Grandpa Borgnine gives a Christmas to Remember
Whilst technically a made for TV Christmas movie as it is set during the festive season, "A Grandpa for Christmas" is not really what you would call a magical Christmas movie. In fact the Christmas element is for the most under played as it focuses on a story of a Grandpa who has been estranged from his daughter and grand daughter. And so if you hadn't guessed we have a storyline which sees him reunited with his daughter and granddaughter and not only bonds with them but they discover the truth about him being absent from their lives. Yes "A Grandpa for Christmas" is that obvious and that sentimental and if it wasn't for the fact that the Grandpa is played by Ernest Borgnine then this would have ended up quite dull.
Having decided to sell up and move into an entertainer's retirement home Bert O'Riley (Ernest Borgnine - The Trail to Hope Rose) finds himself suddenly looking after his estranged grand daughter Becca (Juliette Goglia - The Long Shot) when her mother Marie (Tracy Nelson) is hospitalized following a car crash. Having never met Becca, Bert struggles to bond with his grand daughter especially as both she and her mother despise him for having left grandmother before Marie was even born. But slowly a bond forms between Bert and Becca as she discovers not everything which Grandma told her was true.
Now to be honest and as already mentioned "A Grandpa for Christmas" is not what I would call a proper Christmas movie. Yes the whole thing is set over the Christmas period and we get scenes such as decorating a tree and singing carols as well as a school Christmas pageant but the magical aspect of Christmas never really arises. Instead we have this very straight forward storyline which sees Grandpa Bert looking after his estranged grand daughter whilst her mum is in hospital. And as such it is all very routine as he first bonds with his grand daughter who grows to realise that Bert isn't a bad bloke and then his daughter finds out the truth about her father.
The sad thing is that all of this is very run of the mill and obvious with very little to make it stand out from the crowd of similar movies. The one thing which is in its favour is that Bert was a former entertainer with a small group of old time showbiz buddies. And whilst this side of the movie ends up sadly underplayed watching Jamie Farr as a choreographer and Katherine Helmond as Roxie a singer adds some amusement. But beyond this there is nothing new, nothing different which leaves "A Grandpa for Christmas" feeling very ordinary.
Well there is one thing and that is Ernest Borgnine who plays Grandpa Bert and does a good job of making such an obvious and routine character entertaining. Expectedly Borgnine gets the old time showbiz element down perfectly delivering some simple nostalgia but he also gets the element of a Grandpa finding himself thrown in at the deep end looking after a young girl across nicely. It's because Borgnine does so well with such an ordinary character that "A Grandpa for Christmas" becomes entertaining. Sadly other than Jamie Farr and Katherine Helmond the rest of the cast which includes Juliette Goglia as grand daughter Becca and Tracy Nelson as her mother Marie are for the most forgettable, not bad just not memorable.
What this all boils down to is that "A Grandpa for Christmas" is not the most Christmassy of movies but instead favours the routine story of an estranged family being reunited. It never really deviates from the path worn by similar sentimental movies and is a time a little cloying. But thanks to a solid performance from Ernest Borgnine and some enjoyable performances from Jamie Farr and Katherine Helmond it still ends up entertaining if obvious.