The TV movie has a surprisingly rich history of “people stranded in snow” projects, from “Hey, I’m Alive” more than 30 years ago to “Snowbound: The Jim and Jennifer Stolpa Story” in 1994, when this sort of fact-based trifle still aired on CBS. Today it’s Lifetime territory, and this telepic focuses on another hapless couple lost in the mountains (of Idaho, as played by Alberta, Canada). Reasonably well produced, this overtly spiritual pic nevertheless proves a rather tedious slog, inasmuch as if the Shemwells croaked, it’d be kind of a bummer addition to the cable net’s slate of Christmas movies.
Suzanne Shemwell (Jami Gertz) is estranged from her husband Jim (Dylan Walsh) when the movie opens, in part because he’s a free spirit and she’s a control freak. So when he pops in on the family and persuades her to take a break by going snowmobiling in the mountains, it feels like more of an opportunity for renewed bickering than bonding.
A broken bike and unexpected storm, however, leave the two marooned in the wilderness, as their family desperately tries to maintain hope, rallying the town in an effort to locate them. Gradually, the chances of their survival begin to fade, prompting grandma (Judith Buchan) to reassure their little girl with “God will provide” messages.
Perhaps inevitably, writer-director Gregory Goodell races through the backstory in order to quickly place his protagonists knee-deep in trouble, where they can start hashing out a relationship we initially don’t know much about.
“This is why we can’t live together!” Suzanne snaps at one point, which seems convenient, since odds are they’re both going to wind up resembling Jack Nicholson at the end of “The Shining.”
Walsh has an innate likeability that helps warm this undercooked stew, while Gertz comes across as predictably shrewish until the snow begins melting her hardened heart. (Hey, it’s a Lifetime movie, dammit — that analogy actually fits.) Before it’s over, the stars will get to wear unflattering makeup reflecting their plight and build up their calves trudging through snow, which tends to approximate the movie’s pace in dragging out the rescue efforts.
“Lost Holiday,” a co-production with France’s TF1, is one of several holiday-themed movies scheduled as part of Lifetime’s run-up to Christmas. Think of it as the local radio station that begins playing nothing but syrupy yuletide songs starting around Thanksgiving, only here, with pictures!