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Snow Wonder

"Snow Wonder" is the sort of schmaltz that has served CBS in good stead the last few holiday seasons. Not all of the disconnected stories deliver the heartwarming goods, but pic flits between them amiably enough, and the oversized cast allows multiple performers to parachute in for what must have been a few days' work.

With:
Stacey - Julie Ann Emery Pilar - Jennifer Esposito Bez - Camryn Manheim Paula - Poppy Montgomery Aunt Lula - Mary Tyler Moore Warren - Jason Priestley Billy - Josh Randall Jim - David Sutcliffe Luke - Eric Szmanda Joey - Michelle Krusiec

A sprawling mishmash of holiday stories that could be called “Christmas, Actually,” “Snow Wonder” is the sort of schmaltz that has served CBS in good stead the last few holiday seasons. Not all of the disconnected stories deliver the heartwarming goods, but pic flits between them amiably enough, and the oversized cast allows multiple performers to parachute in for what must have been a few days’ work. Gentle as a dusting of snow and equally insubstantial, telepic is at the least a weightless alternative to the antics on “Desperate Housewives.”

Script is adapted from a Connie Willis short story, and the only unifying element is a nationwide holiday snowstorm that has a profound influence on each of the characters. “Snow can change people’s lives,” a perky news minion (Michelle Krusiec) tells the embittered weatherman (Josh Randall) she feeds data, their interaction being one of the five disparate threads.

Of the rest, the most affecting features Camryn Manheim as a recent widow who takes refuge in the Southwest, wanting to avoid Christmas memories of her late husband. That chapter is especially dour (before the redemption, anyway), but the rest vary in tone. Jason Priestley, for example, plays a philandering husband whose transgressions are exposed thanks to the sudden snowfall.

The remaining plots are highlighted by Mary Tyler Moore’s appearance as the eccentric aunt of a young man (Eric Szmanda) with issues regarding his parents; Poppy Montgomery as a maid of honor given time to evaluate some of her choices when snow threatens to delay her friend’s wedding; and Jennifer Esposito as a single mom trying not to ruin the holiday for her young son.

Director Peter Werner darts back and forth among these threads, which rather neatly masks how inconsequential at least three of them are. Perhaps foremost, it’s an opportunity to see some of those CBS procedural stars (“Without a Trace’s” Montgomery, “CSI’s” Szmanda) in roles that don’t require standing over a body or looking for one.

In a peculiar sense, “Snow Wonder” is so derivative that the audience can actually fill in the narrative gaps — fleshing out the stories Frankenstein-like from pieces of other movies. And there is one clever bit, as Moore’s Aunt Lula has a history of being known as “the unidentified woman” from her fleeting liaisons with famous men.

Emerging from the snow (it even blankets the Hollywood sign) are a few moments of quirkiness and unabashed romance, which is as high as “Snow Wonder” dares aim. So while the snow might be inexplicable, there’s really no mystery here at all.

Snow Wonder

CBS, Sun. Nov. 20, 9 p.m.

Production: Filmed in New Orleans by the Wolper Organization in association with Warner Bros. Television. Executive producers, Ragna Nervik, Mark M. Wolper; producer, Gideon Amir; director, Peter Werner; writer, Rodney Vaccaro; based on the short story "Just Like the Ones We Used to Know" by Connie Willis;

Crew: Camera, Kees Van Oostrum; editor, Scott Vickrey; music, Ernest Troost; production designer, Roger Maus; visual effects producer, Vit Komrzy; casting, Mary Jo Slater, Steve Brooksbank. Running Time: 120 MIN.

Cast: Stacey - Julie Ann Emery Pilar - Jennifer Esposito Bez - Camryn Manheim Paula - Poppy Montgomery Aunt Lula - Mary Tyler Moore Warren - Jason Priestley Billy - Josh Randall Jim - David Sutcliffe Luke - Eric Szmanda Joey - Michelle Krusiec

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