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TV Review: Christmas in Canaan on the Hallmark Channel

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Growing up, I looked forward to Christmas movies that warmed my heart and made me cry. The movies were my benchmark of how well off I was and how much I was loved. Miracle on 34th Street, The Bells of St. Mary's, and It’s a Wonderful Life put me in the holiday mood like nothing else could. There was usually a tearful scene when someone choose to do the right thing and do unto others. The newest Hallmark Channel Original Movie, Christmas in Canaan, from a book co-written by Grammy Award winner Kenny Rogers and Donald Davenport, is a story of a unique friendship between two boys, one white and one black.

The movie focuses on two families. The first family consists of Daniel Burton (Billy Ray Cyrus), a widowed father of three children, 10-year-old DJ (Zak Ludwig), nine-year-old Sarah (Jessica McLeod), and three-year-old Bobber (Darien Provost ), along with Daniel's father-in-law, Wylie Jerritt (Tom Heaton). The other family is the Freeman family, Miss Eunice Freeman (Candus Churchill) and her 10-year-old grandson, Rodney (Jaishon Fisher).

The boys are polar opposites; Rodney is a bookworm and DJ struggles to complete his homework. DJ has two siblings, a dad, and grandfather and Rodney’s parents are nowhere to be seen; DJ is white and Rodney is black.

Hallmark Channel Original Movie: Christmas in CanaanAs a way to combat the negativity and racial slurs that Daniel kept hearing from his son, he made an outrageous suggestion to Miss Eunice — to have the boys spend one week together. Since it was the early 1960s and segregation was still observed in Canaan, this formula violated the cultural rules of the day. Like many bold ideas, this one was a success. Their friendship blossomed over the love of a puppy.

This movie felt more like an After School Special with teachable moments rather than a Christmas special. I kept finding reasons to wander out of the room, only to be disappointed to see more scripted movements, words, and actions when I returned. This movie had the outline of a great movie – young children, friendship, shared values, overcoming poverty and yet there was no sense of emotional connection. I wanted to be sucked into the scene (any scene) and come away with tears.

The movie picks up five years later when Rodney and DJ are young men with a tight friendship and strong history. As their world expands and becomes more interesting, so does the movie… but only for a brief moment. Things turn out right and people do the right thing but there's no juice behind the film, no spark and no reason for me to tune in to get my Christmas 'fix.'

Christmas in Canaan, a Hallmark Channel Original Movie, premieres on Saturday December 12.

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About Marge Katherine Mercurio

  • theresa

    I loved this movie cause of how it showed the caring between two families no matter the race and at a time when we all should remember each other

  • Chelsea

    This is quite possibly the worst movie in the history of film. I just watched 20 minutes of it on the Hallmark channel and I wanted to vomit. I’ve never seen anything so horribly written in my life.

    For starters, it has the tired “wholesome white family saves poor, defenseless minority child” plot line. Except the twist here is that it isn’t a child at all, but an adult man who for some reason is incapable of living on his own.

    There’s a terrible scene in which Billy Ray gives his family a heartwarming speech about how when he was a child, his father didn’t have a lot of money, but he was still able to provide his family with Christmas gifts. B.R.C. then proceeds to give each member of his family a beautifully wrapped gift, with the implication that they too will receive the Christmas of their dreams.

    So the family unwraps their packages, and lo and behold, what do they get? Advertisements ripped from a newspaper of the things they wanted for Christmas. Not an actual gift. A picture. Of course the family eats this up and acts all grateful. I expected Rodney to start throwing punches but he’s touched too, which makes me wonder if perhaps they adopted him because he’s not mentally capable of living on his own.

    This is truly the worst movie ever. You were charitable in calling it an after school special. It’s nothing more than disgusting bile. Not only is it not much of a Christmas movie, it’s an affront to the Baby Jesus. I’m going to go watch It’s a Wonderful Life 200 times now to restore my love of this holiday and cleanse my now polluted mind.

  • dottie

    i like christmas in cannan . this movie shows that we can all do wonderous things for others exspcially at christmas . also though out the year . the boys colors are not what the movie is about .

  • lola

    Response to Chelsea’s comments;

    I think you must be from another planet, this things really happen in real life… the story is actually inspiration to a lot of people, especially when holidays is fast approaching.. you should read the book few more times and watch the entire movie before you explode and make terrible comments. people like you makes me want to throw up..ignorant!!!!!

  • Earle

    I watched the 2011 movie on Hallmark of the Christmas in Canaan, with Billy Ray where the boys are all grown and he meets a doctor who is she