“You know, you really shouldn’t make a 311-year-old man run after a young sprout like you.”

A while back I reviewed a little movie called A Very Merry Mix-Up starring Alicia Witt (Two Weeks’ Notice). In the course of that review I suggested to our loyal readers that if they wanted to check out a better Hallmark movie starring Alicia Witt then they should check out the charming Christmas at Cartwright’s. And lo and behold, as if I were predicting the future what comes along this year but that selfsame movie. So what intrigues me about Christmas at Cartwright’s is the distinct premise. Yes, it boils down to girl meets boy — nothing we haven’t seen before — however the framework is unusual. Single mom Nicky (Alicia Witt) is experiencing a difficult time. She’s unemployed and trying to make ends meet not to mention give her young daughter Becky (T.J. McGibbon, Super Why!) a Christmas worth remembering.

So Nicky goes to local department store Cartwright’s to try and land a seasonal job. But she’s thwarted from the get-go though not until after she meets Bill, (Gabriel Hogan, Heartland) a kind-hearted man who also happens to be one of Cartwright’s department heads. Depressed at her lack of success Nicky tries to leave but through a strange set of circumstances instead meets Harry Osborn (the wonderful Wallace Shawn, The Princess Bride) who appears almost out of nowhere. He’s a mysterious man (Christmas Consultant, actually) who gives her a job. But not just any job. Nicky is given the position of being Cartwright’s seasonal Santa Claus.

We find ourselves in the unusual position of watching these two people fall in love while one of them is harboring a secret not just from the other but from the world at large. Nicky doesn’t want anyone to know she is Santa Claus and she’s desperate to keep her job so she struggles with understanding that getting involved with someone she works with, Bill in particular, is not all that smart. And losing her job is a real possibility as fellow Cartwright’s employee and rival for Bill’s affection Fiona (Gabrielle Miller, Highlander: The Series) already sabotaged Nicky’s initial attempt at getting a job with Cartwright’s, making it clear Nicky is unwelcome. So Nicky and Bill continue to grow closer and Nicky is close to her dreams of giving Becky a Christmas worth remembering but more than that Nicky loves being Santa Claus. She seems to know just what the kids want before they say anything and she’s becoming more and more popular. However we all know things are going to come to a head sooner or later.

Speaking of that we do know most of the beats Christmas at Cartwright’s will hit. However it’s Alicia Witt’s charm which keeps the film from feeling too schmaltzy. Will it change your life? Probably not.

The technical specs won’t blow you or your system out of the water but they will do what they’re meant to be doing. The video is a 1.78:1 widescreen transfer and looks like it is belongs among the currently airing populace of programs. There’s minimal color timing or adjusting done but it’s not to the transfer’s detriment. The audio is a stronger-than-expected Dolby 5.1 track and definitely holds its own. There aren’t any wobbles or anything else which stands out. There are no special features.

Christmas at Cartwright’s will infuse you with a nice dose of cheer and the hope that with a bit of divine intervention your dreams will come true.

THE VERDICT

Not guilty.

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