Film Review: 'Runaway Christmas Bride'
A rushed romance, shaky writing, and annoying characters tank this comedic Christmas flick.
Being married should be the happiest day of a woman's life--but this certainly is not the case for Kate Paulson (Cindy Busby). Soon after marrying Alex Atkins (Mark Milburn), Kate is stunned to learn that a secret of Alex's: he had been told by his father he would only get his grandmother's inheritance if he married. Angered at the possibility that Alex only married her for money, Kate flees from her wedding and goes to check in to her honeymoon suite at the ski resort, desperate to get away from Alex and her overbearing family.
After more antics trying to get her room, Kate begins trying to relax at the resort and finds herself forging a friendship with mountain patrol worker Jason (Travis Milne), which quickly segues into a mutual attraction. But when Alex, his parents, and Kate's family wind up at the resort, will Kate be able to fix her crazy situation without losing Jason?
After seeing Cindy Busby in the incredibly well-written and heartfelt A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love, it's more than a little disheartening to find that, two years prior, she was in an Ion Network Christmas flick that leaves her little to work with. Despite having a fairly unique premise and some good actors to go along with Busby, Runaway Christmas Bride suffers greatly from a combination of poor plotting, uneven writing, and grating side characters.
But to start out, let me talk about a part of made-for-TV films I rarely ever talk about: the music and the special effects. Given that most made-for-TV holiday films are made on modest budgets, they can be forgiven for not being able to afford the best of effects. But even by those standards, Runaway Christmas Bride features noticeably bad green screen effects--made worse by the fact that they have to be used so often, you'll have plenty of time to look at them and pick them apart. The music, however, is definitely a worse offense, with the music being mostly generic Christmas-sounding ambiance that is often playing loudly in the background of scenes. The fact that we on more than one occasion get treated to this playing over montages and that the uber-chipper music occasionally gets played over scenes that do not warrant such upbeat audio backdrop only makes it worse.
Going into plot, Runaway Christmas Bride suffers the same problem as fellow lackluster Christmas film A Godwink Christmas: both films rush their lead romances, though in the case of Runaway Christmas Bride, this flaw is magnified. Rather than allowing the viewer the chance to see Kate and Jason's friendship unfold into something more, the film instead fast-forwards through all that via stock-footage-heavy montages. As a result, not only does Kate and Jason's relationship progression seem abrupt and unnatural, but it prevents Busby and Travis Milne the time needed to develop chemistry as a couple--which, given how much weight is given to Kate and Jason's supposed strong connection in the film's third act, becomes a grave error.
Then comes the side characters, such as they are. Kate and Alex's families both consist of a pushy and emotionally abusive father and a mother who acts little more than a slightly-less-awful counterpart. Mackenzie Gray and Bruce Dawson (despite the latter getting dealt a good deal of awful dialogue) do what they can with their characters, and both might've had salvageable characters had the film committed to depicting them as terrible fathers and thus allowed both Kate and Alex character-development-forming arcs revolving around standing up to their toxic families and deciding to live their lives on their own terms.
But instead, Runaway Christmas Bride tries to give both Travis and Rick redemptive arcs, with both missing the mark due to Rick going way too deep into emotional abuse with Alex to have earned a redemption (made worse by that redemption starting in the midst of another self-serving tirade to his son) and Travis's redemption being predicated on the idea that his sole problem was being an overly protective father--when he was in actuality just as controlling and cruel as Rick and is hardly called out on that fact. Not to mention the fact that both mothers (played by Karen Kruper and Roz Murray) are left with no resolution whatsoever for their own nastiness and willingness to let their husbands be as awful as they want to their respective children.
The primary cast fares better, though not many of them make it out unscathed. While Kate remains likable and sympathetic throughout the entire film, both Mike and Jason fall into moments of becoming inexplicably unlikable. SPOILER ALERT Jason does so in particularly grating fashion by refusing to allow Kate to explain her crazy situation to him in the third act, instead opting to refuse to hear her out even after she helps him following a knee injury--with the fact that this constitutes the last twenty minutes of the film making it all the more frustrating. Spoilers Over Mike, meanwhile, alternates between acting like he truly cares about Kate and acting like his sole concern is his inheritance, and resort manager Becca (played with zeal by Fiona Vroom) flip-flops so badly that there are points when you can't tell whether or not she's supposed to be an antagonist.
It's a shame that Runaway Christmas Bride proves to be such a blunder story-wise, as the actors makes the most of the poor script in their performances. Busby brings her all to Kate as she finds herself going through a humiliating nightmare, with her more emotional scenes being the best of the movie. Milne and Mark Milburn make use of the few charming/emotional scenes they are allowed to have, and each play well of Busby in the scenes they share together. Vroom manages to bring some shades of depth to her otherwise confusing character and Christos Shaw actually succeeds in bringing a little comedy to the mix as "frat bro" type Mike--though his role is ultimately too minute for him to be utilized much.
Despite having a solid cast and being directed and written by people responsible for much better films, Runaway Christmas Bride is a mess in terms of writing, characterization, and even in terms of visuals. If you're in the mood for a holiday movie that has a comedic edge to it, look elsewhere because whatever comedy that Runaway Christmas Bride has is drowned out by its stale plot, broken writing, and characters that are more likely to inspire you to shove candy canes in your eyes rather than laugh or feel the Christmas spirit.
Score: 3 out of 10 M&M gingerbread men.