My apologies, I hit ‘POST’ in the wrong order, you were meant to get this delight before the previous delight, hence why my last intro made no sense. This was supposed to be AnimalSuperManFilm #1, with The Nine Lives of Christmas as AnimalSuperManFilm #2, but OK. Fine. We’ll do it this way.
So we’re back, and strap yourselves in, because I actually found a Christmas film that combines all the cliches with genuine enjoyment.
A Belle for Christmas stars our old pal Dean Cain as Glenn Barrows (we will be calling him Superdad throughout this review), a lawyer who has just lost his wife in a car accident. He has two kids, Elliott and Phoebe. He has a new girlfriend, called Dani (played by Kristy Swanson), who might be a slight gold-digger. I BET NONE OF YOU CAN GUESS WHAT HAPPENS.
Anyways we join the film with the kids meeting and greeting puppies at a high street stand for an animal charity. And here’s Haylie Duff! She’s Kate, she runs the animal charity. Now to be fair to Kate, she threw me a slight curveball in this film, because I fell into a cliche trap and thought she was going to fulfil a role that she did not. So more points to A Belle for Christmas.
Superdad says the kids can’t have a puppy though, because they’re not responsible enough. HOW HE WILL COME TO EAT HIS WORDS.
Superdad’s mother-in-law (more of her later, with added alcohol) is round the house now, giving the little ‘uns a hug, which they’re going to need, because Superdad’s bringing his new girlfriend over to stay. The children’s mother appears to have died quite recently, so I understand why they’re miffed at this woman’s arrival.
We learn that she works at the bakery (very good Christmas movie cliche job) and that her parents are dead. Elliott and Phoebe give her a right going-over, I mean, they are really mean to her for a pair of eight-year-olds. Their favoured nickname for her is “bleach-headed blondie”, which, whilst accurate, actually did make me feel a bit sorry for her. I will turn out to be wrong.
Dani runs out in tears and whilst in the bathroom sorting herself out, puts on Superdad’s late wife’s necklace. This will be significant, in as much as anything in these films can be called significant, because it shows us that the children are right and she really is a mean old hussy. The necklace is in plain sight when Superdad gives her a hug and makes sure she’s OK, which is ridiculous given he’ll kick off about her wearing it later.
But who’s this at the door? It’s Kate from the animal charity and she’s got that ruddy puppy with her. She tells Elliott the dog hasn’t been able to stop crying since meeting him, so therefore he should have her (?), and Superdad is forced to agree. The kids name her Belle. But – “ATISHOO!” – yep, new girlf is totes allergic to dogs.
Here begins a rather rum montage section of the film where Dani sneezes all over things, including a mug of eggnog, which, in case you were wondering, does not take to being sneezed over very well. Yep, Dani is very allergic to this dog, she is also very allergic to Dean Cain’s children, so she decides to nip back from work one day and dognap Belle and take her to the pound to be put down. Boo! Hiss! Etc.
To be fair to the man from the pound, he does question why this perfectly healthy puppy might need destroying. But then she says it killed a bird, so he’s like, well I’ll bump it up to the top of my death list.
Then of course, the kids get home and find Belle missing. They try to find her with the help of Riley, the girl Elliott fancies, she’s sweet though, so I approve, and of Elliott’s little pal Malcolm, who is the best person in this entire film. Malcolm is hilarious and great. They do not find her. These kids though! Like lasers! They immediately suspect dad’s new girlfriend! Remarkable!
But today’s Christmas Eve, the day of a big cake-baking contest (she’s making red velvet, which I know you Americans love a bit of the red velvet, but really? It’s just a bit rubbish? So many nicer cakes out there) This is Dani’s big chance to prove to her colleagues that she’s not made up this boyfriend, he really does exist, except how’s she going to get him there when he’s going out of his tree over the missing dog?
She’s going to get her friend Kimmy to babysit, that’s how.
Kimmy is going to regret taking this job on though, because the kids be sleuthing, and they’ve locked her in the cupboard whilst they get over to Dani’s house to break in and find the dog they are sure is there.
Whilst there, they check her answer machine (it’s what Sherlock would do) and find a message from her parents, asking her to stop ignoring them, which means she’s a LIAR, and her folks are in Florida, not heaven. They also find that she has a picture of herself by her phone, which I think is weird, personally, but I’m prepared to be told I’m wrong.
Belle’s not there though, which has Elliott distraught. Until the voicemail clicks on again, only this time it’s Kimmy, warning Dani that the kids and Superdad are onto her, so she’d better get to the pound ASAP stat to sort things. TO THE POUND, CHILDREN! But how can they get there? They can pressgang Riley’s vaguely slutty sister into driving them and then flirting with the pound man, that’s how. They rescue Belle, not to mention every other dog there, then steal the pound van, with Malcolm driving, no matter his feet don’t reach the pedals.
Meanwhile, back over at the cake contest, Superdad is ANGRY. He’s realised this woman not only makes shit cakes, she’s also a hussy AND she’s wearing his late wife’s necklace. He’ll have that back, thank you very much. He asks Dani if she does everything wanting something in return, which is obviously an important thing to ask, but not exactly what I would be wanting to know given all that’s just gone on. Phoebe throws this absolute killer: “your red velvet? It needs work too” – and we know all will be well, Christmas is saved.
Santa’s here, guys! “If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s probably a gold-digger”, says Santa, and I have no idea what’s going on, but that’s great.
Now we’re back at Superdad’s house, I’m going to assume it’s Christmas Day, and Grandma’s back, she’s got a sore head though. “Midnight mass is still talking to me” – ha ha, this is a very good way to explain a hangover, might steal that one myself this year.
Wait, why is there a choir of about 40 people on their lawn holding banners and singing? Oh, there’s Malcolm! It’s all going to be OK, Malcolm is here! And Kate is here too (Haylie Duff, keep up) and this is where I really REALLY thought there were going to be Christmas movie snoggums between her and Dean Cain, but I was wrong, she just pops in for some eggnog and all’s right with the world.
Now, obviously this isn’t going to win any Oscars, but it’s actually a pretty decent little film. The kids in it are all brilliant, especially Malcolm. Dean Cain seems like a nice person and he was good in this, I feel like he should be in more things. I always feel a bit sorry for the Kristy Swansons in films like this, but actually she was pretty good too. No snow, but we’ll let that go. I think I need a proper rubbish one after this, to make up for all the quality.