Wednesday 28 December 2022

Prime Time: Matchmaker Santa (2012)

Have you even had a proper festive season if you haven't watched a film starring Lacey Chabert? I would have to say no, which is why I made sure to watch Matchmaker Santa when I saw it in the overstuffed TV schedule.

Chabert plays Melanie, a young woman who is in a relationship with Justin (Thad Luckinbill). As busy as he is, Justin has planned a Christmas break for the two of them. Okay, there will also be a bit of a chance to schmooze at a party, but he aims to make up for the many times he has been too busy to enjoy quality time with Melanie. She'll even get to meet Justin's mother (Katherine, played by Mary-Margaret Humes). Plans are thrown into disarray, however, when Justin sends his friend, Dean (Adam Mayfield), to pick Melanie up from the airport. Dean and Melanie are used to this, but they're not used to being secretly manipulated by someone (Santa . . . I mean Chris, played by Donovan Scott) who ensures that their car breaks down in a small town, keeping Justin and Melanie separated during the holiday season. Melanie and Dean keep getting along like a house on fire, there are locals to impress with home-made cookies (it's lucky that Melanie is also a baker), and Justin ends up in the company of an ex-girlfriend (Blaire, played by Elizabeth Ann Bennett) who may still have strong feelings for him.

If you're watching a Christmas TV movie then this is what you expect. According to IMDb, there was some uncredited rewriting on the script, but the main names onscreen are writer Joany Kane and director David S. Cass, Sr. Both creators have a number of movies like this in their respective filmographies, and both throw around the expected beats and tropes with ease, undoubtedly helped by being able to hang everything on a typically likable lead performance from Chabert. Everyone in the featured small town LOVES Christmas, everyone loves to eat and drink seasonal treats without calorie concerns, and the Santa figure helping to change lives always does so with an obvious wink and twinkle in his eye.

Aside from Chabert, the rest of the cast does what is asked of them, with Mayfield being the safe and handsome man that the leading lady is destined to eventually view as her Prince Charming, and both Luckinbill and Bennett getting to play their parts without having to act like panto villains (there are often no outright baddies in the Christmas romance movies, just people who aren’t as compatible as they want to be). The real fun comes from the supporting cast, with appearances from John Ratzenberger, Lin Shaye, and Florence Henderson. Shaye is particularly enjoyable, prompting one or two genuine laughs with her wonderfully over the top performance. As for the magical matchmaker himself, Scott plays his Chris/Santa character with the absolute lack of subtlety viewers should expect in this kind of thing. You can view that as a good or bad thing, but it certainly didn’t spoil any of my enjoyment.

A good mix of magic, contrivances, and small-town charm, Matchmaker Santa is one of the better examples of this kind of thing. As long as you are in the mood for what it aims to provide, you should be perfectly satisfied by the time it all ends, although the end feels just a bit rushed and (even for a Christmas TV movie) a bit too convenient. I liked it anyway.


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