My mum is loathe to delete things from her DVR queue, so when she recorded and then promptly dumped Christmas Mail, my interest was piqued. It turns out this movie is just as good, and bad, as nearly every other made-for-TV Christmas movie out there. It has a few merits but not enough to warrant a conscious viewing. If you catch it by accident, presumably whilst baking cookies or adding tinsel to your fragrant evergreen, fear not.
It at least exploits a setting that usually gets the short shrift, not just during the holidays but in all seasons. The United States Postal Service finds itself in the spotlight during its busiest time of the year, and as you might expect, there’s not a lot of Christmas cheer to go around. Matt (A.J. Buckley) is a postman who isn’t thrilled about juggling dozens of oversized and oddly shaped boxes. He also has to deal with his boss, Mr. Fuller (Lochlyn Munro), who was that asshole jock in high school and is an even bigger douche now. His biggest delight is turning the post office into a vacuum of Christmas joy.
The arrival of a new employee shakes everyone from their foul mood. Kristi North (Ashley Scott) helps Santa lighten his mailbag by writing handwritten notes to children. She is all bubbles and glitter; the woman loves Christmas. The surfeit of holiday merriment makes Mr. Fuller suspect that head office has spent a spy. He coerces Matt into getting the dirt on her so that he can prime himself for a promotion.
I actually like Kristi’s irrepressible joy, though I can see how it can annoy anyone who isn’t in a persistent holiday mood. It makes you wonder if it’s just an act though. She’s not altogether forthcoming about her past. I mean, how many foreigners work in Hong Kong for a couple months and end up conversational in Cantonese? Still, there’s a bit of old Christmas magic that flickers against the cynicism.
The remaining cast of characters are similarly love ‘em or leave ‘em types. Buckley is sweet but dull as the romantic lead. He was a rock musician who gave it all up to take care of his niece Emily (Piper Harris) when her parents died, but he seems more at home in the sorting room than at some dingy cellar show. Emily doesn’t light up the screen either and Harris is too studied to be adorable.
Halfway through, I decided I liked Munroe. I couldn’t tell if he was channeling Jim Carrey or if, knowing how broadly drawn the role was, he was being devilishly over-the-top; I went with the latter. I had similar feelings about Rolanda Watts, who plays Sally, the sassy black friend/coworker/confidant/righter-of-wrongs. She says things like, “Hey, listen. I found the perfect girl for you, and let me tell you something. She is cuuute, she is single, aaand she is loaded.” Girlfriend, you are more than a stereotype, but apparently not on Ion Television. At least Watts tries to show that where she can, and her enthusiasm is well used.
Prod: Tom Shell, John Murlowski
Dir: John Murlowski
Writer: Lorene Lacey, Steven Palmer Peterson
Cast: Ashley Scott, A.J. Buckley, Lochlyn Munro, Rolanda Watts, Vanessa Evigan, Piper Harris
Time: 89 min
Country: United States