Director: Stephen Bridgewater
Edward Asner, John Newton, Alice Evans
A sergeant in the army seems jaded and out of touch as he "celebrates" Christmas at his outpost in Afghanistan. We can tell that he is loved by his men but that something is missing. Just in time for Christmas, he gets a Christmas Card from a lovely, blonde, vivacious woman in Nevada City to wish him merry Christmas from her church. She sends a picture of the church but not of herself, yet the sergeant is smitten with her warm Christmas cheer.
After he is sent home on leave, he realizes he is rudderless, except for a few beacons in the fog - the card, Nevada City and the church. So he gets on his "Hollywood sexy soldier off duty" standard issue chopper, and alpha males his way into this small lumber town.
"Fate" brings him into contact with Faith, the only young, vivacious and basically single woman in a town of gray hair and false teeth. Her father, played by a charismatic Ed Asner, happens to be a war vet, who after one look at the young vet, decides to take him in as his own (never mind the risks of PTSD, or of a soldier going A-wall a la Sylvester Stallone in First Blood) this guy is family.
So now, the underwear model caliber soldier and the hottie are sharing bathrooms and the father would love for them to fall in love. The only thing standing in the way of this inevitable Hallmark romance is a wafish, insecure, 40-something, rich wine connoisseur and merchant, who is not a good kisser. He is the leading lady's fiancé, and the father doesn't like him. They have a wine tasting at the house and the father insists everything her daughter's fiancé pours is "fruity".
Who Would Like it and Why
All sarcasm aside, I thought Ed Asner was charismatic, fun and believable in this winter wonder land where he runs a timber mill and lives in a beautiful cabin. The sets were wonderful and made me yearn for a simpler time. There is even one scene where Ed Asner and his peacemaking wife Lois Nettleton are actually in a "one-horse open sleigh". It should be said that Alice Evans plays her part well as a great catch in nice sweaters that are still acceptable to wear in front of the family. Her smiles light up the screen.
Who Might not Like it and Why
John Newton plays Sgt. Cody Cullen. I thought he was OK as the ingénue, but lacked any sort of colorful acting skill to go beyond his pretty face. He is a good-looking guy and that went far with the plot.
But his nice appearance matched, up with the not-so-attractive current boyfriend, suggested that all those who fight in the military look like underwear models, and anyone who stays stateside is a thin whimp who stays on the cell phone while the real men are cutting things down and operating power tools. I don't think that is true.
Indeed, I thought the family bias against Paul, played well by Ben Weber, was alarming. The Mom was somewhat innocent in this, as she insisted she was for what her daughter wanted. But Asner's character, as well as an uncle, actively conspired against Paul in favor of Sgt. Cody Cullen. They wanted Cullen to take the hand of the beautiful girl, played by Alice Evans.
I also was uncomfortable with the fact that Faith mentioned in voiceover that she had been given the chance to move to the "big city", but had never journeyed outside of her small hometown. Her mannerisms also brought me back to older movies in the way that she seemed flimsy and fickle and unsure of what she wanted as the two young men sparred and parried for her love.
Listen, all sarcasm put aside, this is a nice, warm Christmas tale. I could only wish that all veterans had so many wonderful things waiting for them when they came home.
I think that Nevada City, or wherever they filmed this movie to make it look like Nevada City, played its part as a desirable wintry wonderland.
Also, there is a scene in the beginning where our two lovers unknowingly order the same exact food from a diner-good foreshadowing to their chemistry. Ed Asner glues everything together as the lead. Lois Nettleton does a good job ignoring interpersonal tension and making everyone feel welcome and at home.
Peter Jason plays Richard, the jovial Uncle who helps Asner in guiding his daughter to the right man. He delivers some nice comedic relief in the movie.
Worthy of mention as well is the cabin which the Spellman family lives in, which anyone would love to nestle in, sip some egg nog and watch the snow fall. Also, there is a "special spot" along the river in the trees that plays a key point in the plot, well I'll just give it away - it hosts the first kiss. But it is beautiful. Not sure which river it overlooks, but it is majestic.
My Unfiltered Opinion
Like everyone else in the world, I love our troops. But I also have an open mind and believe that in some cases that the educated, world-class wine connoisseur/merchant might be a better partner for someone than the rudderless vet in a chopper.
Paul, if you're out there, don't despair, you'll find someone. My advice, try a big city where the women are well-educated, aren't as codependent to Daddy, and have an appetite for world-wide travel. You might do well in a place like this.
And, as for the Spellman family, into which Sgt. Cullen fell into like a glove, I wish you much happiness in your cozy Hallmark story.
Yes, Hallmark family values and patriotism took center stage in "The Christmas Card". The family was solid and did its best to weed out any weak links before they got too far. Also, the soldier was a hero, we could tell by his square jaw, even before he did anything heroic.
Paul's warning to Faith that people from the army can be just as dangerous and psychotic as anyone else was brushed aside early in the movie. And why shouldn't it be? This is Christmas, and lets face it, Sgt. Cody Cullen looks great in a Santa hat. The Spellmans will sort everything else out in the New Year...
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