What to say about A Very Merry Toy Store that hasn’t already been said about every other Christmas movie? My mom saw this last year and recommended I delete it from the DVR, and she was right because of course. The only thing the movie has to offer is the 90s dream team of Melissa Joan Hart and Mario Lopez, but seeing as I lived in a hole during my teenage years and never cared for Sabrina or Slater, the duo left me unimpressed.
Hart and Lopez play competing toy shop owners whose rivalry dates back a generation to when her father and his uncle fell out over their business partnership. Connie and Will are happy to continue the family feud, that is until Roy’s Toys, a big box store, muscles in right before the holidays. It’s a farfetched plot from a city planning perspective. There’s no way the two didn’t know Roy’s was coming in and try to push back before ol’ Roy (Billy Gardell) got approval. But then we would be without a movie because Connie and Will spend the rest of the time joining forces to save both their stores from going under. Besides whipping out arcane zoning laws to stall Roy’s move, they also try luring customers with pancake breakfasts. Their new rival, however, is a small business black hole, threatening to suck the two out of existence.
All this plotting is bound to make Connie and Will sentimental. Exhausted and out of ideas, they let their guard down and start to fall for one another. It helps that Will is great with her young son, TJ (Cameron Mann), and lends a hand to build the kid’s bobsled. The race, by the way, takes place on a giant mountain and is a lawsuit waiting to happen, but abiding by safety regulations would just take the fun out of everything.
Fun is what this movie could use a lot more of, however. Despite an abundance of toys, we only get to see Connie poking around with a drone and customers going on about the latest princess doll. There’s no visual excitement, not the feast of old fashioned games or whistling train sets or transforming robots that you’d expect from a movie that takes place in a toy store at Christmas. At the very least, they could have given us a huge floor mat keyboard. The one person who livened up proceedings was Connie’s lovable, dim brother, Randy (Dan Amboyer), and only then because he reminded me of Matthew, another lovable dim brother on the TV show, Champions.
Dir: Paula Hart
Writer: David Breckman
Cast: Melissa Joan Hart, Mario Lopez, Dan Amboyer, Cameron Mann, Beth Broderick, Billy Gardell, Brian Dennehy
Time: 83 min
Country: United States