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The Christmas Pageant (2011)


Back in the 1970’s, Melissa Gilbert was part of a TV icon – and become defined by that icon. Today the role of Laura Ingalls is still what most fans associate her with. I can still remember seeing re-runs of the show when I was a kid and today, seeing her name in a cast list makes me smile and brings back fond memories.

Working on Broadway has been good to Vera Parks (Gilberts)… but she hasn’t always been good to it. Her career has spanned Broadway, Off-Broadway and other venues as a well-known director but her opinionated, feisty personality clashes with too many of the people she works with. Fired off her last job for the umpteenth time then leads to all other companies shying away from hiring her to any other theater company, and she is just desperate enough to direct Community Theater though unprepared for what awaits her when she ends up in a small community where Christmas is celebrated with the greatest joy. It turns out the person paying for her to direct the annual Christmas pageant is none other than her ex-fiancé Jack (Robert Mailhouse) – the one man she has never forgotten. 
 
Like we’ve talked about so much around here, the Christmas genre is either a “hit or miss” for me. Yes, I giggle (and sometimes scoff) my way through each new title – by choice – and always wind up “liking” each one at the very least but I don’t always consider them some of my favorites. Though Melissa Gilbert plays an amusing and lovable character, ‘Pageant’ is not likely to be considered in that latter category. The laughs come easy and Gilbert is a big part of that – making us laugh without trying too hard, but the story is such a familiar one that I find the plot thwarts itself by the lack of creativity.

Fun-loving characters add a lot to the movie and nothing makes a movie more likable than the joy of Christmas through the eyes of a child. Here, Jack is raising his young daughter who added a great deal to the script even when the young actress over-acted a time or two. Her innocent matchmaking was nothing if not adorable and I particularly loved a scene in which she invited Vera to “tea” at her house. It was sentimental but sweet. In telling a story, writers can “get away” with a lot more when there’s a child but most of the pacing suffers to such a point that the tele-film didn’t “feel” complete even though it did end having tied up all its loose ends in a big bow that was pretty if not completely satisfying. Vera learns that time stops for no one and that the material things of life rarely – if ever, make one truly happy. Finding herself didn’t make her happy and in fact made her life empty. She begins to open up to more people on a personal level and becomes not just someone who “directs” but a friend. It may have taken a boatload of Christmas cheer and a room full of doilies, but she gets there, and despite petty grievances, that is a rewarding element.

 (Parental concerns: There’s one use of h*ll. The film is rated TVPG.)
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Rissi
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