Another Christmas movie from the experienced hands of director Bradley Walsh, and writers Mark Amatos and Jennifer Notas Shapiro, Christmas Encore pitches itself as a perfect example of this kind of thing. You wouldn't really give it any thought at any other time of year, but it's a colourful and frothy 90 minutes for the holiday season.
Maggie Lawson plays Charlotte Lacy, a struggling actress who is just about to resign herself to giving up on her dream and moving on with her life. Her one last chance comes along in the shape of an audition for a stage version of A Christmas Carol, directed by a TV star named Julian Walker (Brennan Elliott). The play gives her a chance to shine, as she takes the lead role in a reworked version of the classic tale, but will it be enough? And will she be able to forget the past that she once had with Julian, someone she views as having thrown her aside when his shot at fame came calling.
As usual, there's plenty that you can choose to hate on with this type of thing. The lead character is almost sickeningly sweet and good, there are moments that teach lessons to someone with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face, and there seems to be a world that writers think exists in which people who are struggling to get on with their lives can still afford pretty great living conditions, always look well-groomed and chipper, and generally don't often suffer anywhere close to the realities of those on, or below, the breadline. I get it, this is a holiday film that isn't interested in actual reality (and why would it be? that isn't what people want as they often make themselves poor and stressed at this time of year) but it always stands out when it's supposed to inform the character. This is far from the worst offender, as Charlotte isn't ever shown to be crying over finances or worried about a roof over her head, but I guarantee that a lot of people working in the service industry will wonder how she has the time to also be involved in a play, especially at Christmas, and how she seems to generally maintains a smile on her face and spring in her step.
Amatos and Shapiro hit all of the right notes, giving the main characters enough of a backstory to provide a small amount of tension while the storyline focuses on a "if we put this show on then we might just save the theatre" premise that will please any fan of The Muppets. There are one or two spanners in the works en route to the expected ending, of course, and they ensure that the pace works well throughout.
Lawson is a bright lead, outshining the others, which isn't that hard. Walker does okay though, Art Hindle is the standard kindly elder figure, and Murray Furrow is the potential villain who doesn't seem to carry any seasonal goodwill in his soul.
Walsh directs everything capably enough, crafting yet another disposable schedule-filler that manages to be sweet and cheery without feeling as cheap and slapdash as some. It lands in the arena of the average, as so many of these films do, but that's perfectly fine, especially when you sit through the ones that don't manage to get to that level.
Here's that festive film collection again.
Here's a 4-pack that some Americans may enjoy.
Or just click a link and go shopping. That works for me too.