TV REVIEW : ‘Christmas’ Remake a Romantic Gift From TNT


“Christmas in Connecticut” (1945), among the most durable of the wartime comedies, stars Barbara Stanwyck as a popular cooking columnist whose boss maneuvers her into inviting a soldier (Dennis Morgan) home for a holiday dinner as a promotional gimmick for his magazine. The hitch, of course, is that she can’t cook.

Neither can Dyan Cannon in the zesty remake, which premieres today at 5 p.m. on TNT, with repeats at 7 and 9 p.m. Writer Janet Brownell has embellished as well as updated the original considerably, occasionally going over the top but also suggesting how far more complex our everyday lives have become since 1945 and what an overwhelmingly big deal TV stardom can be. On the whole, Brownell has done a fine job, especially in providing a terrific role for Cannon.

Cannon plays the star of America’s favorite cooking show while her assistant (Kelly Cinnante) does all the real work off camera. Enter Kris Kristofferson, a Colorado forest ranger, who, via some amusingly outrageous plot machinations, winds up being invited for Christmas with Cannon en famille in Connecticut as part of a live prime-time special.

Unfortunately, Cannon doesn’t have the family she talks about on her show. Cinnante and her moody actor boyfriend Gene Lythgow (very funny) are pressed into posing as her daughter and son-in-law; Cannon’s aggressive producer Tony Curtis passes himself off as her husband, and he’s borrowed a baby and brought along his obnoxious nephew (Jimmy Workman) to serve as Cannon’s grandchildren. Even the handsome old home in Connecticut is rented for the occasion.


But then Cannon doesn’t know that Kristofferson has agreed to appear only in return for $25,000 needed to rebuild his burned-to-the-ground cabin.

In his feature directorial debut, Arnold Schwarzenegger indulges in some exceedingly broad humor, yet his key accomplishment is showing this houseful of pretenders gradually being overcome with some genuine Christmas spirit.

From Frame 1, Schwarzenegger displays characteristic confidence. He moves gracefully between slapstick and quiet sentiment, deftly maneuvering tricky shifts of tone, and he’s wisely enlisted seasoned stars for his maiden directorial voyage.

Cannon is vibrant, warm and sexy while Kristofferson is a gruff, laid-back charmer. Supplying most of the laughter is Curtis, a farceur with few peers.