By the Book Hallmark Movie
Following the death of his wife Helen, William (James Earl Jones - Santa and Pete) watches a video she made with her dying wishes on it. One of those wishes is for William to set up a reading room in the Oakdale neighbourhood. Loyally William does what his wife wished and sets up the reading room and whilst initially slow going as no one uses it he begins to win around the neighbourhood as he helps a youngster learn to read. But it's not a smooth ride as Oakdale is a rough neighbourhood and between break-ins and being car-jacked William has to persevere to make it work especially as the local Reverend seems to object to him and what he is doing.
More often than not when you mention a movie is a Hallmark movie people tend to scoff because of the lack of realism and general sugar coated niceness which often permeate them. And whilst it would be fair to say that like many a Hallmark movie "The Reading Room" is typically nice whilst playing down the true grit of real life it also achieves something noteworthy, and that is to be inspirational and uplifting.
To be honest the storyline to "The Reading Room" is not what you could call complex but it still works well enough as we watch William following the wishes of his late wife. It's a case of being a charming tale as not only does William help many people who venture into the reading room but in turn they help him by filling the gap in his life left by the death of his wife. As such along the way we watch him help a young child to read, help someone who is struggling on their SATs as well as giving a young criminal called Javier a chance to start over. There are no surprises and you can guess by the end of "The Reading Room" that not only will William have helped many and been accepted into the community but also in doing so has gained an extended family.
But the thing is, and it's often a criticism of Hallmark movies, "The Reading Room" is not really a realistic movie. We watch as William's journey to set up the Reading Room is littered with problems from dealing with criminals to not really understanding children yet every thing gets sorted with out too much bother. For example William gets car jacked at gun point and it is a case of oh well, his brother in law picks him up, he takes it on the chin and buys another car. It's all too simplistic and lacking in gritty realism and as such it feels a little too sweet by the time it ends. But then by being a nice movie which doesn't try to be dark or gritty it becomes an inspirational and pleasant movie to watch. In fact you could say that William follows the words of one of my favourite hymns as he trusts and obeys.
As for the acting, well "The Reading Room" is really all about James Earl Jones as William and he does a wonderful job of carrying the movie on his shoulders. The character of William may not have a great amount of depth but Jones manages to take us on his journey from being this nice guy with little idea of running a reading room for children to someone who becomes a father to many. Yes, it's not a realistic character but William is such a nice guy you do wish that he was real and that there were more people like him in our communities.
What this all boils down to is that "The Reading Room" is very much your stereotypical Hallmark movie and as such it is a charming and also inspiring family friendly drama.