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A Season for Miracles

The "miracles" referred to in the title of this 203rd installment in the esteemed "Hallmark Hall of Fame" franchise are decidedly dubious ones, even for a holiday flick that aims no higher than to warm the audience's cockles. And while this is a typically handsome, skillfully produced and well-cast piece of work, viewers are ultimately asked to dismiss so many curious plot contrivances that you wonder if the market for miracles was somehow devalued without anyone's having noticed.

With:
Emilie Dalton - Carla Gugino Nathan Bishop - David Conrad Berry Dalton - Laura Dern Ruth Doyle - Kathy Baker Angel - Patty Duke Judge Nancy Jakes - Lynn Redgrave Sadie - Faith Prince Agatha - Mary Fogarty J.T. - Evan Sabara Alanna - Mae Whitman Corinna - Mary Louise Wilson Alexander Thomas - Kurt Deutsch With: Scott Sowers, Paul Collins, Gail Grate, Patricia Childress, Jill Parker-Jones, Mary Pat Gleason, Susan Leslie, Logan O'Brien.

The “miracles” referred to in the title of this 203rd installment in the esteemed “Hallmark Hall of Fame” franchise are decidedly dubious ones, even for a holiday flick that aims no higher than to warm the audience’s cockles. And while this is a typically handsome, skillfully produced and well-cast piece of work, viewers are ultimately asked to dismiss so many curious plot contrivances that you wonder if the market for miracles was somehow devalued without anyone’s having noticed.

Based on a novel of the same name by Marilyn Pappano, the “miracles” kick in when the sister of a drug-addicted mother is permitted to gain custody of the troubled woman’s two kids, despite the fact she grabbed the tots and went into hiding roughly a month before.

At the risk of getting ahead of things, the film’s denouement is even less plausible, involving a small-town cop with a heart of gold and a surrealistic courtroom pledge of everlasting love.

“A Season for Miracles” stars Carla Gugino (“Chicago Hope”) as Emilie Dalton, whose sister Berry (nice work in a small role from Laura Dern) has been locked up in a jail hospital ward on a drug charge. It isn’t Berry’s first time; she’s been an addict for most of her adult life, relegating her grade-school-age kids J.T. (Evan Sabara) and Alanna (Mae Whitman) to a bleak life of homeless shelters and spotty schooling. A social worker (Kathy Baker) is finally ready to farm the kids out to responsible, safe homes.

But Emilie will have none of it, believing the children are better off on the lam with her. She puts the kids into her old jalopy and they wind up in a town called Bethlehem (hey, it’s Christmas). A busybody waitress working the town diner (Patty Duke) tells the trio there’s a house nearby whose owner recently died, and the place remains empty, awaiting a long-lost niece who never showed.

This free dwelling comes in especially handy when Emilie’s car cracks an engine block and needs overhauling. About this same time, an impossibly handsome cop (David Conrad) comes on the scene and begins aggressively courting the fetching, if oddly aloof, Emilie. Days pass into weeks with no one the wiser to Emilie’s potential rap sheet. But borrowed time has a way of running out, particularly in the movies.

Final half-hour of “A Season for Miracles” is a holiday grab bag of improbability stacked atop improbability. Helmer Michael Pressman does manage to coax a charmingly quirky cameo out of Lynn Redgrave as the spunky judge deciding Emilie’s fate, but Maria Nation’s creaky script comes apart in a burst of strained corn.

Suffice it to say that just about everyone here winds up happy. Only in December can life turn out to be so gloriously uncomplicated. Tech credits are nicely wrought.

A Season for Miracles

CBS; Sun. Dec. 12, 9 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by Hallmark Hall of Fame Prods. Executive producer, Richard Welsh; co-executive producer, Brent Shields; producer, Timothy M. Bourne; director, Michael Pressman; writer, Maria Nation; based on the novel "A Season for Miracles" by Marilyn Pappano.

Crew: Camera, Shelly Johnson; production designer, Veronica Hadfield; costume designer, Dorothy Amos; editor, Lori Jane Coleman; music, Craig Safan; sound, Steve Nelson; casting, Lynn Kressel. 120 MIN.

Cast: Emilie Dalton - Carla Gugino Nathan Bishop - David Conrad Berry Dalton - Laura Dern Ruth Doyle - Kathy Baker Angel - Patty Duke Judge Nancy Jakes - Lynn Redgrave Sadie - Faith Prince Agatha - Mary Fogarty J.T. - Evan Sabara Alanna - Mae Whitman Corinna - Mary Louise Wilson Alexander Thomas - Kurt Deutsch With: Scott Sowers, Paul Collins, Gail Grate, Patricia Childress, Jill Parker-Jones, Mary Pat Gleason, Susan Leslie, Logan O'Brien.

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