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Silver Bells (2005)
Not one of the better Hallmark productions
I really didn't like this production. The title sets up a metaphor which signals the "big message". There are two problems with the "big message". First, it's delivered with hammer-like subtlety -- okay, Hallmark is not particularly good with subtlety, but still, why use a metaphor if you're going to hit us over the head with its meaning? The metaphor itself becomes little more than a scavenger hunt to find the (literal) silver bells. Second, the metaphor really doesn't match the plot. The central conflict between father and son is not well developed and doesn't make sense. The inevitable explosion seems completely out of character. I get it, son rebels against Dad's career choice for him, an age-old dilemma. But what happens here is out of character and overwrought. And what does any of this have to do with "silver bells"? The message of the metaphor would not solve the father/son conflict. Add to these issues the fact that there is absolutely no chemistry between Anne Heche and Tate Donovan. Chemistry is critical to the Hallmark formula! In fact, the relationship here is not even at the center of the story, which is a mistake, because Hallmark is all about that relationship. I would just as soon have skipped this one -- and it has to be pretty bad for me to say that!
One of my favorite Hallmarks
If you like the Hallmark formula (and I do!), this one should hit all the right buttons. There's not much plot going on (but you don't watch these things for the plot, do you?). Our heroine is a single mom to an overly-mature, curly-top child; favorite uncle meets stranded hunk on a plane and invites him home for the holidays. Okay, so Mom is not keen on Christmas, and she really can't cook; Son isn't sure there's a Santa Claus; and Stranger is a holiday-lover who happens to be a chef. Any doubt where this is going? So how could that garner 9 stars from me? The casting! I hardly noticed there was no plot until I was thinking about it afterward! Brooke Burns -- not an actress that I would expect to see on stage at an award show -- is actually quite good. One of my favorite scenes: She's talking through the car window to an irritating neighbor, trying to keep her composure with a forced smile on her face, and after she rolls up the window and starts to pull away, she mutters (almost without moving her lips), "Step in front of the car, lady!" She just nails the line -- she's not a nasty person, so the nastiness she musters in the line works. I've never seen male lead Warren Christie before, but ... where has he been all my life! The chemistry between the two is awesome, really awesome, and he may be my favorite Hallmark hero of all time. Henry Winkler is the match-making uncle. I find him a little annoying -- he always plays the same character, and he's obviously intended to be droll, but it's a bit too overt -- like he has "I am droll" stamped across his forehead. It's a credit to the leads that he recedes into his proper place. This was an enjoyable entry into the Hallmark holiday collection. I highly recommend it.