The Twelve Trees of Christmas (2013)

If you have the feeling of déjà vu while watching The Twelve Trees of Christmas, it may be that you’ve already seen another Lindy Booth and Robin Dunne film about a guy who’s trying to redevelop an old New York City building but meets resistance from a woman who works there. That’s also the plot of Sound of Christmas, a 2016 Hallmark film. I’d accuse the latter’s writers of stealing the idea if not for the fact that every Lifetime and Hallmark movie is a jumble of recycled clichés.

Still, I’d pick Sound of Christmas over this film. I don’t like Booth’s character, for starters. I’m usually fine with her characters, not preferring them one way or another, but Cheri, a children’s librarian, comes across as haughty and naïve, and I’m on her side. The moment she hears that the foundation that owns her library building will not be renewing their lease, she’s on a righteous rampage. She thinks her one-woman crusade will put a stop to the condominium project and that her passion outweighs others simply because she’s making the most noise. With the demolition set for the end of the year, Cheri’s only option is an appeal to the top, and she hopes to get to Rosaleen Shaughnessy (Dawn Greenhalgh) by petitioning her grandson, Tony (Dunne), who lives in her apartment complex.

That’s not a bad move, except Tony works for Charles Harris (Casper Van Dien), who is the one redeveloping the land. He’s not unsympathetic to Cheri, but he also makes it clear that libraries are a municipal matter and homeboy’s gotta make a buck. Plucky Cheri has one last card to play though and decides to organize a tree decorating contest. Participants must show what the library means to them, the aim being to convince Rosaleen of the importance of her family’s legacy so she’ll nix this condo business.

I should say that these trees are massive, as in my whole town doesn’t even have a tree that big, and there are twelve of them. Maybe Cheri should raise a fuss about using some of that sweet tree money for materials or programs instead. My biggest problem with her though is that she, or the writers, are confusing all sorts of issues, and even I’m having a hard time getting behind her message. Her argument has less to do with the presence of library and its services in the neighborhood and more with things like preserving the building itself and passing on the memories she had growing up there. Cheri’s thesis seems to rest on the notion that holding physical books while sitting in a grand building that smells of book glue is why we must save the library.

I’m not convinced, nor am I convinced by the ending. It’s way too tidy. Charles doesn’t even need to be a character nor does Cordelia (Melanie Brown), a decorator whose purpose is to execute one plot point. Instead, the movie could have used more of Mack (Joe Pingue), the janitor who aspires to be a cook. Take out the couples who are working on the other trees, and give me the guy who browses Victorian cookbooks and wants to make jelly out of calf hooves. Streamlining this film would also give Cheri and Tony more time together. Booth and Dunne don’t seem to have great chemistry here, but they’re also not together all that often.

Released: 2013
Dir: Michael De Carlo
Writer: Kevin Commins
Cast: Lindy Booth, Robin Dunne, Melanie Brown, Casper Van Dien, Shauna MacDonald, Joe Pingue, Dawn Greenhalgh
Time: 87 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Lifetime
Reviewed: 2019