AKA My Brother The Time Traveler.
Directed by Jake Van Wagoner. Written by Jake Van Wagoner and Maclain Nelson. Starring Jake Van Wagoner and Maclain Nelson, who play two brothers named . . . Jake and Maclain. The signs were all there, warning me to stay clear of this one, but I just didn't notice them from the very beginning.
A cute intro sequence covers the backstory that you need to know, for the most part. Jake and Maclain were very young when their parents died, and then Jake started to time travel, or so he told people when asked about his whereabouts (whenabouts?), which left Maclain alone and upset when he needed his brother most. Having not been in touch with one another for some time, Maclain's partner, Clare (played by Clare Niederpruem) decides that the brothers should be pushed into spending Christmas together at a fairly isolated cabin. Can they make up for those lost years, and will Jake insist that he can still travel through time?
The first thing that you notice about Christmas Time, once that fun intro sequence finishes, is that it's cheap. It feels cheap. Not necessarily the cheapest you will ever see, and the audio is of a decent quality (often the downfall of many a low-budget film), but you can definitely tell from the very beginning that this is a film made without a lot of money put into it. Necessity can be the mother of invention, especially when people are making movies, but this is one occasion when I think a bigger budget could have really helped, perhaps interspersing the main storyline with some flashbacks/hallucinations.
The second thing you notice about Christmas Time is that the leads are okay, but nothing more. I spent the whole film wishing that Jake was being played by Tyler Labine, for example, and Maclain could have been played by anyone able to do the uptight, exasperated, everyday Joe. Clare is surprisingly patient and sweet, and again could have been played by a number of other actresses. Nobody is awful, fortunately, but this premise could have been turned into something much more enjoyable with one or two more familiar faces onscreen. I have seen opinions from some people who liked seeing James Murray onscreen, he plays a therapist trying to help Maclain, but I am unaware of his past work and wasn't impressed by him in this.
The direction is also okay, suffering most from the script that everyone is working from. It's an unfocused work, never making the most of the comedy potential, the family drama, or the maybe/maybe not sci-fi element, and this leads viewers to an ending that is frustrating and a bit rushed when it could have been the satisfying end of an enjoyable journey.
So . . . you have a drama that often doesn't make you care about the characters, a comedy with too few laughs, and a possible sci-fi idea that isn't well-utilised, making the whole thing a disappointment, if not absolutely terrible.
I'm just going to keep recommending this Disney set.
Americans can buy it here.