I don’t like being so down on a film with such a kind-hearted protagonist, but if we’re honest, Christmas at Cartwright’s is a poorly scripted movie that barely skates by on good will. Even though star Alicia Witt pours her golden heart out in her role as struggling single mom Nicky, this feel-good story is riddled with holes that even Santa’s elves couldn’t patch up.
The movie hinges on Nicky’s attempts to keep her new job a secret. When she applies as temporary holiday help to upscale department store Cartwright’s, she is rejected by Fiona (Gabrielle Miller) for a sales position and instead fills in as the store Santa under mysterious circumstances. Kids and parents immediately take to her since she always has a way of easing their worries, Christmas or otherwise. Nicky, however, finds it increasingly difficult to keep up the charade. She especially doesn’t want her daughter Becky (an overly polished T.J. McGibbon) to know and skirts around the issue with her new date Bill (Gabriel Hogan), the head of Cartwright’s men’s department, Fiona’s love interest, and 1950s catalog model come to life.
It’s a lot of much ado about nothing though. There’s little reason why Nicky can’t simply tell Becky and Bill about her job, so instead, we get two hours of manufactured conflict that culminates in a public brouhaha over a female Santa. Christmas at Cartwright’s might have been better off focusing on a love spat between Nicky and Fiona, which would have been far more conventional but also far less forced.
Prod: Steve Solomos
Dir: Graeme Campbell
Writer: Margaret Oberman
Cast: Alicia Witt, Gabriel Hogan, Wallace Shawn, T.J. McGibbon, Linda Kash, Gabrielle Miller, Jayne Eastwood, Ron Lea, Miku Graham, Marsha Regis
Time: 83 min
Country: United States