Rooney's Christmas Tramp
Movies don't have to be brilliant to be enjoyable, they can still be entertaining even when they are predictable and corny. And that is the case of "Home for Christmas" as it's not a good movie; in fact there is a list as long as your arm when it comes to the faults and issues but yet thanks to a charming performance from Mickey Rooney it is still enjoyable. In many ways it is exactly what you expect from a Christmas movie with lashings of charm and an indulgence of sentimentality as it plods through what for most is a very obvious storyline. But don't be fooled as whilst simplistic, sweet and sentimental "Home for Christmas" has its moments and one of those is the twist, a twist you know is going to be coming but it's not going to be a twist the way you think.
When friendly tramp Elmer (Mickey Rooney - Pete's Dragon) meets young Amanda (Chantellese Kent) he thinks nothing more of it other than an inquisitive young girl coming to speak to him. And so he goes about his business, stealing a car phone in order to make some money to pay for stuff for him and his homeless friends. What Elmer doesn't know is that the car he broke into belongs to Reg Spencer (Simon Richards), Amanda's dad and when he ends up bumping into the entire Spencer family he finds himself having to pay off the damage to the car by doing odd jobs around their home. But whilst there not only does Elmer start to feel like one of the family he realises something about them, something which connects him to them in a much deeper way.
Now to be honest "Home for Christmas" is a bit hard work because it is seriously slow going. It seems to take forever to put the pieces into place, young Amanda meeting Elmer, Elmer breaking into Reg's car and for them all to finally come together in what is an expected clash as the Spencer family bump into the tramp. And even then once everything is thrown into place it carries on crawling along with a side story about the Spencer neighbours the Whitney's trying to keep up with them, mistaking Elmer for a handyman. To be honest it's so slow going that whilst you know something is going to happen the temptation to give up on it is strong.
Thankfully something does happen and we get the twist, a twist which to be frank on one level is obvious. But the clever thing is that it's not exactly what you think, everything may have been put into place so that you think you know how he will be connected to them but when the twist comes it surprises you. Maybe that twist, that revelation has been plucked out of thin air but in that brief moment "Home for Christmas" makes you sit up and pay attention as it changes the dynamics of the story. And from then on it gets interesting, well you can predict the happy ever after ending, but the path to it is enjoyable.
A big reason as to why "Home for Christmas" works is down to Mickey Rooney adding a touch of gravitas to the proceedings. Yes there are nice performances from Simon Richards as Reg Spencer and Lesley Kelly as his wife Barb, but it is the emotion which Rooney delivers as Elmer which in many ways keeps you watching. In a movie which is almost all one level it is a touching performance from Rooney which punctuates things, allowing us to feel for this tramp especially as whilst having a fearsome snarl is generous to a fault. Plus there is also young Chantellese Kent who plays Amanda and whilst she is annoying in an overly sweet way she does deliver on the expected cuteness.
What this all boils down to is that "Home for Christmas" is not the greatest Christmas movie ever made it is to be frank barely a good one but it is entertaining. The big reason is that Mickey Rooney delivers the perfect performance as the mischievous and friendly tramp and whilst you know how it will all end up, the added benefit of a twist at least helps to raise its game when it seems to be going nowhere and doing everything which is obvious.