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|A Christmas Star
dir Richard Elson
scr Maire Campbell; prd Joan Burney Keatings
with Erin Galway Kendrick, Robert James Collier, Richard Clements, Bronagh Waugh, John Moan, James Stockdale, Roma Tomelty, Suranne Jones, Liam Neeson, Pierce Brosnan, Dermot O'Leary, Kylie Minogue
release UK 13.Nov.15
15/UK BBC 1h22
I need a miracle: Kendrick
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Very much in the vein of Debbie Isitt's Nativity comedies, this undemanding holiday movie is cheerful enough to hold the interest, even if everything about it feels badly undercooked. The script is a feeble collection of cliched characters and plot points, while the setting is underused and the actors seem to be looking for something to do with their thin roles. But it comes together with plenty of charm, and a handful of enjoyable cameos too.
In the seaside town of Pottersglen in Northern Ireland, 11-year-old Noelle (Kendrick) was born in a barn on Christmas morning and has grown up with a miraculous ability to bring about peace. But now that she needs them, her powers seem useless. The problem is that Pat (Collier), who grew up there, has returned with his son (Moan) to buy up the struggling pottery factory and turn it into a Christmas-themed resort. But Noelle's parents Joe and Maria (Clements and Waugh) can't see through Pat's nefarious plan.
Movie plots don't get much more simplistic than this one, but the filmmakers merrily complicate things with a collection of random characters and situations that veer from silly slapstick to tepid adventure. None of it is remotely convincing, as each encounter is deeply contrived to push events inexorably forward to a big showdown. But it's all so amiable and sweet, with the odd sharp gag, that the film manages to cut off cynics before they can grumble.
It also helps that Kendrick is engaging as the standard misunderstood kid. And the way she doubts her uniqueness adds some badly needed subtext, providing some spark with the other characters. Although all of them are fairly one-note, including the unadventurous casting of Downton Abbey's Collier as the shifty baddie, who is of course Maria's ex. But Clements and Waugh add some lively energy in their simplistic roles, and Noelle's friends are played by a terrific group of sparky kids.
It also helps that A-list Irishmen like Neeson (as a radio DJ who narrates the tale) and Brosnan (as Pat's American boss) are on board to lend a bit of, ahem, star power, along with a few climactic big-name cameos. Director Elson keeps everything ticking along briskly, although he never makes much use of what should be a picturesque location. Still, grown-ups will find it warm and easy to watch, and young kids won't mind the fact that there isn't an original moment.
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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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