The Christmas Box (1995)
Maureen's Miracle in the Parkin House
Calling "The Christmas Box" a Christmas movie is a bit of a stretch. Oh it's set during the lead up to Christmas, there is a Christmas tree and presents but the real point of the movie is not really anything to do with Christmas. The real point is a workaholic father loosing sight of what he wanted and learning a lesson about what is more important work and wealth or family. And to be honest the whole lesson in life thing isn't really a shock as "The Christmas Box" is a Hallmark movie, family friendly entertainment with a poignant message. Is it any good? Well it's not terrible, a bit heavy handed with sentiment in places and the script lacks a touch of finesse but with a good cast, especially Maureen O'Hara, it does what it sets out to and that is entertain and make you think whilst warming your heart.
When his wife Keri (Annette O'Toole - IT) answers an ad looking for a live in couple to housekeep for an elderly woman, her workaholic husband Richard (Richard Thomas - Battle Beyond the Stars) is less than enthused about becoming carers. He's even less than happy when after being interviewed they get the job and find's himself continually having issues with the elderly woman, the frosty Mary Parkin (Maureen O'Hara - The Rare Breed). Not only that he struggles to settle in the new home, suffering reoccurring surreal dreams about angels which keep him awake. But as times go by Mary slowly warms to Richard, Keri and their young daughter Jenna (Kelsey Mulrooney) becoming a surrogate grandmother as they all grow close. But as Mary's health deteriorates she is determined to make Richard realise that maybe he is working too hard because he reminds her of her late husband.
It doesn't take a brain surgeon to work out where "The Christmas Box" is going, watch the first 15 minutes and you can guess that this is a movie about a workaholic father getting a wake up call as to what is important. But the journey from start to finish isn't a bad one if a little bit quirky and overly surreal at times. I say surreal because once the Evans family move into live with Mary Parkin, Richard starts getting a reoccurring dream about an angel which ties into a musical Christmas box that only he can hear. It is a bit far fetched, used in conjunction with everything else to lead him down the path of enlightenment and realising that his priorities have shifted, but for me it gives "The Christmas Box" an unnecessary surreal element.
Aside from focussing on Richard working to hard "The Christmas Box" spends a lot of time having fun with Mary Parkin and her friendship with Keri and Jenna Evans as well as the way she ends up bugging Richard. It is like the whole storyline, a bit predictable, you can once more guess that the initially frost Mary will warm to the family becoming a surrogate grandmother to Jenna as well as a close friend to Keri. And it is at times laid on a bit thick as Mary cryptically encourages Richard to think more about family. But in many ways it works thanks to the wonderful Maureen O'Hara who manages to convey the initial frostiness of Mary brilliantly but then radiating warmth when ever she smiles whilst still delivering an element of mystery, the deeper issue which is a major part of the movie.
Maureen O'Hara is not the only one who puts in a good performance and whilst Richard Thomas will forever be John-boy in "The Waltons" he does a solid enough job of playing the workaholic father. What is nice is that whilst Thomas makes it obvious that his characters life has become work first you also understand that in the moments when his mind is taken away from work he is a nice guy, a man who truly loves his family. Aside from Richard Thomas, Annette O'Toole does a solid job of playing his wife Keri not so much struggling to keep the family going but to put up with the frustration of her husband's dedication to work and Kelsey Mulrooney is cute as their daughter Jenna.
What this all boils down to is that "The Christmas Box" is a pleasant enough movie even if it is less than subtle and a bit too surreal in places. It is for me not really a Christmas movie but one which thanks to being a Hallmark movie exudes warmth and a positive message. Plus it features the wonderful Maureen O'Hara who at 75, when this was made, shows that she hadn't lost any of her impeccable acting talent.
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