Misses the Mark
Mrs. Miracle is like two movies rolled into one.
The better half is a likable romance about a widowed musician (and now-single father of two) who learns to live again through an improbable romance with his children’s substitute Christmas pageant director.
Seth Webster is played nicely by James Van Der Beek, whom you may remember as a regular on Dawson’s Creek. Seth is one of those movie fathers who are all too recognizable from real life: inexplicably focused on material success, leaving the care and nurturing of his children to his spouse… or, when she dies, a string of nannies who are predictably terrorized and nonplussed by his two rambunctious boys. (The latter bit is not so recognizable from real life, but rather from the cinematic staple known as “The Nannie Film.”)
Erin Karpluk, star of the TV series Being Erica, is an exceedingly warm and captivating presence as Reba, the reluctantly drafted pageant director. She reminds me of a young Teri Garr crossed with Kathleen Quinlan—Garr’s simple, wry lightness of delivery, and Quinlan’s dark, serious depth and beauty. If the film had centered more on Karpluk’s character and Reba’s relationship with Seth, I would have been fairly happy with this film.
Where the film goes wrong, however, is where it absolutely has to go right to work.
The problem is with the nanny angle. We’ve seen this angle done so well so many times before, with variations: Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and, more recently, Nanny McPhee. To make the genre work, the audience has to really care about the children and their plight—and find the governess or nanny irresistible.
In this case, though, while the performances of Valin Shinyei and Michael Strusievici as the Webster boys and Doris Roberts as the title character (Mrs. Merkle) are decent enough, the movie doesn’t spend enough time with them for us to care much. The boys’ impishness is established in such a throw-away manner that there’s very little at stake when Doris Roberts shows up—and the title is a dead giveaway that This Nanny is Extra Special. An attentive audience is likely to feel like it is getting played, not played to.
Mrs. Miracle is adapted from a book by Debbie Macomber, an author with whose work I am completely unfamiliar. It’s possible that fans of the book may be completely on board with Roberts, Merkle, and director Michael Scott’s treatment of the story. I’m also completely unfamiliar with Scott’s work on Touched by an Angel and his other TV fare, so his fans may be perfectly happy with Miracle, too. The film’s emphasis on rediscovering love, magic, and passion is also most welcome in the Christmas season.
But if this is your first exposure to Macomber and Scott, I think that, like me, you’ll wish you simply got more of Karpluk and Van Der Beek in your Christmas stocking.
Mrs. Miracle is unrated, having originated as a TV movie, but it’s pretty tame stuff. I can think of reasons to be offended by the movie, but none that would warrant a rating.
Courtesy of a national publicist, Greg screened a promotional copy of Mrs. Miracle.