Thomas Kinkade has become a very rich man selling his paintings, many of them to Christians. But many believers also dismiss the work of the "Painter of Light" as commercial kitsch, and anything but real art. So when I was assigned Thomas Kinkade's Christmas Cottage, a straight-to-DVD film releasing today, some of my friends and co-workers reacted as if I was reviewing the bottom of the film barrel.
Throw out your preconceptions, because the movie's actually not bad. Christmas Cottage has its charm, and certainly isn't the mess many would expect.
Produced by Kinkade and his wife Nanette, the film is "inspired by true events," depicting a pivotal story from the painter's college years. It's Christmas break at Berkley in 1977, and a young Thom (Jared Padalecki of TV's Supernatural and Gilmore Girls) heads home to Placerville with younger brother Pat (Aaron Ashmore of TV's Smallville) to visit their mother, Maryann (Marcia Gay Harden).
Unfortunately, times have been hard on the small town's tourist industry, and Maryann faces potential foreclosure on her home. So the Kinkade brothers decide to help out by getting jobs for the season, in hopes of raising enough to save the family cottage. Pat finds work stringing up Christmas lights with Big Jim (Richard Moll of TV's Night Court), while Thom accepts a job from smarmy town mayor Ernie Trevor (Chris Elliot) to paint a mural of Placerville.
It's the sort of story that we already know the ending to (or at least we think we do). Maryann must come to terms with her pride and feelings of helplessness, even though she's clearly beloved by the town as the volunteer church choir director, responsible for staging the annual Christmas pageant. Bickering neighbors who seem intent on ruining ...1