An ambitious businesswoman devoid of holiday spirit – and afraid of commitment – inherits her late aunt’s cherished old inn at Christmastime. When she decides to sell the inn, a handsome local handyman and a cheerful young elf intervene, helping her rediscover love and the magic of Christmas.
Last year, I watched the original Northpole film, and I remember just how highly anticipated it was, and it measured up to and surpassed all expectations. I fell in love with Bailee Madison as a result of last year’s film, and I was so excited to learn that Lori Loughlin was joining this year’s cast. As I began screening this year’s installment, I wasn’t certain it could transcend last year’s offering, but let me tell you it did not disappoint. As outstanding as last year’s film was, double and triple that and one might come close to what this year’s Northpole film is.
While there is a sweet trio of actresses who effectively steal the show (I’ll review them a bit later on), there are some honorable mentions throughout this magical holiday offering.
No stranger to the role of Santa, Donovan plays the impeccable Santa. As I examined his previous roles, it seems as though he is almost typecast as Santa, but not to worry, it looks as though he is a mulit-faceted actor. I simply adore the look with which Hallmark has endowed him, and he radiates the tenets of the holiday season every time he graces the screen. And in my opinion, his smile must be massive as the whiskers and costuming never interfere with his emotions and expressions. He is definitely on my “short list” for Santa actors, and I hope to continue to see him in this role (and of course, I will watch out for him in other works as well).
No stranger to Hallmark films (be sure to check out his resume), it was sheer delight to see Derek portray this ever jubilant character, but is he an elf or not? No spoilers from me, but Derek’s depiction of this character is fully irreproachable and replete with the quick smile and clever acting we have come to expect from his roles. Indeed, Derek is a classic addition to this sparkling and festal cast.
Well, you know that a “bad guy” is compulsory but fortunately, James’ portrayal of Harris is not overly villainous. In fact, he is just the typical realtor, but he is the absolute foil for his brother (I will review Dermot’s role in a moment). As far as I know, this is the first time I have seen James in anything, and I certainly would appreciate seeing him in a more substantial role as his character is a bit underwritten. Even so, James injects the restrained mannerisms and bland personality that fit in with the perception of a character just like this.
Because I am so far behind the times (as I usually say), I was not familiar with Dermot Mulroney. While it is possible I have seen him without realizing it, I will count this as the first time I have seen him act. What I appreciate about his portrayal of Jack is that he brought simplicity and ease to a character who has to romance the amazing Mackenzie as played by Lori Loughlin. He never steals her limelight, but he holds his own with a nonchalance that not all actors would express while playing opposite her. It would have been easy for him to have placed himself in direct competition with her vivaciousness, but he never gets into a power struggle with him. He is perfectly willing to let the trio of ladies shine in this film, and he merely plays his part with such incredible credibility that he often blends into the background. However, when it is time for him to be noticed (or for Lori’s character to notice him), he enters the romance department with the same low-key suavity and confidence. He never forgets that his purpose is to support Lori’s character and show her off in the best light. He never wants to say something to bring her down or cause people to dislike her (even when her decisions are questionable).
There is nothing like a child at Christmas, and Hallmark made an ingenious casting decision when it was decided that Ava would play Jenny. She does have a few films to her credit, but Postables might know her as Hannah from last year’s Signed, Sealed, Delivered Christmas installment. Whenever Ava’s character is on-screen, the true joy and wonder of the Yuletide season effortlessly shimmer in her eyes and irradiate through her smile. I adored her last Christmas in the aforementioned film, and she is just as charming and adorable as Jenny. It takes a child actress with an extra special quality who can play opposite powerhouse actresses like Lori and Bailee. It would have been easy for her character to fade into the background like Dermot’s character does, but Ava rises to the challenge and makes the dynamic duo a tantalizing trio. I can hardly wait to see more from this spitfire actress.
When Hallmark announced the addition of Lori to this outstanding cast, I was ecstatic, and having the opportunity to screen this film absolutely enthralled me. As I have mentioned in the past, I have been a Lori Loughlin fan since her Full House days, and I really would like to know how it is possible that she looks almost the same as she did back then. From her first appearance in this film, I was entranced by her portrayal of Mackenzie. All too often, Lori plays the “nice girl” who is full of eternal optimism no matter the situation. But even when Lori does play characters who are not in keeping with that perception, Lori is impeccable. As she immerses herself into this misguided woman who refuses to commit to a relationship and only concerns herself with business, she is quite credible. Some actresses would play a part like this without engendering any sympathy, but Lori has a quality that endears the audience to her in spite of her lack of Christmas spirit. I found myself only desiring the best for her, and since this is Hallmark, that is exactly what happens. To see her transformation is like a master class in the art of acting, and Lori is sweetly captivating and full of youthful vigor and sparkle inspired by the memories of her childhood. Her performances always draw the attention of the viewers, but she never purposely upstages the other actors in the scene. It is just her natural zeal that entices everyone to treasure her character. I hope and pray that this is not the last time we see Lori in one of these exceptional holiday films in this series.
Of course, the unquestioned star of this film is Bailee. As Clementine, the first thing I noticed about her is the way she is able to maintain her childlike quality in spite of the fact that she has matured much since last year. Bailee has a knack of illuminating the screen with her effervescent nature, her matchless characterization, and her infectious laugh (is it possible for us to bottle that laugh and sell it?). She injects the unspoiled wonder of the season into her character, and I never questioned any of the magic she performs. In fact, she is careful to downplay the surreal qualities of her character’s elfin nature without losing her winsome hope and buoyancy. Bailee is one of the actresses who so dexterously immerses herself into a character that she needs no warm-up period–she is Clementine from the moment she appears on the screen. Quite sincerely, if you can watch this film without Bailee’s scintillating character and joi de vivre enlivening your mood, I seriously question whether your heart is still beating.
I also relish Bailee’s genuineness and tireless nature. Bailee is not a “cookie cutter” actress in appearance, figure, or character interpretation. Bailee is steadfast in who she is, and she never makes excuses for who we see on or off the screen. And the fact that she is so “real” causes me to cherish her even more. Almost without exception, the audience is able to make an authentic connection with Bailee and know that “what we see is what we get.” For me, this is what sets Bailee apart from so many young actresses in the world today. She celebrates her differences and never makes apologies for who she is. And she is able to convey that to any role she portrays. As her star rises higher, I have no doubt that one day, Bailee could easily move into the A-list circles in Hollywood (if she so desires), or if she prefers, she could do most anything she sets her mind to. All of these things only cause me to be more of a “Bailee” supporter and champion than I would be if I were judging her simply on what we see on the screen. She is consistently a seasoned professional, and I can only hope that we will continue to see her in countless projects in the years to come.
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