Jennifer Cullen (Burns) is the single mother of Brian (Connor Levins). An inveterate list maker who's pleasant but a bit rigid, she's on the verge of being engaged to Richard (Woody Jeffreys), a boring but "safe" choice as a potential husband.
Jennifer's Uncle Ralph (Winkler) comes to visit for Christmas. Ralph is recently widowed and also recently retired from the police force. While traveling to Jennifer's, Ralph makes friends with handsome young Morgan (Christie), a chef. When Morgan's connecting flight is cancelled due to bad weather, Ralph convinces Jennifer to let Morgan spend the night bunking at her house instead of in an airport lobby. After all, 'tis the season!
Things develop about as one might expect in a Hallmark film, but the story is really well played by the cast, especially Winkler, who's completely charming and believable as feisty, lovable Uncle Ralph. His performance in particular makes the movie special.
The movie has a warm, Christmasy feel to go along with the romance. (The wintry exteriors were filmed in British Columbia.) There's a touch of poignance -- a scene where Ralph gives Jennifer her late aunt's earrings is very touching -- and there are also a number of humorous scenes. I knew I was going to enjoy the movie right off the bat when Winkler's character confronted a mugger. It was hilarious.
My one criticism of the film is that Richard, the boyfriend, is so cartoonishly controlling and unpleasant that it's hard to see what Jennifer ever liked about him in the first place -- but it certainly makes writing out such a character easier to do.
THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR has been released on DVD. It will air on the Hallmark Channel this year on Sunday, December 10th.
This movie definitely provides the viewer with a warm holiday glow. Recommended.