Hallmark Hall of Fame’s 228th production is predictable, sappy, somewhat maudlin, and by the time it’s over, there won’t be a dry eye in the house. Alicia Silverstone brings a touch of star wattage to what’s really an ensemble-built, “It takes a village” story, based on K.C. McKinnon’s bestselling novel. With CBS having jettisoned its movie night and the hallowed “Hall” thus representing a rather lonely remnant of better days for the TV movie biz, this is still the kind of production that should strike the right sentimental chords and, not incidentally, help sell lots of holiday cards.
Sam (Eion Bailey) is a veterinarian in an idyllic northern Maine hamlet (OK, actually Nova Scotia), where he and his wife, Lydia (Annabeth Gish), are building their dream house, even if he blanches every time someone mentions filling it up with kids.
Enter Dee Dee (Silverstone), a free-spirited high school crush of Sam’s who abruptly took off 13 years ago, right after graduation. With her is a 12-year-old son, unfortunately named Trooper (Matthew Knight), the product of the many bad choices she has made in the past.
Lydia is initially suspicious of Sam’s feelings toward Dee Dee, but it’s soon clear that her joie de vivre has helped pull the sober Sam out of his shell. Still, she’s journeyed home for a reason, which is a cue to make sure that tissue box is handy.
Director John Erman is no stranger to such material, including Hallmark’s “The Blackwater Lightship,” another tale of family enduring beyond grief and struggle. And while Silverstone is perfectly fine as Dee Dee, the project benefits from its strong communal feeling, with Gish again delivering after her breakthrough turn in Showtime’s “Brotherhood” and Polly Bergen and James Rebhorn offering characteristically solid support.
The pic also makes good use of music, particularly Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend,” to establish its warm if somewhat melancholy tone — a Hallmark staple, even if the franchise has at times in recent years appeared to lose its direction.
The holidays remain a window of opportunity for movie producers, with sponsors eager to create the right environment to kick off seasonal campaigns. Now, if viewers will just cooperate and watch, that would truly be an occasion to celebrate.