Monday, February 26, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Christmas at Cartwright's (2014)

CHRISTMAS AT CARTWRIGHT'S (2014) is a heartwarming Christmas fantasy from the Hallmark Channel.

As I have written previously, I was so busy in December I decided I'd go right ahead and keep watching Christmas movies in the New Year. I've really been enjoying my "Christmas in January and February" viewing, and I'll probably continue watching them throughout the year, especially as I have quite a backlog of appealing Hallmark titles stacked up to try!

Alicia Witt of A VERY MERRY MIX-UP (2013) stars in CHRISTMAS AT CARTWRIGHT'S as Nicky Talbot, the single mother of Becky (T.J. McGibbon).

It's looking like a lean Christmas as Nicky was recently laid off from her job, but through an odd series of circumstances -- or maybe it's the machinations of mysterious "Christmas consultant" Harry (Wallace Shawn) -- Nicky becomes Santa Claus at a prestigious department store. (Do prestigious department stores even exist anymore?!) Nicky is never seen outside of her costume and manages to convince everyone she's a man, albeit on the thin side for a Santa Claus. She excels in her job, instinctively knowing what each child needs thanks to what Harry calls "Santa magic."

Nicky is quite taken with one of the store executives, Bill (Gabriel Hogan, who plays Norman in the MURDER, SHE BAKED movie series). Bill is equally smitten with Nicky but she feels awkward confessing that she's his store's Santa, especially after Bill tells "Santa" that he likes Nicky.

Eventually, though, catty store employee Fiona (a very amusing Gabrielle Miller) discovers the truth and fires Nicky. However, Fiona's not counting on a firestorm of public dismay, nor does she realize she'll land in the doghouse with store owner Mr. Cartwright (Ron Lea).

This is a very cute movie which left me with a smile on my face. Witt puts the same slightly ditzy yet sincere persona seen in A VERY MERRY MIX-UP to good use here as a woman baffled by her good fortune but more than game for the ride, even if it means speaking in a deep voice for hours on end. She's especially likeable as she works hard to be a good, supportive mother, helping her daughter through a rough patch with spelling and reading.

Hogan is quite charming, and since he's stuck in the "Ralph Bellamy" also-ran role in the MURDER, SHE BAKED series it's lovely to see him in this as the leading man. He and Witt have good chemistry.

There are also nice performances by Linda Kash as "Santa's No. 1 Helper," Jayne Eastwood as Nicky's landlady, and Marsha Regis as Becky's kind teacher.

CHRISTMAS AT CARTWRIGHT'S was written by Margaret Oberman and directed by Graeme Campbell. It was filmed by Peter Benison with Ontario, Canada, standing in for Chicago.

CHRISTMAS AT CARTWRIGHT'S is available on DVD. A digital copy may also be purchased from Amazon Instant Video.

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