The latest Lifetime holiday original is just the kind of movie its star Sarah Paulson would skewer in an “SNL”-like comedy sketch on her regular gig in “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” Filled with a checklist of wedding cliches and a few new holiday stereotypes, “A Christmas Wedding” is one invitation to turn down this season.
With so many more movies to choose from in the ever-expanding “holiday season,” viewers have to draw a line of sorts in the sand of sentimentality. A melding of the two most overly romanticized ritual celebrations, “A Christmas Wedding” is so full of contrived emotions it could turn even the kindhearted Bob Cratchit into the world’s biggest Scrooge.
Mind you, holiday fare is designed to be non-taxing to the viewer. It’s TV’s answer to Muzak, a non-controversial distraction designed as a quick emotional recharge during a busy season. But even as mere folly, “A Christmas Wedding” fails in its basic premise. No one in his or her right mind would plan a wedding on Christmas Day — it’s like planning a fast on Thanksgiving or going to the dentist on Halloween. But in Richard Cray’s script, hopeless romantics and holiday fanatics Emily (Paulson) and Ben (Eric Mabius) do just that. The two met on Christmas, they got engaged on Christmas, so naturally, that’s when they decide to marry as well.
Emily is the hyper-organized businesswoman, complete with wedding task cards and a detailed wedding countdown calendar. Ben, a freelance writer who pounds at the laptop at a quaint watering hole everyday, has a more Zen approach to everything. Wedded bliss seems like a given until Emily’s slick boss Tucker (Dean Cain) promises her a vice presidency if she takes an extended business trip to Florida a few weeks before the big day.
It’s practically a genetic impossibility that a perfectionist of Emily’s stature would leave in the midst of wedding planning, no matter how big a carrot was dangled in front of her. Similarly, it’s hard to believe that in this day and age, a simple business trip would lag into three long weeks. Despite the modern businesswoman attitude the film tries to take, it still ends up evoking the old Darren Stevens/Larry Tate-type business acumen, where common sense and personal boundaries are easily thrown out the window.
Which leaves Ben to cope, not only with the wedding plans, which literally fall apart as Emily’s limo pulls away for her trip, but also his overbearing soon-to-be mother-in-law.
Ridiculous as its setup is, Ben’s bridal dilemma is the best part of the film. It affords the movie a somewhat humorous look at our obsessive wedding culture, as well as the ensuing gender rules for said wedding that decades of feminism and liberation still cannot break. Brideless and forced to make crucial decisions, Ben has to attend bridal showers, engage in humiliating prewedding rituals, and even endure a male stripper.
For his part, Mabius injects what could be a vanilla role with some flavor while Paulson, who endures a series of bad wardrobe and hairstyle choices, could tone down the sweetness. Tech credits are fine with the exception of the staged weather scenes, which are painfully bogus. Usually one can count on a certain amount of goodwill and generosity this time of year, but this original pic just may be asking too much of viewers.