It’s not just the retail stores that are getting ready for Christmas in October; the direct-to-DVD release, “Coming Home for Christmas,” which is available on Oct. 29, is also trying to get the holiday cheer started unnecessarily early. Come on, people; it’s not even Halloween yet.
Sisters Kate (Carly McKillip) and Melanie (Britt McKillip) haven’t spoken to each other in years after a painful moment at Melanie’s wedding. This has caused a distance in the relationship of their parents, Wendy (Amy Jo Johnson) and Al (George Canyon), and the two have decided to separate. Kate decides that the best way to get the whole family back together, and to sort out all of the emotions, is to reunite everyone at the original house for Christmas – the family’s favorite holiday. But there’s a problem: a man named Mike (Ben Hollingsworth) is currently occupying the house.
Do you want to know what happens after that? Kate falls for Mike. Go figure!
It’s uncertain why Norman Rockwell’s name is attached, since this generic, cloying, and over-the-top, made-for-TV Christmas movie doesn’t seem like something to which the late artist would want to have his name associated. The only thing that is really associated with Rockwell is a shrunk-down portrait of his Christmas painting, and that’s in the DVD case. Even then, it makes no sense to put his name on this. Not a single character makes a Rockwell reference.
The film takes place in Oceanside, Ore., which is a small town located on the coast. But you can’t really tell by the cinematography. It makes Oceanside look like a big, lovely city, and it obviously wasn’t filmed in Oregon because the license plates – even though they’re blurred on the top and bottom – aren’t Oregon plates.
“Coming Home for Christmas” isn’t really a cynical Christmas film – like many we’ve seen in the last few years. But it has way too much familiarity to really distance itself from anything that has already been done before. The split between Al and Wendy turns into a back-and-forth shouting match of “Fine!” – and the outcome of the whole situation is extremely predictable.
The last 10-15 minutes make the film feel like they were trying to go for a “Three Stooges” moment, and Kate’s narration – which is cloying in the beginning – becomes an incredibly pretentious and cliched message about how the family connection is “never lost” and family is everything.
Spending Christmas with family can be a hassle. And if you pick this movie as the one to watch with everyone, it could make the holidays worse.