Director: Craig Pryce
Cast: Catherine Bell, Chris Potter
Watch The Good Witch’s Gift online in the UK: Netflix UK
We unwrap a different Christmas film from Netflix’s dubious seasonal selection every day. For 12 days. It’s the 12 Days of Netflix.
“When you care enough to send the very best.” That’s the slogan for Hallmark Cards, Inc., but it’s one that hasn’t passed over to its TV network, which has turned the word ‘Hallmark’ from a seal of a high standard of quality to a signature stamp of mediocrity. Hallmark TV: for whenever the forgettably bland will do. Nowhere is that truer than its Christmas movies, which are the stuff of legend – or, at least, would be, if they weren’t all so terribly forgettable.
There are, however, some franchises that have clearly stood out from the pack enough to earn a sequel or five. In the case of The Good Witch, a family drama about – yes – a good witch, there have now been 10 sequels since its 2008 debut. It’s only inevitably that at least one of those should be a Christmas movie tie-in, and so we have The Good Witch’s Gift (or The Good Witch’s Wedding), depending on how festive you want to be.
The film, the third in the long-running series, picks up events in the run-up to big two-five, as Cassie Nightingale (Catherine Bell) and Chief of Police Russell (Chris Potter) have settled down in Middleton, following his proposal of marriage. But Russell, despite Cassie being the apparent love of his life, can’t thing of anything to buy her. So he decides on the only logical solution: get married on Christmas Eve, despite it being just 7 days away.
Of course, things don’t go smoothly and the couple find themselves facing all kinds of hurdles. They need a cake at only a couple of hours’ notice. The vicar has car troubles. There’s a paperwork mix-up. The ring goes missing. And, to cap it all of, there’s an old villain back in town: Leon Deeks, a man he put in jail for robbing a bank 10 years ago. So who else should Cassie happen to pick to be the local town Santa?
But try as the film might, none of this actually adds up to any thing remotely interesting or exciting: there’s small-town drama and there’s small-town drama, but The Good Witch’s Gift only manages the ‘small-town’ part; any hope of drama is sapped by the script’s bland dialogue, which turns all hints of conflict into easy resolutions and all possible sources of tension into sentimental arcs of redemption.
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of sentiment at Christmas time, but this is poorly crafted sentiment that doesn’t allow the cast to sell the emotional stakes, even in the most intimate and low-key scenarios. Unsubtle close-ups of people learning life lessons while convenient lectures are delivered off-screen and coincidences that solve unforeseen obstacles within minutes of them arising are just some of the crimes that the script commits.
Catherine Bell and Chris Potter are clearly at home in their roles and they sell our lead couple’s romance well enough – Bell is clearly enjoying the cheesy conversations that mostly end in her making a knowing pun or heavily foreshadowing a thing to come, and the filmmakers clearly know she’s the best thing in this, as she’s starred in every Good Witch film they’ve come up with. How frustrating, then, that even she can’t conjure up a way to redeem this unfunny comedy and undramatic drama – or magic up some supporting characters that resemble human beings rather than two-dimensional crayon doodles that vaguely look like them. The result is so magically forgettable that it disappears from your brain the second you’ve stopped watching. Could it be… witchcraft? If it is, nobody in this town seems to care.
The Good Witch’s Gift is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.