Dec 14 - 20, 2006 
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Idiot Box

A Lump of Coal

A Perfect Day on TNT

By Devin D. O’Leary

The way I figure it, at a relative 98.6 degrees, my heart is sufficiently temperate. I don’t require regular heartwarming. Judging from the number of saccharine-filled films Hollywood produces each year, some people may need the occasional heartwarming. I do not, thank you very much.

It is, however, the holiday season. There is no more appropriate time of year for the absorption of schmaltzy, sap-covered, treacle-sweet, feel-good, tear-jerking, heartwarming films about families and cute kids and angels and small furry animals. Therefore, in the spirit of the season, I’ve decided to suck it up and watch one heartwarming holiday film. Later on next week, I may opt to stare at one Thomas Kinkade Christmas card and sigh contentedly. ... But don’t hold your breath.

A Perfect Day is based on the best-selling novel by Richard Paul Evans (who wrote the similarly “charming” The Christmas Box). The film is a Johnson & Johnson Spotlight Presentation. In other words: It’s a certified heartwarmer through and through. The only thing that could have made it any better is if it were showing on the Hallmark Channel.

The film stars Rob Lowe (who, given his videotaped hotel room sex romp with underaged groupies at the 1988 Democratic National Convention, probably isn’t the most family-friendly choice). Lowe plays Robert Harlan, a mopey husband/father who gets fired from his radio station sales job just before Christmas. His strong-willed wife (Paget Brewster from “Friends” and “Huff”) tells him to take some time off and finish writing his long-promised novel. He does, spinning his own troubled childhood (dad was mean) and his wife’s recent trauma (her dad died) into one of those weepy tearjerkers that guys like ... oh, I don’t know, Richard Paul Evans would write.

Miraculously, Harlan sells the damn thing and in very short order becomes a world-famous scribe. Everybody, it seems, loves the book. Even Larry King, who’s such an attention whore he actually makes a cameo in the movie. (Oprah, at least, has the good grace to stay away.) Almost instantly, Harlan turns into a total dick, ignoring his family, acting pretentious, dumping his agent and maybe even putting the moves on a sexy publicity agent. In case you didn’t get the message, there’s a shot of the guy’s poor little daughter, dressed as a turkey for her school’s Thanksgiving play, trying to recite her lines, staring out at her daddy’s conspicuously empty seat in the audience and threatening to burst into tears. He promised he’d be there. But he’s not. Daddy’s a jerk.

As if daddy weren’t primed enough to learn his holiday lesson, Christopher Lloyd shows up, looking like the Crypt Keeper, as a mysterious stranger. (Christmas lesson movies always need a mysterious stranger.) Lloyd tells our author he’s going to kick the bucket by Christmas and he’d better get his affairs in order by then.

There’s a whole lot of moping around, plenty of maudlin music and a silly plot twist involving Lloyd’s character--all of which must be endured before the teary Christmas Eve reunion. By that point, I was neither heartwarmed nor tear-jerked. I was, however, quite drunk. Of course, individual results may vary.

A Perfect Day premieres Monday, Dec. 18, on TNT.

 
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