Eloise at Christmastime (December 7/04)
Though it was evidently filmed back-to-back with Eloise at the Plaza, Eloise at Christmastime is a marked improvement over its predecessor. This is primarily due to less of an emphasis on the title character's shenanigans, which - as that film proved - tend to become tiresome rather quickly. Instead, Elizabeth Chandler's screenplay introduces several intriguing supporting characters - while still making room for several familiar faces.
At the film's core, though, is Eloise (played by Sofia Vassilieva) - a carefree six-year-old who lives in the Plaza Hotel with her faithful Nanny (Julie Andrews). Eloise's existence seems to revolve entirely around the Plaza, and indeed, her daily schedule involves pestering virtually everyone that works there. Some don't mind the intrusion - particularly a kind-hearted hotel employee/struggling actor named Bill (Gavin Creel) - while others would like nothing more than for Eloise to vacate the premises immediately and permanently. One of the more prominent subplots involves the hotel manager's daughter, Rachel (Sarah Topham), and her impending wedding to a jerk named Brooks (Rick Roberts) - even though she still clearly has feelings for Bill. Naturally, Eloise takes it upon herself to right this wrong, despite (or maybe because of) Nanny's objections.
Though Eloise at Christmastime is just as forgettable as its predecessor, there's enough going on here to keep most viewers somewhat entertained. And this is in spite of the fact that Eloise remains a surprisingly obnoxious central character, hopelessly spoiled and accustomed to getting exactly what she wants. It's not much of a stretch to imagine that parents must be horrified by the success of this character, as Eloise is far from an appropriate role model for kids. The film does occasionally attempt to humanize Eloise - particularly by giving her an absent mother to pine for - but really, she's a walking cartoon.
Fortunately, the many other storylines are intriguing enough to hold our interest - especially the one featuring Bill and Rachel's would-be romance. It helps that Creel and Topham are both very charismatic performers, turning these incredibly cliched characters into figures that are genuinely worth rooting for. The film's heavy emphasis on Christmas and the spirit of the holidays makes it an appropriate rental for this time of year, though there's certainly no confusing it for classic noel fare (ie A Christmas Story).