AKA: Twelve Men of Christmas
Unlike Sex and the City's insatiably man-hungry New York publicist Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall), the last thing that Big Apple PR diva E.J. Baxter played by Emmy winner Kristin Chenoweth wants for Christmas in this made-for-Lifetime TV movie is twelve hunky men.
But twelve new male acquaintances are exactly what E.J. gets after she loses her picture perfect fiancé, job, and apartment (described in Chenoweth's narration as “the New Yorker trifecta”) in quick succession.
Unfortunately, we get the feeling that the impossibly clichéd chick-lit mandated events adapted from Phillipa Ashley's novel Decent Exposure, which surround the stereotypical bitchy boss and cheating beau that led to the end of E.J.'s trifecta were sanitized for safe TV viewing at the expense of originality as well as logic.
For, not only could any capable attorney have been able to successfully sue for “wrongful termination” given the sexual impropriety that was taking place after hours but onscreen it's so badly handled by screenwriter Jon Maas and director Arlene Sanford that until E.J. tells a cabbie she was fired, we just assumed she'd quit.
Nonetheless, the formulaic setbacks are mere stepping stones to get E.J. on track for the film's main adventure as she winds up taking a year-long gig in Kalispell, Montana once the mayor offers E.J. the chance to get away from her now black-balled Manhattan social circle (again, really?) to lure corporate retreats to the scenic small town.
Naturally, considering the comedy that would expectedly arise after a big city girl arrives in a tiny town, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before and Maas, Sanford and the earnest ensemble cast attempt to get as much mileage as they can out of fish-out-of-water faux pas and situational culture clash humor.
Yet, because of the mega-watt charm radiated by the effervescent Chenoweth, it’s easy to embrace the comfort-food appeal of this admittedly bland yet benignly entertaining romantic holiday comedy.
And although the chemistry starts strong, soon Maas’s screwball inspired rapid fire rat-a-tat banter uttered by our leads begins to fizzle after fiery New Yorker E.J. butts heads with Kalispell’s “George Clooney,” embodied by actor Josh Hopkins’ handsome search and rescue worker Will.
Inspired by the plight of the workers who operate on a volunteer basis with a borrowed helicopter to which they’re going to lose access in the upcoming year, E.J. makes it her mission to center the efforts of her tourism venture on the squad, reminding the mayor and her adorable young sidekick (Anna Chlumsky) that travelers won’t go somewhere that they don’t feel safe.
Taking a cue from the popularity of the firemen fund-raising calendars made famous in her home state, E.J. makes a decent proposal for the workers to get a little indecent by enlisting a dozen to become a male model for all twelve months in the year.
And although, just like in the charming British comedy Calendar Girls it exposes some vanity issues, nerves and debates, she slowly starts winning the hearts of the townspeople, by of course, losing her own heart to Mr. December in the process.
While it’s an imperfect presentation that’s about as deep as one of the photos that will be published in the Kalispell calendar, it’s easy to push aside rushed plot contrivances and forgive the rather abrupt changes in the characterization of Will.
For in the end, 12 Men of Christmas is a sweet confection that may temporarily satisfy viewers craving more holiday movies for the Sex and the City generation and/or more Chenoweth on the small screen.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.