Susan Sarandon, Penelope Cruz, Paul Walker, Alan Arkin and Robin Williams star in "Noel," a Christmas movie with the strangest marketing/release campaign ever.
"Noel" was released in November at a few theaters across the country, and a week later was released on a special DVD called Flexplay. For $5.00 plus shipping, you can buy it off Amazon, the catch being that it explodes after 48 hours. Okay, so it doesn't actually explode, but it stops working. To spread word-of-mouth, the movie was also shown for one night on TNT, and that is where I saw it. Personally, I find this Flexplay stuff really disturbing. Not only would I not want to spend $7.00 after shipping to essentially rent a movie, but it just adds even more waste to our already wasteful American lives. If you don't want to go through the hassle of returning movies to the store, join Netflix or Blockbuster or Wal-Mart's service. Also, how would you like to buy the DVD, open it up and then have your DVD player break down for two days - to watch the movie, you'd have to buy another copy.
Furthermore, "Noel" really deserves a better fate than this cheesy release scheme. While it is no different than countless movies before it, it's still fun, lighthearted and entertaining... for a Christmas movie. The movie has a good enough cast to attract enough people to theaters; it would definitely have made more than Ben Affleck's "Surviving Christmas." On the contrary, some would say it would make a good Christmas Eve television movie; that's not a bad idea, either. But Flexplay? Come on!
Anyway, to the movie... "Noel" follows the lives of a few different characters on Christmas Eve. Sarandon stars as Rose, a single, middle-aged woman who has spent much of the last decade caring for her incapacitated mother. She doesn't really like Christmas because she's lonely and is unwilling to allow herself to be happy, even when opportunity presents itself. Walker, meanwhile, is Mike, an engaged cop who has apparently pulled the last string with his girlfriend, played by Cruz, because of his jealousy. He begins to realize his destructive behavior, however, when an old man (Arkin) approaches him claiming that Mike is his wife reincarnated.
Needless to say, "Noel" is your pretty standard Christmas fare. You know the characters are going to end up happy in the end, and, like with many Christmas movies, there is a bit of mysticism involved (Williams has something to do with that). If you like touchy-feely Christmas movies, "Noel" is a good one; thankfully, it never gets too heavy-handed or sappy.
"Noel" would be a good movie to watch around the holidays; unfortunately, it is available neither in theaters nor on television - you have to buy it and watch it within 48 hours. For the price, delivery time and watching window, it isn't worth it; when it does make it to ordinary DVD, it might be worth checking out next year.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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