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The Preacher's Wife (1996)
This is a wonderful piece of work that should not be compared with any other in the genre of the Christmas/angel type or the so often mentioned Bishop's Wife. Its not the first film to use an old story and alter it and should be looked at as an original piece of work which is what it is. It simply works well mainly because it is perfectly cast, any romantic will be drawn in, willing the beautiful people in this case Whitney Houston and Dezel Washington together. Washington is pure magic on the screen, playing the inoffensive angel who ignores the ignorance and rudeness thrown at him by thoughtless people who should know better, he pulls off some great moments in the story. Unusually too the children are well cast, not too sugary or given scene stealing lines, they complement the adults rather than displace or ridicule them. This is a specialist type of film, a romantic, unrealistic dreamy story, and must be judged in that light.
Surviving Christmas (2004)
I got what I wanted
What would you expect from a film titled 'Surviving Christmas'and presented as 'festive fun', something like Ghandi or English patient? There are lots of things I love about this film, it's funny, it is very well cast and it is superbly written. I came to the film as a Kaplan/Elfort fan but was dubious when I read the plot, it sounded ridiculous. But the film doesn't come across like that because Affleck (as Drew Latham) plays his part perfectly, one minute a child-like adult, the next a mature man who realises he has gained everything in life apart from what he really wants. In fact we see Latham grow up in this film, when he encounters the problems of those he envies and realises that their lives are not so good, he sees that his own lot is not so bad.
This film has fewer weak or dud scenes than many other comedies I have seen. Comedy is so much harder than any other type of drama, it either works or it doesn't and very few comedy writers get it correct every time.I particularly loved the drama scene, where the family take to reading parts written by Latham . The pleasure is in the reaction of Tom Valco (James Gandolfini) and the comments of Brian Valco (Josh Zuckerman). It is the dilemma of the greedy Tom Valco who has to bite his tongue, wear silly hats or sing to the Christmas tree in order to earn the prize money that keeps the film moving along well.
The addition of daughter Alicia (Christina Applegate) into the story brings a delightful romantic angle, and why not in a Christmas film? Of course its corny and contrived; he's rich and handsome, she's beautiful and single, and so inevitably her and Afflect end up falling over together in the snow and finding themselves face to face. Great! One thing I would have liked was more use of festive music to boost the atmosphere but I can't really complain. I got what I wanted.
Telling You (1998)
Moving but not funny
Films are like fires, they start with a spark, warm up and build up the heat or they splutter out and die. This film is somewhere in between; there is a fire burning but it is just that someone comes along once in a while and throws cold water on it. To begin, the film is not really a comedy, it is a serious drama with light-hearted moments. Without the lighter moments you fear the story would be too heavy. What it really comes down to is whether you can empathise with the perfectly cast Dash Mihok as Dennis Nolan. If you've ever found yourself alone out in the yard at night wondering where life went wrong you will click in with Dennis and enjoy the story. So often Mihok manages to convey his pain and confusion without words, so you either understand him or you don't. The film so neatly sets out his problems and then neatly provides the answers. But like all films, there are the scenes we would like removed; the opening monologue by Peter Facinelli is painful and Jennifer Love Hewitt grossly over acts her minor part. The worst is a scene in a club where glamorous females sit alone at tables awaiting for any male to come up and sort out their life. This scene should be put back in the Male Fantasy file where it belongs, but apart from that it offers an original story and some brilliant acting (especially Jennifer Jostyn) though Facinelli's character is too shallow to show his great ability. I might add the original title 'Telling You' is perfect; I cannot believe that anyone who saw it would name it 'Love Sucks as it is marketed in the UK.