The Sharknado of holiday TV movies, Merry Kissmas is so bad, it’s kind of good. Well, okay, it’s not good at all, but it is the only one of the Hallmark/Ion/Lifetime spawn that has made me actually laugh out loud. At times ridiculously over the top in storytelling and acting, it’s amusing, at least for the first thirty minutes, if you’ve had it up to your eyeballs with cheesy Christmas flicks and need something to poke fun at. If it’s a genuine, heartfelt film you’re looking for, however, seek much higher ground.
Credits to David O’Donnell, who plays prima donna choreographer Carlton Wells, for bringing the most laughs, intended or not. Carlton is engaged to sweet Kayla (Karissa Lee Staples) from Palo Alto but should be seducing, dating, and engaged and married to himself. An English prig and paragon of self-absorption, he is in town with his fiancée/business manager for his new production of The Nutcracker. The two also happen to be celebrating their engagement, but he has other priorities, like himself. O’Donnell attacks his role with abandon and looks like he’s having a marvelous time. I’m going to assume his smarmy, posh accent is purposely bad, a stereotype of what Americans think Brits, all of them, sound like.
The other actors are sadly more subdued, and when O’Donnell’s not around, the movie sinks back into familiar territory. Not to fear, there’s still some fool’s gold to be mined from this pit. Brant Daugherty gets some silly moments as Dustin, the dreamboat baker who shares a magical kiss with Kayla in the elevator before realizing he’s catering her engagement party. He also locks lips with an octogenarian (Doris Roberts) because why the hell not. Opposite Daugherty is Staples, who as Kayla goes for straight and traditional. She’s sugary as a gumdrop, a romantic who oohs and ahhs over love stories inspired by handcrafted nutcrackers.
The problem with these nice people is that they’re dull together. Carlton may be insufferable and inconsistent, but he’s not boring. Kayla and Dustin are like the generic couple they stick into a picture frame, pretty but lifeless. Their relationship, at least the beginnings of one, is what drives the second half of the movie and what drags everything down. The story gets real slow real quick and can’t be saved by a late appearance from Santa or cute dogs or by last minute epiphanies.
Dir: Michael Feifer
Writer: Joany Kane
Cast: Karissa Lee Staples, Brant Daugherty, David O’Donnell, Brittany Underwood, Ion Overman, Roxanne Hart, Doris Roberts
Time: 90 min
Country: United States