A flimsy premise -- growing up during the frozen winters of Ontario, country-pop sensation used to dream of vacationing in Florida, and now here she is! -- is not a terrible excuse for a concert film; there have been flimsier. But that framing device underscores the lack of invention in "Shania Twain's Winter Break," in which the only thought seems to have gone into bringing in guests to grab desired demographics.
A flimsy premise — growing up during the frozen winters of Ontario, country-pop sensation used to dream of vacationing in Florida, and now here she is! — is not a terrible excuse for a concert film; there have been flimsier. But that framing device underscores the lack of invention in “Shania Twain’s Winter Break,” in which the only thought seems to have gone into bringing in guests to grab desired demographics. There’s Elton John for the Baby Boomers, and here’s the Backstreet Boys for teen and preteen girls.
Though Twain’s considered a country artist, there’s little of her music, particularly that on display here, that boasts even a smidgen of Nashville twang — it’s pure pop, and tame by those standards. Little of her music has any sort of distinctive style — it’s generic enough that it could’ve been written and performed by any number of singers or songwriters.
Twain cashes in on her sex appeal a little more than most country singers, as well, but it, too, is wholesome to the point of blandness. She’s attractive, but there are a million attractive people out there to watch. And her stage presence, while serviceable and boasting a modicum of charm, hardly registers as remotely memorable (ditto her stage garb). And yet, she sells albums in the millions, and her most recent, “Come on Over,” was nominated for six Grammys, It may be going too far to suggest that the overriding reason for her success is simply that she’s inoffensive, but that’s the only impression “Shania Twain’s Winter Break” can muster. She could make Marie Osmond seem funky. “Today, my dream is coming true — I’m very excited about my special, Twain enthuses, blandly of course, at the beginning of the hour.
Interstitial material filmed in her frigid hometown offers the only clues to her personality, and they scarcely help. Her parents never made much money, she says, but “They always made sure there was a lot of love in the house. Passing a bar she used to sing in, she notes that this was the town’s meet-market, and adds, “Since that time, I’ve had a great time writing about the relationships between men and women.”
She performs a few of her fan favorites, “Man I Feel Like a Woman,” “Honey I’m Home,” and “That Don’t Impress Me Much” (the fireworks in broad daylight are an underwhelming touch). She calls Elton John “the single most important influence” in her songwriting (to which Elton rejoins, “I’m a big, big fan,” putting to rest any thoughts that someone had to twist his arm to appear). Introducing the Backstreet Boys, she gushes, “Every night before I go onstage, I rock my bus with their music as loud as I possibly can!” Which inadvertently explains a lot.
Tech credits are adequate, though occasionally the cameras aren’t in the best position to accentuate the staging, and there are more than enough swooping crane shots. Kudos to whoever arranged for the Miami sky at sunset to match the garish red of Elton John’s suit.