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Call Me Mrs. Miracle DVD Review

Debbie Macomber's Call Me Mrs. Miracle (2010) DVD cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Call Me Mrs. Miracle
Movie & DVD Details

Director: Michael M. Scott / Writers: Debbie Macomber (book), Nancey Silvers (teleplay)

Cast: Doris Roberts (Emily Merkle/Mrs. Miracle), Jewel Staite (Holly Wilson), Eric Johnson (Jake Finley), Quinn Lord (Gabe Wilson), Tom Butler (J.R. Finley), Patricia Mayen-Salazar (Gloria Martinez), Lauren Holly (Lindy Lowe), Jocelyne Loewen (Carol), Mary Black (Betty), Sean Carey (Mike Wilson), Catherine Lough Haggquist (Clair Flowers), Kate Gajdosik (Jane Binkow), Sophie Lui (News Reporter), Diana Bang (Barista)

Original Air Date: November 27, 2010 / Running Time: 88 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated (TV-PG on air)

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround (English)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired; Not Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: October 11, 2011 / Suggested Retail Price: $22.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Keepcase
Also available on Amazon Instant Video

Buy Debbie Macomber's Call Me Mrs. Miracle from Amazon.com: DVD Instant Video Book/Kindle/Audiobook

Though her career spans an extraordinary sixty years, Doris Roberts seems certain to forever be identified solely as Marie Barone or "the mother from 'Everybody Loves Raymond'" for less than devout viewers of that highly-rated, long-running CBS sitcom.
The actress, who turns 81 next month, has well over 100 television and film credits to her name, but only one of them has enjoyed syndication ubiquity for over a decade now. No, it's not "Angie" (1979-80), in whose every episode she appeared. And it's not "Remington Steele" (1983-87), which featured her in three out of every four installments.

Since "Raymond" signed off in 2005, Roberts has been finding plenty of work, including a couple of feature films you might have seen (Grandma's Boy, Aliens in the Attic). She's also had the chance to appear in three episodes of ABC's "The Middle" alongside Patricia Heaton, who portrayed her oft-intruded daughter-in-law for nine seasons. If asked for her most fulfilling post-"Raymond" project, I'd guess that Roberts would be less inclined to name those things and more likely to highlight her turns as Mrs. Miracle, the heroine of two Hallmark Channel Original Movies.

Mrs. Miracle is a creation of Debbie Macomber, the best-selling author of over 150 romance novels. Her book Mrs. Miracle, published in 1996 and reprinted in 2005, received the Hallmark TV movie treatment for Christmas 2009 and drew enough viewers to spawn a sequel novel and swift adaptation for last Thanksgiving weekend. The franchise doesn't seem destined to expand any further, at least not this holiday season, when Hallmark instead brings a 2004 Macomber book to the small screen as Trading Christmas, starring holiday cable telemovie veteran Tom Cavanagh (NBC's "Ed").

Mrs. Merkle/Miracle (Doris Roberts) extends a plate of homemade Christmas cookies as part of her duties as a toy department saleswoman. Personal assistant and aspiring fashion designer Holly Wilson (Jewel Staite) juggles parental responsibility and a hellish boss.

Reprising the title role, Roberts is the only returning cast member in Call Me Mrs. Miracle, which follows a plotline similar to its predecessor's. There, Mrs. Merkle was a magical nanny in the vein of Mary Poppins and Nanny McPhee. Here, she is a magical department store employee along the lines of Miracle on 34th Street's Kris Kringle. Again, she serves as angelic matchmaker, bringing together a couple of attractive young singles for holiday romance.

Absent-minded, socially awkward Holly Wilson (Jewel Staite of Disney Channel's "Flash Forward" and, more recently, "Firefly"/Serenity and "Stargate: Atlantis") has her hands full as the guardian of her 10-year-old nephew Gabe (Quinn Lord). Gabe's mother died and his father, Holly's older brother, is in the army and voluntarily deployed overseas for a year.

Jake Finley (Eric Johnson, "Rookie Blue" regular, "Smallville" recurring, short-lived TV Flash Gordon, and young Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall) is the manager of the toy section of Finley's department store. He's decided not to sell the Intellytron, the hottest holiday season item since Tickle Me Elmo, an advanced robot every kid wants to find under the Christmas tree. Jake's callous father J.R. (Tom Butler, AMC's "The Killing") does not approve of that decision nor his son's management style. J.R. has been a bit of a Grinch, ever since he became a widower Christmas Eve twenty years ago. The all-business Dad wants nothing to do with cards or parties; he refuses to celebrate the holiday with anything but an annual father-son escape to the Virgin Islands.

Jake Finley (Eric Johnson) gets reeled in with Mrs. Miracle's old runaway ornament trick. Disdainful diva designer Lindy Lowe (Lauren Holly) can hardly open her mouth without offending the everywoman.

Mrs. Merkle shows up in the Finley's toy department, wearing a name tag bearing the fitting titular misspelling of her surname. As before, her hiring is shrouded by mystery, as is her knowledge, wisdom, and influence. Nonetheless, as they are wont to, wishes become fulfilled with her around. The biggest of those is that Holly and Jake enter one another's life with a coffee shop line meet-cute. Their love blossoms in the totally sweet and selfless tradition of Hallmark movies.

Since screentime is divided fairly evenly between the two lovers, Jake's sluggish sales season is complemented by Holly's designer ambitions. Her marketing savvy and ingenious reversible day/night dress idea are stifled by her horrible, snobby diva boss Lindy Lowe (Lauren Holly, Dumb & Dumber), who holds offensive attitudes toward the overweight and makes dresses that only go up to a size 10 that's more like a size 8. (For what it's worth, Holly Wilson is a compassionate size 6.)

There's also room for a secondary romance between J.R. and his loyal, widowed Latina employee of thirty years, Gloria Martinez (Patricia Mayen-Salazar), another pairing made possible by that saintly Mrs. Miracle, with her runaway ornaments and enchanted tupperware.

Grumpy store owner J.R. Finley (Tom Butler) needs to change his outlook on Christmas, something Mrs. Miracle intends to help him with. With his mom dead and his dad deployed overseas, Gabe (Quinn Lord) gladly accepts whatever Mrs. Miracle (Doris Roberts) can provide.

Call Me Mrs. Miracle plays out entirely to one's expectations, but it somehow does so in a way that pleases.
It lacks the ironic sense of humor of a Lifetime or ABC Family production. But it also largely avoids getting treacly or cloying.

The movie benefits from its cast. Charm emerges effortlessly from Roberts, her age and stature doing some of the work for her. Though Roberts gets top billing this time, Staite and Johnson have a little more to do, which is okay because they are both appealing in roles that could have been less sympathetic in the hands of actors less comfortable and less hungry. While Butler is a bit stodgy in the routinely redeemable role, child actor Lord plays his part well.

Not much needs to be said about director Michael M. Scott, who returns from the first movie, and writer Nancey Silvers, who does not. They have forty years of TV movie experience and a number of holiday titles between them.

Seasonal discs started appearing in stores this week and Call Me Mrs. Miracle will join them next Tuesday, when it arrives on DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Though Call Me Mrs. Miracle could have been made fifteen years ago with almost no changes, this does at least arrive in 21st century TV standards: the DVD presents the movie in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.0 sound. Clear, clean, and great, the picture has a distinctly digital video appearance, looking a bit softer than film. In addition, the movie makes liberal use of stock footage, being set in New York City, but never for a second suspected of filming in anywhere but Canada, from where most of the cast hail. Some of the licensed clips are grainier than their surroundings, but not in a very troubling way.

Why Dolby 5.0 instead of the usual 5.1? I don't know, but its predecessor was the same and one hardly misses the subwoofer's participation. The track is understated and front-driven, rarely reaching back to the rear channels and only for slight musical reinforcement then. Sony kindly offers both English and English SDH subtitles, the latter having taken the place of closed captioning.

Your options are limited to play movie, subtitles, scene selection, and previews on the festive "Call Me Mrs. Miracle" DVD main menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Like its predecessor and most other Sony-distributed TV movies, Call Me Mrs. Miracle is joined by no bonus features on DVD. The disc opens with trailers for The Mighty Macs, The Shunning, Courageous, Soul Surfer, The Grace Card, and Sony's Affirm Films brand (which includes additional looks at all of the aforementioned). This reel of advertisements, which also plays from the menu's "Previews" listing, allows you to consider the resemblance between Carla Gugino and Sherry Stringfield.

Call Me Mrs. Miracle earns the faith film designation suggested by those previews with a brief Jesus mention (awkwardly delivered by Roberts) and a family Gospel reading scene. The angelic overtones, redemptive themes, and lack of any content more objectionable than adult wine consumption also support such classification, but the movie is hardly something that promotes or requires religious affiliation.

Two of the three static, silent menus place characters against sparkly, generic holiday backdrops. There are no inserts within the uncut Eco-Lite keepcase.

With her work completed, Mrs. Miracle (Doris Roberts) moves on, disappearing before our very eyes on the streets of "New York City."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Call Me Mrs. Miracle is a tad bit cheesy, sentimental, and overdramatic, but much less so than its plot particulars and Hallmark origins suggest. For the most part, this qualifies as decent feel-good entertainment, which is really the most you can ask of a basic cable TV movie. It is a little better than the original Mrs. Miracle, so if you enjoyed that one, check this out (and vice versa). Is this something you'll want to watch again and again while you decorate the tree and roast chestnuts on an open fire? Probably not. But if you share my appreciation for holiday films, this is worth a viewing and appears to be 2010's best feature-length representation of the genre.

Buy on DVD from Amazon.com / Download Instant Video / Buy the Book by Debbie Macomber

Buy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed October 5, 2011.



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