Friday, November 25, 2011

Snowglobe (A KFP Guest Review)

NetFlix 3.9/5
IMDB 5.9/10
My Rating: 5.5/10
Sincerity Factor: 5/10
Treacle Factor: 5/10

Angela finds a mystical snow globe that transports her into an idyllic Christmas winter wonderland. But, when her two worlds unexpectedly collide, Angela has to make a choice about what really defines her perfect Christmas.

(To help keep KFP updates on schedule, I've roped in another guest reviewer, my very own wife!  I think you'll find she gives a much more literate review than I do, not to mention being a hell of a lot nicer to things like this than I would be.  But then, this was a chick movie through and through, so let me present the wife's review...)

Review by Emily.

My ratings above pretty much sum up how I felt about this movie: it was fun, fluffy, and a perfect example of a middle-of-the-road, mostly predictable Christmas movie that will offend no one.  It might make one want to bang some of the characters' heads together....but I'll get to that in a moment.

Snowglobe wastes no time establishing that our lead character, Angela (played by Christina Milian), is unhappy with her life and where it's (not) going. We quickly find out that she works at her family's deli and lives in an apartment building managed by her family.  Noticed a theme yet?  Keep reading.

Before we're out of the credits we've seen the titular package arrive and met the latest likely young man that her family hopes to marry her off to – because, as the building managers, her parents can choose the top picks of the eligible prospective tenants.  So, as Angela complains to her co-worker, “they stock our apartment building like a single-guy fish pond,” and then wait for her to fall in.  She's wise to their ploy, but it's one more sticky spot in the tar baby of family involvement.

Her family, interestingly, is African-American on her father's side and Italian on her mother's, and overwhelming on all fronts.  In reading other reviews to get a sense of what people thought of this movie I ran across one that praised it for its accurate portrayal of  how families really behave, and my knee-jerk reaction was along the lines of “Oh, you poor dear....”  Within the first fifteen minutes of the film the viewer has a firm understanding of why Angela might find her situation both frustrating and intractable: her family has no boundaries and observes none, mows over objections like a combine harvester, and above all, knows what's best for everyone (particularly Angela) and says so.  Loudly.

So when her mother (played with cheerful vigor by Lorraine Bracco) says “Look at your sister – married, pregnant – you should be so lucky!” and sister Gina (Luciana Carro) looks intolerably smug, we aren't surprised that Angela snaps and orders them all out of her apartment forthwith.  We really expected her to do it earlier, perhaps with a sharp stick. 

Surrounded by people who think things are just fine the way they are, Angela is fighting an uphill battle to break out and do something different, represented in this case by her desire to have a traditional Christmas goose instead of green lasagna for the holiday feast.  A cliché?  Well, yes, but also a situation that most of us can relate to.

Once the stampeding horde is out of her apartment, our heroine unpacks the box she received earlier and finds the snow globe within, sans note or card to identify the sender.  Mystified but delighted, she places the globe on her bedside table, winds the key, and drifts off to sleep to the music it plays.....and wakes up in a snow-covered Christmas tree lot!  No, wait, there's a row of shops, a pond with skaters, a stone bridge, and a one-horse open sleigh!  And snow.  Lots and lots of snow.  Angela has stumbled into her perfect Christmas, and if it seems a little too much like the village from The Prisoner to some of us, take comfort in the fact that she's far too young to have seen that show and consequently won't be worried. 

Everyone around her is happily pursuing their winter- or Christmas-related tasks, but she doesn't have much chance to explore before receiving a knockdown from a shovelful of snow and meeting Douglas, the industrious shoveler.  He is happy to welcome her to the village and introduce her around, and if he seems a trifle....well, simple, it's only a dream, after all.  He is very cute and friendly – in fact, everyone is very friendly, though alert viewers will sense the hive mind in the chorus of “Merry Christmas!” that seems to smooth all awkwardness away.  Christmas dinner is roast goose, the presents are ready, and Angela wants to stay forever, but of course she wakes up.

Her first conclusion is that she's had a wonderful dream.  The following night, however, she finds herself back in the village – to her happy surprise – and she speedily discovers that she can return there whenever she wants just by winding up the music box and drifting off with the snow globe's tune.  And  since her real-world existence is so deeply unsatisfying, she begins to escape into the Christmas world more and more.  Her relationship with Douglas grows and she passes happy hours learning to ice skate and teaching the residents of the inn attractive package-wrapping techniques.  Meanwhile, her relationship with the real world suffers: she's late to work, she's distracted, she fails to show up for family dinner (!), and finally caps it off by forgetting about her sister's baby shower.  Her family stages an Italian-style intervention and sets up dinner in Angela's apartment, without telling her that they've invited Eddie, the eligible bachelor from the first paragraph (remember him?).  Angela is incapable of being rude to him and surprises herself by having a really enjoyable evening with this real person.  We can see the idea beginning to grow that maybe romance is possible outside of the snow globe.

It was at this point that the movie departed from the script – not its own script, clearly, but the script that I had created about how it would come out.  I'm not going to give away the twist (if you really want to know it you can easily find out by checking other reviews) but that was what made this movie stand out a bit from the “background noise” of other extremely predictable holiday fare.  Unfortunately both of us found Christina Milian's acting style somewhat wearing; I began to see Angela as more of a collection of head twitches and hair flips than an actual character after about an hour or so.  We still have another Christmas movie to watch that she stars in, so we'll see if she can play anything other than twenty-something attitude.

The message of “Snowglobe” was clear from the start: appreciate what you have, don't worry so much about not having perfection.  It's a message that most Christmas movies want to convey in one way or another; the best of them manage it without our noticing that we've been indoctrinated (for an excellent example, see the earlier review of “Midnight Clear”).  I was skeptical about “Snowglobe” at first because I thought I could see exactly where we were headed and how we'd get there.  I was wrong, at least about how we got there, and I appreciate a story that surprises me.  So overall I would recommend this as an enjoyable movie for most family members, although if you have a low tolerance for bickering I would suggest a nice, tough piece of leather to bite into before setting off.  After all, as Angela points out, “How can you have Christmas without any shouting?”