One of the biggest problems writers encounter when adapting a children's book to film is filling time. For the most part, children's stories are short (usually 50 pages or less), while feature length films run around 80 minutes and up. One of the newest kid book adaptations ("The Christmas Miracle Of Jonathan Toomey") has its moments, but can't overcome the script's shortcomings.
The story, based on Susan Wojciechowski's book of the same name, centers on a mother and son (Susan and Thomas) whom are forced to move in with a relative when the two tragically lose their husband/father. When Thomasaccidentally leaves behind his father's hand carved nativity set, he and his mother seek out the help of a mysterious grumpy loner woodcarver by the name of Jonathan Toomey. In a typical Christmas movie fashion, all 3 people wind up helping each other work through their emotional problems.
"The Christmas Miracle Of Jonathan Toomey" may have good natured themes about love, healing, the kindness of others, and faith, but the story is a little too thin for a feature length movie. One of the benefits of adapting a relatively small story is having the opportunity to expand and explore both the plot and the characters more deeply. However, writer/director Bill Clark never really seems to capitalize on that notion. We essentially only see the characters grieve briefly before moving on with their lives. But where exactly is the family and Toome headed? Clark simply makes the story too constricted thereby leaving little room for character development and more scenes involving Toomey carving wood. In addition, I felt the story was too much of a re-working of other popular Christmas tales such as "A Christmas Carol" and "Home Alone." How many sappy "grumpy old hermit sees the light" films can one see in a lifetime?
The acting is mixed. Tom Berenger gives a performance fitting for his character, but one can't help but wonder what is going through his mind when he grumbles and stares into space. Was he having flashbacks of the good ol' days of his career? Luke Ward-Wilkinson (who plays the child Thomas) is utterly obnoxious at first (we're talking Jake Lloyd obnoxious), but he becomes more tolerable in the last half hour. Joely Richardson gives the best performance here as the mother of Thomas. It's too bad her character in "Nip/Tuck" isn't as personable and likeable as her role in this film.
On one final note, I have to hand it to Bill Clark for his fine recreation of the World War 1 time period. The costumes, props, houses all appeared authentic and suckered the viewer into that era. I do, however, have to question the inclusion of a Steve Earle song montage. Sure Earle is a great underrated musician, but his song is entirely out of place in a period piece film.
The widescreen picture contains a few spots of grain, but generally the picture quality looks pleasant enough throughout most of the film.
The English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track isn't going to win any awards for the BEST. AUDIO. TRACK. EVER., but the sound quality is decent enough. The dialogue and score are both clear to hear.
No extras on this disk. Bah-Humbug!
"The Christmas Miracle Of Jonathan Toomey" is by no means a Christmas classic, but it's a touching, kind-hearted story. Worth a rent.
Film and television enthusiast Nick Lyons recently had his first book published titled "Attack of the Sci-Fi Trivia." It is available on Amazon.com.