Thomas Kinkade comes back home for Christmas only to find his family is about to lose their home. He starts to paint a mural in the town square and slowly things start to build toward the annual Christmas festival

The Lowdown

When I received this DVD in the mail to review I cringed. I had reviewed Hallmark styled Christmas “entertainment” before, such as last year’s Christmas Card, so I was prepared for more sentimental crap with this one. As a big fan of Supernatural, I viewed this as a huge step down for Jered Padalecki, who plays Sam on the show. While Jensen Ackles followed his televised genre with the very fun looking My Bloody Valentine 3-D, Padalecki chose to take a sappier route. Fear not, gore-hounds, Padalecki is starring in the Friday the 13th reboot.

Imagine my surprise when I really enjoyed this movie.

Padalecki portrays Thomas Kinkade, the painter, as a young man retuning home with his brother for Christmas. He has been living at college trying to work as a painter, but has found nothing that satisfies him in his work. His mentor is a cranky old painter named Glen Wessels, played with great aplomb by Peter O’Toole. Glen is slipping into old age, slowly succumbing to the early state of Alzheimer’s disease. He is unable to finish his work and his story is very heartbreaking.

Kinkade returns home and finds his mother (Marcia Gay Harden) is about to have their home cottage foreclosed on, so he and his brother Pat, played by Aaron Ashmore, the twin brother of X-Men’s Shawn Ashmore, get jobs to try to help out. Pat gets a job helping a local man (Richard Moll) rigging his Christmas decorations in a heated competition with his neighbors. Thomas gets a job painting a mural of the town for the local Christmas celebration.

The rest of the supporting cast brings this movie above the typical holiday movie crap. Richard Burgi plays Bill Kinkade, the estranged father who talks a big game but delivers a pain seen in his eyes that makes you understand the character is not as bad as he lets on. The movie takes the current economic conditions to heart as Thomas finds out both parents are lying to him about their stations in life. His father living day-to-day and his mother had been laid off month’s before, causing her to fall behind on the cottage payments. There is not a good or bad person here, only people down on their luck that have good souls but tough times.

The rest of the cast is a surprising mixture of great actors. Geoffrey Lewis (The Devil’s Rejects) plays a man who lost his son in the war, and a close friend of Ms. Kinkade. Chris Elliott (yes, that Chris Elliott) turns in a fun performance as the organizer of the Christmas festivities. Ed Asner lends his hand as an art dealer. However, the star turn in this film is by Jared Padalecki.

I always preferred Jensen Ackles’ acting in Supernatural and felt Padalecki relied too much on his sad puppy dog expressions.  That acting works so well in this type of movie though. When he is working alongside a veteran such as Peter O’Toole, he carries his own weight admirably. The scenes with those two are amazing, O’Toole delivers lines as only he can while Padalecki supplies the reactions that make every word, every minute, heartbreaking.

The story itself is a generic Christmas story. Thomas Kinkade comes to a town with people who need hope and Christmas spirit and, through his paintings, is able to bring them together in a way only he can. He also learns a lesson about himself and his station in life along the way. It’s not an original idea, and when his father comes out and is the one who gives the speech that turns everything around, it is too convenient. Everything works out a bit too conveniently at the end and as well, but the acting saves this movie.

I know this will sound cheesy, but this movie actually hit me in a strong way. It can’t be the story, because I usually roll my eyes at this kind of forced sentimentality. From top to bottom, this cast takes those ideas and turns them into something that will make anyone with a heart feel something. It’s one of the few recent Christmas films that works on every level. Thomas Kinkade’s Christmas Cottage is what every Christmas movie should strive to be.

The Package

Audio Commentary with Director Michael Campus and Thomas Kinkade – The two talk about various things throughout the film, sharing antidotes and stories. There is really no silence in this track and the most interesting parts are Kinkade recalling his real life story compared to what we are seeing on screen.

Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary (12:08) – The commentary is with the director, as well as Thomas Kinkade himself. The director didn’t like the removal of any of the scenes. Most were between the brothers and I wonder how Aaron Ashmore feels that his character’s best scenes were excised from the movie.

Building the Christmas Cottage (18:14) – Thomas Kinkade starts this feature off talking about the development of the movie and how it all started when Kinkade met the director while eating one night. This is a short making of feature that talks to the people involved in the picture.

Home for Christmas: A Conversation with Thomas Kinkade (10:33) – Kinkade sits down for an interview about his painting and the origination of his ideas. Kinkade is an artist and everything I have listened to so far shows a great arrogance. I’m not saying that is bad, all artists need confidence that teeters on arrogance, but I’m just noting his attitude.

On the Set with Ed Atnik (02:22) – When I first saw this, I thought it said Ed Asner. Imagine my surprise when I started to watch it. Ed Atnik is an extra who is a biker for one of the scenes and seems to want to learn as much as he can about filmmaking because he took a correspondence course. This is hilarious. It makes no sense, but I love it.

Christmas with the Cast (08:47) – These are features that talks to the cast members about their favorite Christmas memories: Jared Padalecki, Peter O’Toole, Marcia Gay Harden, Aaron Ashmore, Chris Elliot, Charlotte Rae, Richard Burgi, Richard Moll and Ed Asner.