Past the Popcorn: Waterland Home Video Feature

The 12 Dates of Christmas reviewed by Greg Wright

I first saw Amy Smart in The Butterfly Effect and was blown away by her performance as a young woman traumatized by sexual abuse. With Effect‘s revisionist-history storyline (perversely reminiscent of Groundhog Day), Smart portrayed several different alternative futures for Kayleigh–all of them believable, most of them quite moving. I didn’t think Smart got nearly enough attention for that supporting role.

So I’ve always been pleased to run across Smart in other offerings–and particularly so when Jenn and I stumbled across The 12 Dates of Christmas on Netflix several years ago. It’s now one of our holiday staples.

12-dates-of-christmas-insetThe blurb for this made-for-TV movie runs as follows: “Kate (Amy Smart) ruins her Christmas Eve date with Miles (Mark-Paul Gosselaar). Each night at the stroke of midnight she begins to re-live the day and date.”

Yes, once again Amy Smart plays a character in a Groundhog Day-themed movie.

What the blurb doesn’t tell you is that Kate’s rendezvous with Miles is a blind date–and the reason she keeps ruining the blind date is that she’s so self-absorbed in the life crashing down around her ears that she can’t see what’s really sitting across the table from her.

Like Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day, Kate requires a little divine intervention in order to appreciate the complexity and richness of the ordinary things she passes by each day. And it’s particularly fitting, in this version of the now-common morality tale, that this divine intervention happens at Christmas. Because that’s sort of the point of the Christmas story, isn’t it?

Needless to say, this ABC Family movie is a feel-good romance with a holiday twist–and veteran award-winning TV director and producer James Hayman serves it all up with a style and pacing commensurate with the story’s theme. He takes time with supporting characters like Jayne Eastwood’s Margine Frumkin and Benjamin Ayres’ Jack, the man with whom Kate believes she belongs, all while giving his lead actors room to breathe. It’s really masterful work.

The 12 Dates of Christmas has developed something of a cult following over the last three years, and it’s easy to see why. This is exactly what a Christmas movie should feel like.

The 12 Dates of Christmas is available to stream online at Netflix. (It also airs at 11 AM on Thursday, Dec. 18 on ABC Family.)

Check it out tonight, and don’t forget to dine local first!

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