A Christmas Melody is really your average Hallmark movie. It’s as if someone threw the usual clichés into a hat and pulled out the following plot points: single mother, cute kid, a move back to the hometown, old high school classmate, Christmas pageant, and magical Santa. And maybe because this same story has been told so many times, this one comes with a sparkly bonus card. What better way to spice up a holiday drama than the diva herself, Mariah Carey? Though she appears only for a few fleeting cameos, she leaves a trail of glitter in her wake, leaving us all wondering whether she’s made Melody shine a little brighter or turned it into a tacky, bejeweled mess.
Most of the movie does not have the diva’s touch though, even with Carey behind the camera. The bulk of the story belongs to widowed mom Kristin (Lacey Chabert) and her daughter Emily (Fina Strazza) as they try to adjust to tiny Silver Falls, Ohio after moving from Los Angeles. She gets a little help from her aunt (an underused Kathy Najimy) and a lot from Danny (Brennan Elliott), the music teacher at Emily’s new school and her former classmate.
The feel good trajectory here is in the direction of “home is where the heart is.” Reconnecting with her small town roots allows Kristin to be comfortable with her unfulfilled dreams of being a major designer and to move on from the death of her husband. Danny, the band geek who never left town (if you believe someone who looks like Elliott was ever a band geek) also gets a chance to see his home and his job in a new light. My teacher sense is kind of shocked that he moves so fast, in a way that I’m sure violates professional boundaries, but there’s a movie to be made, dammit.
And that brings us to the divine Miss Carey, who directs A Christmas Melody like the pedestrian film it is. You’d hardly know she was behind the camera, except when the camera turns its lens on her and you suddenly seem to be watching outtakes from some VH1 attempt at film noir. The close ups, the soft focus, the beam of light that cuts across her eyes! If Mariah is lit like a femme fatale, however, she doesn’t always dress like one. I’m talking to you, blue track suit paired with pearls the size of gumballs. I doubt it’s standard issue wardrobe for a PTA president, which she plays – but ain’t nobody gonna tell her she don’t own that look. Or that she’s gone domestic, as a stage mom trying to groom the next Destiny’s Child. Or that only in an alternate universe would anyone believe that she and Chabert could pass for former classmates. Or that her “acting” is better suited for QVC.
It’s all classic Mariah though. Despite screen time inversely proportional to her presence in promotional materials, she owns every scene by some entrancing combination of discordance and attitude. It’s as if she was just too big for the movie so instead carved a little niche for herself, leaving her enough room to throw all kinds of shade. It makes for a jarring viewing experience, especially for those who expect a certain blandness in their narrative conflict resolution, but for those who want a little more tension, and Jackson 5, in their Hallmark Christmas movies, Mariah’s got you covered.
Dir: Mariah Carey
Writer: Jennifer Notas Shapiro
Cast: Lacey Chabert, Mariah Carey, Brennan Elliott, Kathy Najimy, Fina Strazza
Time: 83 min
Country: United States