It wouldn’t be Christmas without the umpteenth spin on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” popping up on television. The latest variation, Lifetime’s handsome “If You Believe,” boasts a new-agey, femme-friendly message about embracing your inner child — literally. It’s a familiar sleigh ride, but a likable cast, led by Ally Walker, has what it takes to give auds the warm fuzzies after a day of fighting Pokemon toy-shoppers at the mall.
Anthea Sylbert and Richard Romanus’ story centers on once-successful book editor Suzie Stone (Walker) — she has a heart of Stone, get it? — who is so bitter about her life that she casually tells her young niece that Santa doesn’t really exist. Of course, Stone is the kind of monster who’d choose to go to work on Thanksgiving weekend. It’s only after she slips on a piece of ice and bumps her head on her way home that she gets a visit from her own inner child, the feisty Susan at age seven, who still believes in miracles and fairy-tale endings.
The young girl — played by the winsome Hayden Panettiere — follows our heroine around, reminding her of all the things she once held dear, and offering her words of wisdom like “If you’re not afraid to quit your job, you’re free to do your job!” Soon, the once-shrewish editor is going to the opera, doing Snoopy-like dances in the living room and being kind to her assistant, an act presumably unheard of in the shark-infested world of publishing.
The thirtysomething Susan even finds the possibility of romance with a writer (Tom Amandes), who resembles the young Jimmy Stewart, while her inner child plays with his golden lab.
Walker, who seems relieved not to be tracking down serial killers on “Profiler” anymore, has a nice chemistry with her young co-star. With their sweet smiles and golden curls, the two Susans are irresistible, whether they are bickering about the merits of a potential love interest or exchanging a warm embrace on a cold December eve. Watching Walker slowly reject her icy ways is another reward of this telepic.
Helmer Alan Metzger delivers the right kind of atmosphere for a holiday pic — the snow-sprinkled New York and small-town Connecticut scenes are straight out of classics like “Miracle on 34th Street” and “Christmas in Connecticut.”
Tech credits are outstanding. However, Stanley Clarke’s wall-to-wall Christmas carol soundtrack– including an eggnog-soaked Kenny G. number — may leave auds longing for the latest Nine Inch Nails album.