Holiday Watch: Help For the Holidays

Final Photo AssetsSummer Glau stars as Christine, one of Santa’s elves, who at the bequest of Will VanCamp arrives in Los Angeles to give his working-too-hard parents some Help For the Holidays.

Sara and Scott VanCamp used to love holiday time. They would make Christmas ornaments and other sundry items at their kitchen table for friends. That grew into a business — a business that has taken over their lives, especially around Christmas time. Now the holidays aren’t something to be celebrated and shared but endured.

Concerned that the family was losing Christmas, Santa sends Christine (aka Christine Prancer, because Christine Blitzen didn’t sound right) with a small list of rules including: don’t reveal your true elf nature; don’t get emotionally attached. Christine takes these to heart as “everyone” knows that elves who break the rules disappear.

Christine takes on the role of nanny to Will and his sister Ally. She is everything they could want. She brings Christmas back into their lives despite Sara and Scott’s objections. She listens to and helps the kids. Ultimately, she tells some truths to Scott and Sara that land her in hot water but that they needed to hear. And then…she kisses the kids’ uncle Dave, who has had a crush on Christine at first sight, thus sealing her emotional entanglement. Santa reassures Christine that elves don’t disappear for breaking the rules, they choose to stay in the world. In the end, and with a little help from Santa, Christine is reunited with the family (especially Dave) who have re-embraced the spirit of the holiday and the closeness of family.

I’m a fan of Summer Glau and Eva La Rue, so I was all ready to give this movie the benefit of the doubt. The familiar premise, to be honest, seemed like it was going to be campy. After all, we’re talking about Santa sending an elf as a nanny. Instead, we were served an enjoyable family movie. Summer, as usual, added subtle layers to her role. Eva was realistically grinchy and time-pressed. The romance was unforced. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was Santa, who was loving, caring, helpful, optimistic, and amazingly believable.

The best description of the emotional tone of the movie is earnest and heartfelt. Roles that could have been over the top or treacly were instead honest and restrained. My only significant criticism is the denouement felt both rushed and incomplete. The emotion that had been built wasn’t embraced and instead we petered off into the credits.

I came in wanting to like this movie because of its two name actors, but feared it might disappoint. It didn’t. In fact, it was better than I expected. I felt like a partner on this ride instead of a passenger. Is it perfect? No, and that’s largely due to being a little slight in the script, but it was nothing that took away from the overall enjoyment. While it’s not likely to become a classic, it’s not a bad way to spend time with a holiday movie.

4 of 5 

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

Photo: Crown Media Holdings, Inc./Photographer: Carin Baer

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