Noel (December 19/05)
And you thought Elf was sentimental.
Noel marks actor Chazz Palminteri's directorial debut and his shameless love for uplifting stories couldn't be more evident.
The film follows several characters in the days leading up to Christmas, as they confront what it really means to be happy. A few of the more prominent figures are: Rose (Susan Sarandon), a cheerful sort whose lack of love in her life is getting her down; Mike (Paul Walker), a quick-tempered cop on the verge of losing his fiancée (Penelope Cruz); and Artie (Alan Arkin), a restaurant owner who is convinced that Mike is actually the reincarnation of his dead wife.
It's not exactly subtle stuff, and David Hubbard's script throws in every cliché you could imagine. And though the film doesn't have much to offer in the way of surprises, there's something kind of entertaining - even sweet - about the way everything plays out. Palminteri seems to have accepted the heavy-handed nature of the screenplay and embraced it whole-heartedly.
Noel isn't destined to join the ranks of classic Christmas films like A Christmas Story or Die Hard, but the film's impossibly naive vibe proves difficult to resist.