PLOT: Man inherited a company that has a toy factory in a small town. The town needs the factory to stay open. He goes to decide to keep or close the factory. Finds the meaning of Christmas along the way.
There is a fine line between formulaic and boring. Using what seems to be a paint by number script can make an audience feel a sense of deja-vu which eliminates any interest in your story. But that doesn’t mean writing from a template will always deliver an unsatisfactory movie. If you are able to leverage what an audience expects and vary from it even in the slightest, you will hold an audience’s attention. Most audiences want something familiar, but different, and that is the fine line that a writer needs to walk.
Christmas Incorporated walks that fine line, but it almost falls off more than it should. The movie stars Shenae Grimes-Beech (90210, Degrassi: The Next Generation) as Riley Vance, a young business woman looking for a job in New York City who becomes the assistant to a wealthy young CEO, William Young — played by Steve Lund (Bitten). Well, she kinda does. For some reason, we should suspend disbelief that a supposed Fortune 500 company wouldn’t check a person’s identification before hiring them. Because of this major oversight, Riley’s allowed to travel and live with the company’s CEO. This has to be the worst run business in America.
Once the setting changes to the small town of Dover, New Hampshire, the movie turns into a save-the-small-town Christmas movie. While Christmas Incorporated doesn’t go into the mystical, it does technically save the town because of the magic of Christmas, which isn’t as bad as it sounds. The way the “magic” occurs in a realistic way, as the townspeople spread the word about a revamped toy by word of mouth. It’s a little contrived, but it’s better than just saying, ‘don’t worry, it’s MAGIC.’ (waves hands at screen)
One thing I do want to point out is how they handle the local journalist in the movie. As a former journalist, I liked that she didn’t compromise her integrity to try to help the town like everyone else. She did come off as a wannabe National Enquirer reporter at times and treated like a villain to the audience. But everything she did, except for the stake out photos when Riley and William were eating dinner, was exactly how a journalist should act. She found out Riley wasn’t who the company thought they hired, so she confronted them about it. That was good journalism. The writers of The Christmas Gift should take note.
This movie inhabits everything about the Christmas season, except you know. This is becoming a trend.
If it wasn’t so predictable, then I may have cared a little more. What I liked about the story’s progression is that the pacing was good. The fundamental difference between a good love story and a bad one is its ability to tell the story without rushing the beats. It is a fine line to walk because if it’s too slow at the beginning, the ending comes out of nowhere, but if it is too quick to start, the inevitable break-up feels contrived. Christmas Incorporated is not a perfect example of this, but it is in the same ballpark.
Once again, it is hard to argue with a good old-fashion small town setting. As this series has progress, I’m seeing a clear distinction between ABC Family movies and the Lifetime/Hallmark entries. The former tends to try to modernize the genre, while the latter two stay very traditional and are very formulaic. There’s not really a right way to do it, but one is more likely score better in this category than the other.
Christmas-ness Score: 4 out of 5
Christmas Incorporated is another in a long line of average to slightly good Christmas movies to be featured on the Hallmark Channel. It has enough recognizable features that you can see the influences from both, other movies on the channel and critically acclaimed films in this genre. Grimes-Beech is charming and Lund does enough to make his performance as the bad boy CEO not come across as Christian Grey minus the bondage. A lot of these movies that fall in the 5-7 range are not a waste of your time, and the difference is really in the performances, and how invested the audience is because of them.