Eight-year-old Buddy (T. J. Lowther) likes living in the Alabama countryside with cousing Sook (Julie Harris in a tiny role), but circumstances dictate that he go to New Orleans for Christmas, there to stay with the father he has never seen (Henry Winkler). Old dad is, it turns out, a con artist with an inflated sense of self-importance, currently wooing Swoozie Kurtz, whose mother (Katharine Hepburn) recognizes Winkler for what he is. This being a Christmas movie, hard lessons and redemption will be called for.
At this festive season of the year, studios rummage through their vaults for those films that no one would want to watch at any other time of the year, but will happily do so when even the merest hint of sentiment and the word “Christmas” will apparently be enough to fill us with the warm glow of nostalgia and good cheer. In the movie’s defense, it has a more interesting base than most such bargain releases – a Truman Capote story – but it is still a blandly executed made-for-TV pic with some good-looking production and costume design. Lowther, meanwhile, is simply too cold a fish to warm up to as Buddy, and Winkler’s performance is both mannered and flat. You’re going to have to be pretty undemanding to make it through this one.
The picture is fullscreen, which is to be expected, given the television origins of the film. The picture is enough to be getting by on, living up to its original broadcast quality, I suppose. The colours are warm enough, the image is sharp enough, and the contrasts are strong enough. In a word, everything is just “enough” but no more.
A 2.0 soundtrack. I can’t say I was expecting anything else with a 1994 telefilm, and as 2.0 tracks go, this one’s not bad, with a pretty decent sense of environment. Some of the dialogue does distort, though not severely enough to be a real distraction. A workmanlike effort, then, but hardly exciting.
The more optimistic among you might look at the cast list and hope to be stumbling upon some unjustly ignored Christmas classic. You’d be wrong. Henry Winkler has starred in a legitimately interesting Christmas movie: An American Christmas Carol (1979). You’d be better off with that.