Review

Hallmark's 'Northpole' a sweet reminder of holiday spirit

Mary McNamara
Contact ReporterLos Angeles Times Television Critic
Review: 'Northpole' may be a cookie-cutter take on Christmas, but it's one with high-quality ingredients.

When did Christmas become such a hypochondriac?

Mere moments after the newly power-fueled Halloween season ends, wreaths and bayberry candles start elbowing severed limbs off store shelves while construction begins on the increasingly elaborate Santa's workshops that anchor every commercial plaza. And it's not just the U.S.; Western European capitals have been doubling down on yuletide, with skating rinks, holiday markets and light displays that can be seen from space.

Yet every season film and television churns with the message that someone Must Save Christmas.

In Hallmark's lovely if predictable "Northpole," the task of tinsel triage falls to an elf named Clementine ("Trophy Wife's" Bailee Madison) and a 10-year-old boy named Kevin (Max Charles). Living at the North Pole, Clementine sees firsthand how a lack of holiday happiness has brought Christmas to the point of apocalypse — the northern lights are doing weird things!

Which means that the elves are losing the energy required to make toys! Which in turn create holiday happiness! Something Must Be Done!

Max's concerns are a bit more domestic. He and his mom, Chelsea ("White Collar's" Tiffani Thiessen), have just moved to one of those adorable northeastern towns where Chelsea can easily find work as a reporter on a local daily for a salary that allows her to buy a super nice house.

Still, all is not perfect. Max can't seem to make friends, perhaps because no one at school seems to share his love of the holiday — an attempt to start a Christmas committee falls flat. More pressing, the mayor has just decided to cancel the annual tree-lighting ceremony on the grounds that no one remembered it anymore.

While Chelsea smells a story, Max's unquenchable yuletide spirit brings him to the attention of Clementine, who speeds his way to see what the two can accomplish.

You can probably guess what that is.

"Northpole," written by Gregg Rossen and Brian Sawyer and directed by Douglas Barr, is undeniably a cookie-cutter tale, but we all know that what makes a good holiday cookie are the ingredients and the decorations, both of which are of high quality here.

With the exception of a giant luminous snowflake (now available in Hallmark stores), "Northpole" is lovely to look at, and, as an added bonus, overseen by Robert Wagner and Jill St. John in excellent wiggage. Madison and Charles are likably believable as elf and boy, Thiessen is always a fine and luminous presence (even when playing what can only be categorized as the World's Worst Journalist) and she quickly finds romance via Max's imagination-promoting teacher, who is played by Josh Hopkins ("Cougar Town.")

After some initial conflict, the four come together in a sweet but not saccharine way to remind us of the importance of faith, hope, love and snowball fights. Which is, of course, almost always the best way to, and you can say it with me now, Save Christmas.

Twitter: @marymacTV

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
70°