YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Of two formulas, one adds up

The lively 'Christmas Rush' and sluggish 'Christmas Shoes' both use familiar elements.

November 30, 2002|Josh Friedman | Times Staff Writer

Christmas programming kicks into high gear Sunday night with two original TV movies from different traditions -- one naughty, one nice.

"Christmas Rush," airing at 7 p.m. on TBS, could have been another lame wannabe "Die Hard" in a transplanted setting, in this case a Chicago mall. Instead, this thriller starring Dean Cain, Eric Roberts and Erika Eleniak successfully reworks the ingredients that made "Die Hard" a smash in 1988: a captivating villain and dry jokes that fly almost as fast as the bullets and glass.

Next comes a more traditional take on the holiday season, "The Christmas Shoes," airing at 9 p.m. on CBS. It could have been just another by-the-numbers Scrooge story -- and, unfortunately, it is. This sluggish drama stars Rob Lowe as a callous corporate lawyer and Kimberly Williams as a dying mother in intertwining stories that connect on Christmas Eve.

In "Christmas Rush," Cain plays Cornelius Morgan, a suspended cop who has a fight with his wife, Cat (Eleniak), on Christmas Eve, then races to the mall where she works to try to make up. But wily thief Jimmy Scalzetti (Roberts) is there on a mission of his own, pulling off one last score to pay for his son's leukemia operation. Scalzetti's crew takes shoppers and employees -- including Cat, naturally -- hostage.

This tale is a derivative kick, thanks to writer-director Charles Robert Carner's knack for pacing and straight-faced comic relief. Action junkies will enjoy stunts such as Morgan using a giant Christmas tree to break his fall from the mall's top floor, and fight scenes like one in a sporting goods store involving hockey sticks and archery arrows.

Opposite the likable Cain is a menacing but sympathetic presence in Roberts, sad-eyed and unusually soft-spoken. His Scalzetti is no mustache-twirling bad guy, but a cunning, decent man who does the wrong thing -- he's a cross between Alan Rickman in "Die Hard" and Denzel Washington in "John Q." You can root for him without a trace of guilt.

"Christmas Rush" proves there's no crime in following a familiar recipe, if you do it well.

"The Christmas Shoes," directed by Andy Wolk and adapted by Wesley Bishop from a book and song of the same name, is an uninspiring start to Lowe's career after "The West Wing." You have to wonder if by New Year's he'll be resolving to get his old job back.

Lowe plays Robert Layton, a workaholic who neglects his loving wife, Kate (Maria Del Mar), and their 12-year-old daughter, Lily (Amber Marshall). On the other side of town, Maggie (Williams), Lily's beloved choir leader, is preparing for the school Christmas concert. When she suddenly faces a life-threatening illness, she realizes every moment with her husband and 8-year-old son, Nathan (Max Morrow), must count.

As Robert and Nathan both search downtown for the perfect last-minute gift, their paths cross serendipitously. When Robert helps Nathan buy a pair of red shoes for his mom's final Christmas, the man learns life's most important lesson from the boy: It's all about the family.

Among many coincidences, the store has just one pair of the shoes, which fit Maggie perfectly.

Sappy music and corny dialogue make this journey all the rougher. Robert's mom tells him, "Don't just make money, make memories." But that would require a different movie.


TV movies

What: "Christmas Rush"

When: Sunday at 7 p.m., TBS

Rating: TV-14LV (may be unsuitable for children under 14, with advisories for language and violence)

What: "The Christmas Shoes"

When: Sunday at 9 p.m., CBS

Rating: TV-PG (may be unsuitable for young children)

Los Angeles Times Articles