Truth is I don’t do very well with Christmas movies. Most of them reek of bad acting and a whole mess of clichés. One of my least favorite movies of all time is A Christmas Story, a masterpiece of absolutely awful movie making. So, needless to say when I received Thomas Kinkade’s Christmas Cottage, I wasn’t exactly abundant with anticipation. Let’s just hope that we don’t want to shoot our eye out over it or anything.
The year is 1977. Thomas Kinkade (played by Jared Padalecki) is busy at working drawing his girlfriend, Hope (played by Gina Holden) as she models (don’t worry, this is a Christmas movie, so all we get is some bare shoulder action). However, he has to stop what he’s doing and go home for Christmas. Where is home you might ask? Why, that’s Placerville, California. The little town also happens to be known as the Christmas Tree capital of the World.
Once Thomas gets to Placerville, he and his brother Pat (played by Aaron Ashmore) see their mother, Maryanne (played by Marcia Gay Harden). Afterwards, he makes a trip next door to see his mentor, Glen (played by Peter O’ Toole). Glen mumbles incoherently and says something about not getting old. He’s obviously seen better days. Thomas talks to Glen some more, Glen rambles and the young student goes back to the house.
Back at the house, Thomas learns that his mother is in some serious financial trouble. In fact, unless she comes up with 3 grand by New Years, she is going to lose the cottage. Thomas and Pat both decide to get jobs and help out best they can. Mother doesn’t want to accept the help but begrudgingly goes along with the idea. Thomas calls up his dad, Bill (played by Richard Burgi) and sees if he will come home for Christmas. Dad spews off some clichés and agrees to swing by.
With that bit of business out of way, Thomas heads into town to find a job. He stops by the local watering hole and chats it up with Ernie (played by Chris Elliott) who is more interested in Tanya’s cleavage (played by Kiersten Warren). Elliott happens to be the President of the Chamber of Commerce but doesn’t know of any jobs. Ernie finishes his drink and the two walk around town. They pass by an unfinished mural.
The mural was supposed to be of the town but never was completed. Ernie says he’ll give Thomas $500 bucks to finish it by Christmas Eve. I would say Tommy boy here has a job. Somewhere else in town, Maryanne is helping out to put on the church play of the nativity scene. However, it is turning out to be the worst Christmas play ever (which is saying a lot. I played Santa Claus one year, I know). At home, dad shows up and brings porno mags as Christmas gifts for the boys.
Wait a second. Dad gives them a crate of porno mags. I’m not kidding. Of course, this is better than my own dad who would buy the magazines for himself and then try to claim they were mine (and I was no more than 14 at the time). Furthermore, I would get in trouble with them. THANKS DAD (but as a result I have a sizable collection of Playboys). Anyhow, they accept the gifts and he runs away to drown his sorrows in a bottle of beer.
Thomas starts to sketch and paint the mural. He finds it hard to draw inspiration until his mentor encourages him to find it in himself. Actually I’m not sure if he was encouraging him or ordering a ham and cheese sandwich, I couldn’t tell. Anyway, the question remains whether the brothers will make enough money in time to save the cottage. Or do they depend on a Christmas miracle? Either way, this tale will be bring our hearts to a collective peak and if luck has it, our stomachs too.
Seriously, Thomas Kinkade is a great artist but did he grow up in a cartoon world? The town electrician, Big Jim (played by Richard Moll) is awful with electricity, the church pianist, Vesta (played by Charlotte Rae) can’t sing and well there is Chris Elliott in a bad wig. The movie feels like one bad joke after another. If it wasn’t for Marcia Gay Harden’s awesome portrayal of Maryanne, the show would be completely unwatchable.
Don’t even bring up Peter O’ Toole. One of the greatest actors of all time has been reduced to a catatonic, rambling forgotten artist who we are never convinced has one final great piece of art in him. Instead, we are pretty sure, the real Thomas Kinkade broke into his studio and did the piece in his place. Then somehow he convinced Glen (O’ Toole) that it was his work. There is certainly a great cast at work, but we have a hard time believing it with what we see in front of us.
The video is in 1.78:1 widescreen presentation in 1080p resolution. The video presentation is fairly average. The color is good but it hardly brings to life the movie like Kinkade’s brush does to his paintings. Placerville does seem to come alive at certain points but the movie can safely say it is stuck in another time period. One where HD presentation hasn’t existed quite yet. Average all around for the video portion.
For the audio portion, we get a 5.1 English DTS-HD. Sound fares somewhat better, but just don’t expect anything besides dialog and Christmas carols. The dialog is clear (except for O’ Toole’s rambling) and the music does capture a little bit of the spirit we are looking for. But there are no sound effects to be found, so don’t expect your surrounds to get any work. Subtitles are included for English, English SDH and Spanish.
- Automatic Trailers: EpiX HD
- Audio Commentary with Director Michael Campus & Thomas Kinkade: It’s Christmas Cottage lovefest 2000 and here is your host, the director Michael Campus. He practically runs over the artist with his I love this actor, I love this scene and everything was just awesome. Meanwhile, Thomas (the real star of the production) hardly talks and gets interrupted frequently. Yep, the movie makes more sense now.
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary 12:07: Thomas and Michael return to talk over the four deleted scenes. This is a little more toned down affair and they actually speak a little less excited and talk genuine about the scenes. The scenes themselves are merely extensions of existing scenes and were cut down for time.
- Building the Christmas Cottage 18:13 : This would qualify as the behind the scenes featurette. Apparently, Kinkade saw the director, Campus at a dinner and striked up a conversation about movies. This is the result of that conversation. Just think if there had been a competent director at that table. I digress. They spend a lot of time with the stars (Peter O’ Toole is very interesting unlike his character in the movie). Interesting thing they show Campus is directing the movie and all the while, Thomas is sitting there painting away. Ever get the feeling Thomas got fed up with how little the producer does and decided to do something better with his time? Anyway, do check out the last couple of minutes which has a couple of nice poems from the director and Maryanne.
- Home for Christmas: A Conversation with Thomas Kinkade 10:32: Honestly, this is the best featurette on the disc. Thomas spends a few minutes with us and talks of his childhood. The Christmas Cottage movie is actually inspired (in addition to his life story) by a painting of the same name. He wanted to expand his work through film and he talks about his late mentor, Glen Wessels. Again, nice piece.
- On the Set with Ed Aknik 2:00: Ed is an extra. Watch Ed talk about his bike. Watch Ed go up to the director and act like an idiot about some correspondence course. Watch Ed get kicked off the set. Watch this reviewer go WTF?!
- Christmas with the Cast 8:46: This last diddy involves many members of the cast talking about Christmas memories. Peter O’ Toole’s story is pretty awesome and I enjoyed Ed Asner talk about his bonus check from Elf but most of the other clips are way too short to establish any sort of emotion.
In a way, I feel sorry for Thomas Kinkade’s first adventure into making his painting and life’s adventures into a film. His paintings often remind people of the Christmas season, so it was only natural he would work on a Christmas movie. However, something got lost in translation and we ended up with this movie. It is true that the cast included some all stars but the only people that left me with any interest in their characters were Marcia Gay Hayden and Richard Moll.
The blu-ray is mostly an average affair. The video and audio are decent efforts but they could have switched formats and we would have hardly known the difference. The extras are plentiful but are missing a lot of the heart that I would have expected. The one real Christmas segment at the end is badly thrown together snippets with no meat. It is hard for me to recommend a Christmas film in the first place but this really is missing the passion of the season.