Christmas movies come in a feel-good, cheesy spectrum. The cheesier the better, I say. It’s rare for a Christmas movie to make me as annoyed, irritated, or as downright disgusted as Lifetime’s A Show-Stopping Christmas, part of their It’s a Wonderful Lifetime slate of holiday offerings.
The issues with A Show-Stopping Christmas aren’t helped by the fact that its description – while technically accurate – feels vaguely misleading. Which isn’t a dealbreaker. It certainly could have been overcome if this was the film’s sole flaw. But it does start things off on the wrong foot, putting the audience in the unfortunate position of constantly waiting for it to become something it isn’t. Unnecessarily so. The official description of the movie is as follows:
Riley Burdett is the artistic director of the Onota Theatre in Western Massachusetts. When Regina, the Scrooge-like owner of the theatre, breaks the news that she’s preparing to sell the property before the holiday performance, Riley must call upon the ghosts of Regina’s past, present, and future to change her mind. Meanwhile, a big TV star, Sam Palmer, has moved to the area to escape the craziness of Hollywood. Riley casts him as Bob Cratchit in A Christmas Carol and his star power, his cleverness, and his budding love for Riley helps her save the theatre…and steal her heart during this very special Christmastime.
Yes, technically, Riley (Jamie Perez) calls upon the ghosts of Regina’s past, present, and future to change her mind, A Show-Stopping Christmas is far from another adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Regina stands on the stage, calls upon the ghosts – more than once, actually – and…the lights flicker a little. That’s it. That’s the entire impact (and existence) of the “ghosts” in the film (though A Christmas Carol itself does have a part in the plot, as the play the theater is attempting to put on for the holidays).
A description that focused instead on Riley teaming up with Sam Palmer (Thomas McDonell) to save the theater would have been a more accurate summation of the film, making me wonder if the original plot didn’t get changed along the way. Or if the synopsis writer turned the movie off after the first twenty minutes and assumed what the rest of the film would be.
In that case, I would almost envy them. I wish I’d turned the movie off after Riley made her wish on stage, because the remainder of A Show-Stopping Christmas quickly made me wonder how the writers of the movie so completely missed the point of the message they were trying to tell.
A Show-Stopping Christmas seems to want to be a movie about compassion. Compassion for the community, that relies upon the theater. Compassion for Riley, who grew up within its walls and loved both the place and its former owner. But while the movie is ostensibly about compassion, it isn’t very compassionate toward Regina (Maureen Keiller) and her grief. And it is very obvious she’s grieving. Throughout the entire movie, even at her “Scrooge”-iest.
Watching Regina get painted as “Scroogina” because she wants to offload a theater that’s clearly painful for her to even walk into is agonizing. Seeing her get heckled mere moments after the audience has heard her confess to her pain and sorrow to Riley is infuriating. And then having her apologize to the heckler and recognize she “deserves” that treatment is downright cruel.
Yes, I will grant that Regina does herself no favors in the way she makes her declaration about the upcoming sale, refusing to give Riley any explanation as to why. But, on the other hand, Regina doesn’t owe anyone an explanation of her grief. And, frankly, Keiller does a good enough job letting her motivations seep through her acting that it honestly shouldn’t have taken much for Riley – or anyone else, for that matter – to guess why she was so determined to sell.
Instead, Riley (and Sam) spends a good amount of the movie trying to find ways to thwart Regina. Reminding her of the holiday parties she’d once hosted with her husband, for example. Throwing her lack of money troubles in her face. In fact, more than once, Riley speaks of her own grief, in losing a mentor and a friend. But in all that time, she never once stops to really think about the grief Regina would feel. To ponder whether the stage that brings Riley such comfort, making her feel close to her mentor, could bring his widow nothing but pain.
Perez does what she can with the material, but this short-sightedness makes Riley seem selfish, instead of caring. Maybe there was a Scrooge in A Show-Stopping Christmas, but it wasn’t the character who was taunted with the moniker. Either way, I can’t help but feel that this is one Christmas movie that really missed the plot.
Agree? Disagree? What did you think of A Show-Stopping Christmas? Share with us in the comments below!