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Mrs. Miracle DVD Review

Debbie Macomber's Mrs. Miracle (2009) DVD cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Mrs. Miracle
Movie & DVD Details

Director: Michael M. Scott / Writers: Debbie Macomber (book), David Golden (teleplay)

Cast: James Van Der Beek (Seth Webster), Erin Karpluk (Reba Maxwell), Doris Roberts (Emily Merkle), Michael Strusievici (Judd Webster), Valin Shinyei (Jason Webster), Chelah Horsdal (Kate Preston), Wanda Cannon (Vicki), Wanda Cannon (Joan Maxwell), Pat Waldron (Mrs. Darling), Patti Allan (Milly Waters), Peter Graham-Gaudreau (Doug), Dolores Drake (Mrs. Hampston), Maggie Sullivun (Mrs. Cooper), Candus Churchill (Mrs. Larson), Rikki Gagne (Carrie), Gordon Tipple (Dryer Repair Man), Brittany Willacy (Store Clerk), Almeera Jiwa (Cindy), Dalila Bela (Young Girl)

Original Air Date: December 5, 2009 / Running Time: 92 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, French, Spanish; Not Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: November 16, 2010 / Suggested Retail Price: $14.99 (Reduced from $20.95)
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase

Buy Mrs. Miracle from Amazon.com • Buy the Books by Debbie Macomber

Two actors who rose to prominence on late-1990s TV shows come together in the Hallmark TV movie Mrs. Miracle and I'm betting one of them didn't think this is where they'd be in 2009. I'm not referring to Doris Roberts, the "Everybody Loves Raymond" grandmother who has been acting since 1952. Roberts turns 80 in November, which will make her one of the most famous octogenarian actresses working today (trailing only Betty White and perhaps Cloris Leachman). Even so, octogenarian actresses aren't wont to get offers much better than starring in a Hallmark TV movie.

No, the co-star who probably saw bigger things for himself is James Van Der Beek, titular lead of "Dawson's Creek." Van Deer Beek used the clout gained from that WB teen drama series to headline a number of films during its 1998-2003 run, including Varsity Blues, Texas Rangers, and The Rules of Attraction. Since then, the roles would appear to have dried up for the twice-married 33-year-old man. With the possible exception of his recurring stint on NBC's single-season medical drama "Mercy", Mrs. Miracle may be the actor's most noteworthy project since "Dawson's Creek" signed off.

Admit it: the idea of Dawson Leery (James Van Der Beek) playing a Dad makes you feel old. Don't mess with the big dog, Mrs. Merkle (Doris Roberts) advises the twins, after catching their thrown snowballs and getting even.

Here, Van Der Beek plays Seth Webster, a widowed young father of unruly 6-year-old twins Judd (Michael Strusievici) and Jason (Valin Shinyei). While not quite a case for social workers, the boys are mischievous enough to leave one nanny after another running away and vowing never to return. One day during the bustle of the holiday season, elderly Emily Merkle (Roberts) shows up, with an instantly calming demeanor and a homemade dinner no less.
Mrs. Merkle takes her place as the family's live-in housekeeper and the boys' close mispronunciation of her name, "Mrs. Miracle", is apropos, given her swift, painless transformation of them into polite, table-clearing gentlemen.

Mrs. Merkle/Miracle may very well be magical. She doesn't pull a coat rack out of her handbag or anything, but there's just enough mystery to suggest she may be an angel or some form of divine intervention. For example, she's not really from the agency whose services Seth had sought.

Mrs. Merkle is also a matchmaker, secretly. We suspect this from the moment a pretty single woman is introduced for no conceivable reason but to serve as Seth's love interest. Her name is Reba Maxwell (Erin Karpluk) and she owns a travel agency, having recently abandoned her theatre dreams. But hey, that background makes her the perfect choice to direct the boys in the school's annual Christmas pageant. Merkle sees to it that the position is open.

Though the heavenly nanny claims the title and drives the plot, Roberts' "and" billing is fitting because her miracle worker has a supporting presence, falling back for Seth and Reba's inevitable romance to take the foreground. The two kindly 30-year-olds seem perfect for each other, but they've got their demons. Seth (who's curiously never bearded or clean-shaven, always stubbled) is unwilling to talk about his dead wife Pamela, discouraging the topic with his inquisitive sons. He's also given up piano, for Pamela's music appreciation is too painful a memory for him to tickle the ivories as he once loved to. Reba, meanwhile, is estranged from her older sister, who -- it takes us an hour to find out -- stole her fiancι from her four years ago.

Can these attractive adults conquer their demons, fall in love, and have the best Christmas ever? Maybe with some assistance from Mrs. Miracle? What do you think?

Reba (Erin Karpluk) smiles the smile of a travel agency owner rekindling her passion for theatre by directing the local school's Christmas pageant. Or maybe she just wants to meet that Dad. This contented around-the-corner look can only mean that the work of magical, angelic Mrs. Miracle (Doris Roberts) is just about done.

Obviously, you don't watch Mrs. Miracle for the surprises and plot twists. You watch it because it comforts you and makes you feel good. It's always clear where the movie is going a step or two before it lets you know. In truth, you could write the rest of the story after seeing about 15 minutes. But just because it's predictable and formulaic doesn't mean it's not entertaining and enjoyable.
Many would agree that it is all four of these things and the qualities are very much interconnected.

With weaker acting or more sentimentality, this could easily be an offensive exercise in exploiting holiday cheer. But Mrs. Miracle is made by professionals who know what they're doing. Director Michael Scott (not to be confused with the Dunder-Mifflin regional manager) has over thirty credits to his name, all of them in television. They include multiple documentaries, real-life dramas, hour-long episodes ("Touched by an Angel", "Unsolved Mysteries", "New York Undercover"), and holiday TV movies. Just looking over his rιsumι, you know that he's not suddenly going to get called up to Hollywood's big league, nor is that a call he is waiting for. Someone's gotta direct TV movies and Michael Scott is one qualified someone. Writer David Golden has fewer credits and less experience, but enough of both in TV movies to provide what is needed.

As do all three lead actors. The veteran, Doris Roberts, seems to have the most fun with her gratifying part, but Van Der Beek is comfortable back in TV drama. As I didn't recognize her, I assumed Erin Karpluk was a new actress on the rise, but she's actually racked up forty credits in ten years, including her own Canadian TV series "Being Erica", now in its third season. She's just fine in the role, pulling off comedic and dramatic bits with neither difficulty nor aftertaste.

For those coming to Mrs. Miracle more from books than television, the most famous name may be Debbie Macomber, who actually receives possessive credit in the movie's full title. Macomber has written over a hundred novels, most of them romances or "women's fiction" and several of them as part of various series. The book Mrs. Miracle, first published in 1996 and reprinted in 2005, is Macomber's second adapted for TV. It isn't her last either. Call Me Mrs. Miracle, which assigns a returning Doris Roberts to a new set of attractive people in need (among them, Lauren Holly and Jewel Staite), is scheduled to air on Hallmark this Thanksgiving Saturday, November 27th. Macomber's book, on which this sequel is based, was recently published.

Nitpick to look for: a travel agency owner should probably know that Hawaii is officially abbreviated "HI", not "HW."

Fun fact: This movie solidifies Doris Roberts' place in a class of actresses I like to call "Mom for Christmas." The only requirement is playing a mother in a Christmas movie. Now, Roberts doesn't play a Mom for Christmas here, but she does in both the 1977 TV movie It Happened One Christmas (which I haven't seen) and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. And, most importantly, she played mystical department worker Philomena in 1990's A Mom for Christmas, the class' namesake. Though Philomena technically isn't a mom, she does sort of give life to the mannequin turned mother played by star Olivia Newton-John. Therefore, Roberts is at least a 3-time Mom for Christmas in my book, not quite up there with Mary Steenburgen but close. Not bad for a Jew!

Reba (Erin Karpluk) and Seth (James Van Der Beek) bond over discovering the experiences they shared at a since-repurposed movie theater.

VIDEO and AUDIO

On DVD, Mrs. Miracle is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. While the Hallmark Channel didn't go hi-def until this past February, I have no doubt that this movie was framed for the wider aspect ratio as almost all television programming now is. The picture is immaculately clean and naturally colored. It's not even soft as you might suspect a Hallmark TV movie to be. I noticed some faint grain on a few scenes, but otherwise this is basically flawless.

The soundtrack is encoded in something I haven't encountered in a very long time: Dolby Digital 5.0. All that means is that there is no subwoofer channel (the .1 designated for low frequency sounds). Those accustomed to 5.1 tracks will notice the lack of bass here, but not really mind. The dialogue is crisp, music clear, and there's light but adequate effort to create a surround soundfield.

Mrs. Miracle's main menu looks remarkably like the bottom half of its DVD cover.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The disc loads with trailers for the following Sony faith and family titles: Corbin Bernsen's Rust, To Save a Life, and Open Season 3 (or, as I like to think of it, "Open: The Complete Third Season"). The Previews menu holds these three trailers as well as promos for "HawthoRNe": The Complete First Season, Facing the Giants, An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving, and five Christian dramas from Affirm Films.

And that sadly is the extent of Mrs. Miracle's bonus features. No press kit puff piece, TV promo, sequel preview, scandalous audio commentary, unrated deleted scenes, or anything.

The static, silent menus get good mileage out of the colorful packaging artwork.

Reba (Erin Karpluk) and Seth (James Van Der Beek) get cozy in front of the fireplace, as lovers are known to do at Christmastime. There's just something about Doris Roberts teaching children lessons with a pointed finger.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

A Hallmark Channel TV movie adapted from a romance novelist who churns out six books a year isn't likely to be high art and Mrs. Miracle definitely is not.
But with the right expectations, this little holiday drama is perfectly satisfactory. It's the kind of thing that takes little to write, not much to film, and practically nothing to enjoy on a basic level.

While I think most who have seen this are fine with a single viewing or leaving a repeat viewing in the hands of Hallmark's programming department, it's nice that the DVD is available for those without cable, Hallmark, or the time for commercial television. Sony's DVD provides only the essentials (the movie with ample subtitles and some trailers for other fare), but it does so at a reasonable price and in a way that's impossible to bemoan.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com / Buy the Book by Debbie Macomber

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Call Me Mrs. Miracle
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Reviewed October 16, 2010.



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