There’s a lot to like about Last Chance for Christmas, but you also have to factor in an ethically challenged Mrs. Claus. She’s not the worst person in this film, but her predilections change the tenor of things. Instead of the generous, warm-spirited grandma we’re used to seeing, this Mrs. St. Nick (Jayne Eastwood) is a cranky utilitarian, totally comfortable with outright theft and the destruction of a family’s livelihood if that means keeping Christmas on schedule. When stablehand John (Gabriel Hogan) discovers a fracture in Prancer’s hoof, she orders him to find another reindeer straight away. Never mind the Clauses’ mismanagement has left them without a backup plan. With only four days until Christmas, John flies down to Buckley Falls, Alaska to secure a reindeer from the Miller ranch.
He’s surprised to find Annie Miller (Hilarie Burton) instead of her father and, as he’s a man who spends most of his time with animals and not people, ends up coming off as a bit of a loose screw. Annie thinks he’s someone from the bank, which is foreclosing on her reindeer farm, or a hack from Reginald Buckley’s (Tim Matheson) company, which hopes to incorporate her land into a winter activity park. Neither tries to clarify their misunderstandings, but when has that stopped anyone from falling in love?
I haven’t seen that much of Hogan and Burton, but I like both of them enough to immediately warm to their characters. John is wonderfully awkward, except around Frankie, the reindeer he wants to borrow, and Annie’s daughter, Madison (Lola Flanery). He wins the shy girl over by being his bumbling self. She sees through Buckley’s sugarcoated promises to protect their reindeer and knows that John’s the real deal, a true reindeer whisperer. Meanwhile, Annie is naturally guarded, suspicious about this guy from head to toe and with good reason. She’s days away from getting kicked out of her home, her father’s life’s work destroyed. Who wouldn’t be exhausted and cranky?
There’s a slight traffic jam as the story pushes through the second act, though not anything that slows things too much. John, Annie, and Madison have to figure out a way to save the farm and Christmas all while figuring out how they like coming together as a family. In addition, John struggles with an ethical dilemma, whether he should steal a reindeer and possibly ruin the Millers or not steal the reindeer and ruin Christmas for everyone in the world. It’s a problem above his pay grade, but John is a principled guy and just what we need to counter flinty Mrs. Claus.
Dir: Gary Yates
Writer: Mike Bell, Gary Yates
Cast: Hilarie Burton, Gabriel Hogan, Tim Matheson, Lola Flanery, Jayne Eastwood, Derek McGrath
Time: 87 min
Country: United States