When Cody is sent on a leave of absence from military duty he sets off to find the woman who sent him a Christmas card that helped him get through the tough times\

The Lowdown

This is a Hallmark movie in all its horrible, saccharine goodness. I was dreading watching this movie and once it started I knew that I would get exactly what I feared. The film is a romantic drama, a love story with all the goodness and purity of heart you can stomach and then even more splashed on the top. This movie stinks of melodrama and manipulatively pulls on your heart strings with all the right tools. The movie is so false in its pure goodness that you can never take one minute of the story seriously. Yet something lives behind this story that actually made me like it.

Alice Evans stars as Faith Spelman, a woman who lives with such goodness and kindness in her heart that you fully expect something to creep up in the background to bite you in the ass. It never happens. Her character is perfect and has no character flaws. She begins the movie narrating a handwritten Christmas card she writes to a random military man. We meet the man who receives the card, fighting in the war in Afghanistan. John Newton plays Cody Cullen, the military man who keeps the card close by to help him get through the tough times.

We get a tragedy during the war where Cody’s unit is attacked and a soldier serving under Cody’s lead is killed in a bomb blast. This soldier has a fiancée back home and Cody is allowed to go back to the states on leave and returns the soldier’s dog tags to the fiancée. After that job, he sets off to find the town that the Christmas card described. What he finds is a town (Nevada City, California) that is perfect in every way. Everyone seems to get along in the town. Even the brother-in-law, described as trouble, is perfect.

The set up is horrible as well. Cody goes to a diner and orders a sandwich, on rye, curly fries and a hot chocolate with marshmallows. He goes to the bathroom and Faith walks in and starts to eat his food thinking it’s hers. See, it is the exact same thing she orders. IRONY! Well, the two meet without knowing who the other is and the story moves on. Cody is just about as perfect as Faith. The movie pushes this idea as he is polite to everyone, asks immediately where he can attend a church service and soon saves the life of Faith’s father Luke (Ed Asner) from a speeding car. Everything is just perfect, like a Hallmark card. It is disgusting.

There has to be conflict, so we get Faith’s fiancé Paul. He is a man who never stays around and plans on making Faith leave the perfect town once they marry. Paul is not a bad person, he just does not belong in this type of close-knit family-oriented town and, more importantly, he is not Cody. We are told what to believe and who to cheer for. We are told where our heart is supposed to rest. This movie is the most unoriginal, uninspiring of its kind so far (although, I am not challenging the creators to make another one more so then this!!).

So why did I like the movie?

Two words: Ed Asner. I guess if you want something to make me happy in a movie, add a devious and rebellious old person. I think one of the things I liked best about Lake Placid was Betty White. Ed Asner is like that character without the crude language in this movie. He knows what he wants for his daughter and will do anything to interfere with her fiancée’s plans to get what he wants in the end. His character is the only one who seems real in the entire movie and he is a joy to watch. That is not enough to recommend this movie, but I think he is just wonderful in this. The movie received an Emmy nomination and it was for the only thing that made the movie worthwhile, Asner’s supporting role. 

The movie is pure, unadulterated saccharine and supplies the worst type of emotional manipulation. There is nothing about the movie that is true and is geared for the lowest common denominator. It’s too bad that such a great performance as Ed Asner supplied was wasted in such drivel.

The Package

The movie is presented in Full Screen, in the format of its original television exhibition. It looks pretty good for a television movie. The sound is available in dolby digital, but nowhere on the DVD or the packaging does it say what format.

There are four featurettes included here. Ed Asner: A Veteran’s View is just interview clips with Asner talking about the movie. It is the most informative of the features. Heart of a Soldier: Actor John Newton is interview clips with Newton where he does not seem to understand how bland and unoriginal the movie actually is. Karen & Jeff: A Real Life “Christmas Card” Story is an interview with two people who actually met through Karen e-mailing Jeff in her attempt to support the troops. The fourth is a feature called How to Reach a Soldier. It shows how you can send letters to soldiers overseas who might not have any family to communicate with.

The final extra is an actual card in the DVD case that you can personalize and send to a soldier overseas. It is a real nice touch that is much more important than a lot of the free stuff they include with movies.