Love at the Christmas Table (2012)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

All television Christmas flicks seem to suffer the same fate – mediocre scripts. With exception to Hallmark Hall of Fame, most of the festive movies aren’t inventive nor do they bring the best out in their actors. That being said, I still persist in collecting any that come to DVD… and love every second of it. 
30 years ago, love between Sam Reed and Kat blossomed… or at least a friendship did when the four-year-old kids were brought together by their father’s joining in business and thus begin their yearly Christmases together at the children’s table. Each year the neighborhood gathers at the home of neighbor Elizabeth (Lea Thompson) who throws a celebration unlike any other and each year, the decorations take up more corners of her house. Remembering all the Christmases gone by – including Sam as a 13-year-old crushing on an uninterested, bookish Kat, college years and the fight that kept Sam from returning home for five years – Sam (Dustin Milligan) finally returns home to his small town with the hope that finally he and Kat (Danica McKeller) will lay the past to rest… and the one question Sam wants to ask her will result in wiping the slate clean to begin afresh.

Airing on Lifetime during last year’s Christmas programming, this story is actually one of the more unusual and sweet scripts in its genre, and for that, I applaud it. Unfortunately, the story isn’t well produced. Primarily the story unfolds in flashbacks, starting with a four-year-old Sam and Kat in the 1980’s all the way up until they are 27-year-old adults who are still in a “holding pattern,” neither one being sure what they want from life. As usual their adult lives are about them owning up to their own choices and learning to deal with them, and more importantly facing what it is they are most afraid of – what they want out of life. Their younger years are full of teen angst, confusion and changing perspectives which is regrettably limiting to the present timeframe and though I understand why so much time is spent in the past – believe me, that is needed when it becomes clear what Sam’s intentions are, I cannot help but feeling cheated out of knowing who Sam and Kat become rather than who they were. Upon reflection maybe this is best considering the ending does offer some semblance of delight at the promise of what’s to come and therefore, the unknown is better than showing us. 

Anyone looking for festive cheer is in for a treat with this tele-film – the halls are decked to the max and there is rarely a frame that doesn’t have some sort of glittery cheer. Grounding that overcompensation of Christmas, is the attachment of the classic Great Expectations to a modern film and though it reaches in being believable, it adds layers to a character and allows for a cute ending that makes us want to say, “finally!” (Oh, and for the classic lit lover, there are some other references – including a declaration that put me in mind of Edward and Elinor.) Each of the conflicting elements that keep apart Sam and Kat are of the “usual” variety and same as always, sometimes you feel like shaking them and yelling, “just say it!” but no, instead we have to go through the two of them saying things that cut deep and drive wedges. To be fair, I suppose if we didn’t have that there wouldn’t be a movie… and of course, we have to have one even if it does use every (and yes, I do realize I'm being repetitive by saying this, but it is true...) cliché in the book. 

There’s a lovely sequence involving a silly dance and some cute scenes with Sam, Kat and the neighborhood kids being goofy which adds realness to the story – who among us doesn’t get silly at family gatherings? One of the biggest hiccups is that the majority of the film takes place in one location; this almost makes the movie “run together” and seem as if the entire 90 minutes is one big party instead of getting down to the important business. Despite the flaws and filmmaking flubs, one thing the script does is bring happiness and laughter to a room – and as everyone knows, laughter is the best medicine.

(What to know: there are a few sexual innuendoes that crop up at various points in the film. Throughout the entire movie, characters drink various alcoholic drinks; no one ever seems to be without some sort of drink in their hand. There may be a few instances of profanity – a running gag involves a “swear jar.”)


  1. This sounds fun and silly.
    Just my type of movie:)

    Thanks for reviewing it!

    1. Yes! Fun and silly rules at my house over the holidays, Ella - that's pretty much all we watch. It's way more fun that way. :)

      Thanks for reading! :)

  2. I've been looking for a fun Christmas movie to watch. Thanks for the review, Rissi! And yes, it is very hard for Christmas-themed movies to break out of mediocre scripts. They all have the same fun, sweet feel, and sometimes that's just what we're looking for around the holidays. :-)

    P.S. I'm totally LOVING "There You'll Find Me". Yep, I'll be reading more of Jenny B. Jones... Thanks sooooo much for recommending!

    1. *High Five* I do agree, Gwendolyn. I know I put these TV movies down when I'm reviewing them - and I don't want to be mean about it - however, they are mediocre in the script and then every once in a while, one comes along that "wows" its viewer. No matter my broken record reviewing, I love these flicks - as you say, they're just what the holiday ordered. :)

      Oh, yes! I'm so pleased you're liking There You'll Find Me. It remains one of my all-time, best favorites. Will be watching for your review. :)

  3. Christmas movies are the only "bad" movies that I watch and love. They do seem poorly written most of the time but the mindless cheer is great around the holidays LOL! I saw this one last year and I liked it. It was a bit frustrating that they took so long to get together, but in the end it was a flick. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Same here, Renee; they're not "bad" in a "bad" way (if that makes any sense!?), it's just I feel like the actors and writers "dumb" down their material when they don't have too. That being said, I still love 'em; it's this exact kind of movie I want to watch around the holidays.

      I liked this one too - once I adjusted to the realization that the movie wasn't going to deal in the present, that is. :)


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