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Coming Home for Christmas DVD Review

Coming Home for Christmas (2013) DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Coming Home for Christmas
Movie & DVD Details

Director: Vanessa Parise / Writers: Kele McGlohon, Bruce Spiegelman

Cast: Carly McKillip (Kate O'Brien), Britt McKillip (Melanie O'Brien), Amy Jo Johnson (Wendy O'Brien), George Canyon (Al O'Brien), Benjamin Hollingsworth (Mike), Jordan McIntosh (Ryan), Aaron Pritchett (Harry), Sarah Madison Barrow (Young Kate O'Brien), Dakota Guppy (Young Melanie O'Brien), Kennedi Clements (Samantha), Vanessa Parise (Jill), Barclay (Gus the Dog)

Video Premiere: October 29, 2013 / Running Time: 87 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: None; Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled or Captioned
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99 / Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Keepcase

Buy Coming Home for Christmas on DVD at Amazon.com

If you head to your local retail giant on Thursday night, you'll probably encounter efforts being made to replace the Halloween merchandise with Christmas wares.
After all, modern commerce has rendered November 1st the official start of what's called "the holiday season." Coming Home for Christmas refuses to wait even that long, premiering on DVD tomorrow, two days before Halloween.

With its generic title, tagline ("Home Is Where the Heart Is"), and cover art of family and dog heads floating above a couple holding hands in the snow, Coming Home looks like the umpteenth made-for-television holiday heartwarmer. Only it doesn't seem to be made just for television, as it premieres exclusively on DVD before being scheduled to air on Canada's CMT in December.

The only name singled out on the front cover does warrant at least the raising of an eyebrow. Norman Rockwell is credited with presenting this film. That might seem unusual, because Rockwell is known foremost as a painter and an illustrator and also because he died thirty-five years ago.

Rockwell, who would be 119 if still alive, has an IMDb page that attributes him with appearances as himself in a documentary short, a TV movie, and six talk shows. He also supposedly turns up as a townsman in the 1966 Bing Crosby remake of Stagecoach and was thanked in the end credits to the Nic Cage movie The Family Man. If Thomas Kinkade could present holiday movies for the family, who's to say that Rockwell can't do the same from beyond the grave?

Why would a holiday movie premiere on a country music station of all places? Probably because the two top-billed actors of Coming Home are Carly McKillip and Britt McKillip. Should those names mean as little to you as they did to me, you might not be a big country music fan. Otherwise, you'd know that the McKillip sisters form the British Columbia-based One More Girl, a duo that released its first album in 2009 and has been dropping singles since then, with a sophomore album soon to follow. Carly, 24, and Britt, 22, have also evidently been acting since the mid-1990s. Britt's credits include voiceover work in animated Barbie, My Little Pony, Bratz Babyz, and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch movies. Carly, meanwhile, has had a host of recurring and guest roles on television.

With her family not so stealthily looking on, Kate O'Brien (Carly McKillip) tries to patch things up with Mike the woodworker (Ben Hollingsworth) in  "Coming Home for Christmas."

Here, the two play estranged sisters, Kate (Carly) and Melanie O'Brien (Britt) in Oceanside, Oregon (which Canada stands in for, unfaked license plates and all). One had acne and braces as a teenager, but she's outgrown them and only occasionally wears glasses, which makes telling the standard-issue Nordic beauties apart quite the challenge. Not that it matters all that much. One of the sisters got married straight out of high school and the other stormed out of the backyard wedding after spotting the groom flirting with a bridesmaid. Neither has spoken to one another for five years when they separately learn their parents (Amy Jo Johnson and George Canyon) are separating after twenty-seven years of marriage.
The recession has hit the couple hard, forcing them to foreclose on their longtime family home.

Fortunately, the house's new owner is Mike (Ben Hollingsworth), a handsome Marine and woodworker, who not only fixes the O'Briens' prized, overtly metaphorical broken clock but agrees to host Christmas for the entire family in exchange for Kate teaching Ryan (Jordan McIntosh), his 15-year-old co-owner, apprentice, and semi-ward (whose late father was killed in action), how to dance.

Befitting CMT, the movie seizes opportunities for the McKillip girls, Canyon, and even McIntosh to share their professional singing voices. Musical numbers attempt to spice up the routine romance, which unfolds in an unbelievably mild Pacific Northwest that's perfect for waterfront picnics and light-coated waterfall rambles. After decorating montages and such, we arrive at the anticipated reunion, which plays out as you expect it to, with complications giving way to telegraphed revelations, clarified misunderstandings, and storybook redemption. The biggest surprise may be that the film closes not on Christmas Eve but Christmas Night.

Patching up their five-year estrangement, Melanie (Britt McKillip) gladly turns Kate's (Carly McKillip) attention to some mistletoe. Long-married, recently-separated married couple Wendy (Amy Jo Johnson) and Al (George Canyon) recognize a love interest for their daughter when they see one.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Though the opening titles look unsightly and overcompressed, the DVD's 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation quickly comes around to settle at satisfactory standard definition. Clearly shot on digital video and not by the deftest of hands, the movie looks okay, exhibiting nothing worse than the occasional shimmering.

Sound is offered in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and plain Dolby Stereo 2.0. The default former doesn't do much more than plain 2.0 Surround with its soundfield, using rear channels simply to reinforce music. Dialogue remains clear, though occasionally you suspect the lip-synch isn't completely perfect. More troubling for is the fact that the DVD uses closed captioning instead of English subtitles for the hearing impaired. Closed captions, as you may know, are inaccessible to those watching the disc on a player connected to a television with an increasingly standard HDMI cable.

An untitled making-of featurette takes us behind the scenes of the holiday classic "Coming Home for Christmas." Amy Jo Johnson is not pleased to discover her foreclosed home has been sold on the Coming Home for Christmas DVD's main menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

While the packaging doesn't mention any bonus features, Coming Home is joined by two items on the disc and two items inside the case.

An untitled making-of featurette (5:05) shares upbeat comments from the cast and director
Vanessa Parise (who all use the working title, simply Home for Christmas) and some behind-the-scenes production footage in addition to film excerpts.

A trailer (1:43) for the movie is also fittingly preserved.

Joining the disc inside the plain black keepcase are an insert holding directions and a unique code for a complimentary vudu streaming digital copy of the film. The other insert is a thick case-sized color card stock "Special Edition Reprint" of a Norman Rockwell Christmas family illustration used to promote Plymouth cars. This is the only connection between Rockwell and the movie and even it is unclear.

The scored, animated main menu plays clips in the top half of the screen while snow falls in the woods in the bottom half. The static submenus recycle the kindred cover art.

Spoiler alert: "Coming Home for Christmas" closes with everyone merry and musical on a blessed Christmas night.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

If you have cable, you can turn on your television on any given Saturday afternoon from Thanksgiving to Christmas and find a movie similar to and just as good as Coming Home for Christmas. That is to say this is a harmless and familiar production, rendered routine by decades of comparable unimaginative holiday fare. The acting, writing, and production values all leave something to be desired, but at least Coming Home doesn't believe itself to be any better or more special than it is.

The DVD is basic but adequate, its low price compensating for the unexceptional quality and lack of subtitles. Your interest in it probably comes down to how much you know and care about the cast. Fans of One More Girl, the original pink Power Ranger, and George Canyon will take note, while everyone else probably will not. If you fall among the interested and live in Canada, you'd probably be just as well to set your DVR to record CMT's planned December broadcast than to buy this movie you'll likely forget about the moment it's over.

Buy Coming Home for Christmas from Amazon.com: DVD with vudu Digital Copy

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Related Reviews:
I'll Be Home for Christmas One Magic Christmas The Santa Clause Four Christmases Elf Deck the Halls Santa Claus: The Movie
Mrs. Miracle Call Me Mrs. Miracle On the 2nd Day of Christmas The House without a Christmas Tree 12 Men of Christmas
Christmas Treats: T.V. Sets A Special Sesame Street Christmas Fireproof Cow Belles Happy Holidays Collection
Ben Hollingsworth: The Joneses | Amy Jo Johnson: Felicity: The Season Year Collection

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Reviewed October 28, 2013.



Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2013 Norman Rockwell, Nasser Group North, NGN Releasing, and CMT. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.