DVD Review: CHRISTMAS IN THE CLOUDS
Review by Mike Gregory
After watching “Haunting Vallisca,” I approached “‘Christmas in the Clouds with extreme trepidation. I needn’t have worried; I liked this movie from frame one. “Christmas in the Clouds” is a low-key screwball comedy that is so likable that it’s almost unfair. The characters are lovable and the whole movie gives off great warmth. It’s not a laugh-a-minute kind of movie (although there are a good few hearty laughs), but it will leave you with a constant smile on your face. Watching this movie, I was reminded of two movies: “City Island” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” I was surprised at the former association because I hated it and really liked this one. Still, there are similarities in the film’s tone. Why I was reminded of the latter is a little more obvious. Both of them derive a lot of their humor from cultural differences (and Rosalind Ayres bears a strong resemblance of Fiona Reid, who played John Corbett’s mother in the 2002 comedy).
This is an ensemble comedy, and it has all the ear marks of a great screwball comedy: mistaken identity, off-color humor, and high strung characters. But writer/director Kate Montgomery keeps the energy level low (but not on mute), so that we can build affection for these characters. The film revolves around a ski resort (that has no snow) run by Native Americans. Ray Clouds on Fire (Timothy Vahle) runs the place, and is stressed out because he has just received notice that a critic is coming to review the hotel. Meanwhile, his father Joe (Sam Vlahos) has invited his pen pal, Tina (Mariana Tosca) to come and visit. But Tina thinks that Ray is her pen pal, and Ray thinks that Tina is the critic. Nevertheless, they fall for each other. This would be enough to make a great movie, but I haven’t mentioned the other characters that Montgomery has added for flavor, including the hotel’s chef (a hilarious Graham Greene), who just happens to be a devout vegan, and the romance novel-obsessed concierge (Sheila Tousey). Or the mouse decorated up like an Indian warrior.
The cast members give terrific performances. Timothy Vahle is a little stiff, but he’s likable nonetheless. And he has smoldering chemistry with the lovely Mariana Tosca. Character actor M. Emmett Walsh is also very good as the grumpy Stu, the real travel writer. Rosalind Ayres is also very good as Mabel, one of the hotel’s guests. The film also includes Wes Studi in a brief cameo.
The film isn’t perfect, however. The film is a little unfocused at the beginning when it’s introducing the characters, and it lacks professionalism. But the film is so earnest and likable that despite whatever flaws it may have, it’s a real winner.
4 of 5 Stars