Okay, “Trading Christmas” isn’t good good. But definitely a cut above the offerings we’ve had here so far. This may be because it’s based on a novel by an actual writer water than the stable of underpaid, toymaking-deficient elves that are evidently chained in the basement of the Hallmark Channel building churning out cookie-cutter plots. This one has actual characters, and actual dialogue, and although it’s predictable, it has an actual story line.
Three of them, actually, neatly braided together:
(1) In Boston, college student Heather Spengler (Emma Lahana) has always spent Christmas with her widowed mother, but this year wants to go to Arizona with her boyfriend. Knowing that Mom will flip out if she tells her the truth, she begs off and insists she wants to spend the holiday at school.
(2) Back home in South Woodbourne, Washington, Emily (Faith Ford) is terribly disappointed by this and decides to take the mountain to Mohammad and does a house-swap with writer Charles Johnson (Tom Cavanaugh) in Boston. The writer’s charming brother Ray (Gil Bellows, who apparently does a lot of these movies but whom I mostly remember from "Ally McBeal," and don’t ask me why I watched that show) happens by the house.
(3) Emily’s best friend Faith (Gabrielle Miller) is overcome with sympathy for Emily having to spend her first Christmas alone, and comes up from San Francisco to keep her friend company. When she arrives, she finds instead Charles, who is decidedly not charming, and is forced to impose on him for a place to stay until the next bus to Seattle, which just happens to come through South Woodbourne on Christmas. (South Woodbourne's location is pretty vague. It's described as being a hundred miles from Seattle, which coincidentally is almost the distance to Abbotsford, B.C. where it was filmed.)
Hilarity ensues and romances bloom. But we knew that.
I’ll be honest; I only watched this because Gabrielle Miller was in it. Her character on “Corner Gas” was just about the only thing that show had going for it (except for Lorne Cardinal, who’s not pretty enough to watch for very long). She doesn’t disappoint here. Bellows is his usual competent self and Faith Ford is clearly also a veteran of sappy movies.
Emily is clearly the first among equals in terms of character importance. Her widowhood isn’t just a plot trope; it’s clear that she clings to every shred of her old life through her daughter, who chafes at being conscripted as a surrogate for her late father. Charles, alas, is just a walking trope: the writer with writer’s block and a chip on his shoulder from an ex who done him wrong. But for Gabrielle Miller, I'll put up with that.
It’s clean and innocent, as Christmas should be. Enjoy. And leave a comment.