Cruella de Vil Amanda and you had concerned but out-of-touch-mom Amanda. I kind of liked both of them in their own way, but thought the Cruella interpretation was a little over-the-top compared to the rest of the movie. I would have liked to see more of Evan and Clarissa. I thought Erica Cerra brought a lot to the pair’s chemistry. If I was rooting for anyone in this movie, I was rooting for her.

This is an OK movie. It won’t depress you nor will it keep you on pins and needles for the happy ending. For an early holiday season movie, it’s about average to a little higher.

3 of 5 

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

Photo: Copyright 2012 Crown Media Holdings, Inc./Photographer Eike Schroter

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