A Tale as Old as Time
Alternate time plots are very popular. And for good reason. As oft-repeated ad nauseum as they are they also automatically offer a lot of opportunity for and promise of drama, comedy, wonder, suspense, and emotion. Usually, at least at Hallmark, a woman is dissatisfied with her current circumstances, and magic happens. She goes back in time to a fork in the road. This time she takes the other fork and experiences what her life would then have been like. In the end, no matter what the permutations in this basic plot, she ends up embracing the importance of family and during November and December, “The true meaning of Christmas.” It’s a tale as old as time.
In this one, in a change of pace, it is the man who takes a time trip. Joyce and Ethan are a happily married couple in their mid-’40s. Teri Hatcher and James Denton are each pushing 60, but they are very attractive and it was a suspension of disbelief I was happy to roll with. I believed them. James is a successful lawyer, but he is overworked and is not at the top of his profession. So he has a middle-class lifestyle rather than the affluent, luxury-filled position of his colleague, Sean. He is an ethical good guy, and not willing to be ruthless and unscrupulous in his pursuit of success. But now financial concerns and family tensions due to his lack of family time are starting to get to him. Enter magic Santa. He goes back to that turning point and takes the other path. He now has the luxurious home, the fancy car and the big office. But no family. Luckily Ethan’s two kids were adopted so they still exist and are not wiped off the face of the earth. So that metaphysical and spiritual dilemma is avoided, thank goodness. His wife is no longer a school teacher but a high-profile lawyer who is constantly at loggerheads with Ethan’s firm. She wants to save things, they want to tear them down. He enlists her help, to her consternation, because she is the only one he knows he can trust.
He can’t go back to his old life until he learns his lesson. Actually, he learns his lesson pretty early, but magic Santa shows no mercy until the pain and horror of losing his family brings him to the brink of despair. Magic Santa ain’t playing.
Adding to the enjoyment is Marilu Henner, the owner of the law firm who is there to ensure Ethan will still get his promotion while doing the right and ethical thing and that Sean, his corrupt bully of a colleague gets his comeuppance. Teri and James had great chemistry (no surprise there) and took a well-worn plot to the next level.
November 23, 2021