A Good Start to the Season
And so it begins. This offering is the official kick-off to Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas. By December 18th, there will be a total of 31 Christmas movies, and this does not include 9 more that will be showing on Hallmark’s Movies and Mysteries. Some will be awful, most average, and some really good. But one thing’s for sure, there will be more diversity than ever. Not only with age, ethnicity, and sexual orientation but culturally as well. Kwanzaa and Hanukkah will be celebrated and 2 Chinese celebrations will be featured. For those who like to keep that kind of thing to a minimum, you can head on over to GAC along with Candace Cameron Bure, Danica Mckellar, Jen Lilley, and Trevor Donovan. In addition, Lifetime will have an additional 15 Christmassy contributions with a little more edge to them and probably even more diversity.
Anyway back to Noel Next Door. It was excellent. A youngish recently divorced mother who works in a diner meets a handsome partially paralyzed stroke victim who is sweet and kind (he gives her a 200% tip on his takeout order) and they are instantly attracted to each other. Her name is Noelle. Yes, really. Meanwhile, her tween son has several run-ins with the neighborhood scrooge who has recently moved into the neighborhood. In addition to insisting the condominium complex take down their Christmas tree, slamming his door in the faces of some little kid carolers, and walking around with an angry disgusted face all the time, he yells at and threatens young Henry who continually kicks his soccer ball against the wall of his condo. Noelle’s son is a nice boy at home but does have a bit of a bratty side. In other words, he acts like a real kid. Little do the two know, while they fall in love, that he is actually the Christmas-hating neighborhood grouch with an anger management problem, and she is the incompetent mother of a mean little punk.
The tension builds throughout the movie in anticipation of the two neighbors meeting in person and discovering each others’ true identities. Meanwhile, they grow more and more attached and happy with each other. It is handled very well, as the big moment doesn’t come until about the 75% mark and their reactions are pretty hilarious and well-acted. In addition to her work, her son, and her new relationship, Noelle has to deal with an ex-husband who is a one-man asshole parade. He threatens her with a lawyer when she won’t surrender her court-appointed Christmas day with young Henry to him and his mistress at their old home. There is some blind date comedy (Are you one of those people who believes our planet is round?) and some heart-tugging moments as well.
Both Corey Sevier and Natalie Hall were terrific. I still don’t like Natalie’s hair and makeup, but she did well in a more mature down-to-earth role than she is usually given. Joanna Douglas plays her sister and she was lovely and appealing as always. She needs to be given a lead role with Hallmark if she is even interested. Corey had the difficult job of being a bit of a jerk on one hand, and a sympathetic romantic lead on the other. It didn’t hurt that they had a good script to work with. It dealt with serious situations with a nice blend of comedy, drama, and romance along with a good message and plenty of Christmas Spirit to spare.