The Soft Shoe Shuffle
Have you ever seen a DVD which always seems to be in the bargain bucket? I have and every time I went shopping and browsed the rack for DVDs I would see "The Christmas Shoes" being sold for just a £1. Now for some reason I never bothered with the movie until it ended up in a Christmas boxset that I was given and I had no excuse not to watch it. Well on one hand "The Christmas Shoes" was exactly what I was expecting, a poorly edited TV movie which was incredibly sweet and at times incredibly cheesy but on the other it took me by surprise because whilst saccharine it had a genuinely moving storyline which in the end over powers the sweetness. In fact whilst some might cringe at the emotional manipulation which goes on in "The Christmas Shoes" I don't mind because it moved me, in fact if you are prone to shedding tears I can guarantee this movie will have you reaching for the tissues.
Ever since he was a child Robert Layton (Rob Lowe - Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me) has been driven to succeed and that hasn't changed as a husband and father but it means that not only is he a workaholic but his drive to be the best and have the best is not shared by his wife Kate (Maria del Mar). When Robert decides they are going to move to a bigger home and Kate will need to return to work he sets up an interview for her only to be annoyed when she doesn't show up. Kate had a reason to miss it as her new friend Maggie Andrews (Kimberly Williams-Paisley - Father of the Bride Part II) has just been diagnosed with heart disease and as she can no longer take the school choir for practice asked Kate to take over. Maggie's illness impacts her family especially her son Nathan (Max Morrow) who is desperate to earn enough money to buy his mum a beautiful pair of shoes for Christmas like the ones she remembers. Nathan's desire to buy the shoes and Robert's workaholic tendencies leads to them crossing paths on Christmas Eve.
There is a surprising amount going on in "The Christmas Shoes" as we have two storylines which interweave. The first storyline is that of Robert and how his drive to be better at what ever he does is forcing a wedge between him and Kate as she is not as driven as him to have it all. In many ways we are talking the workaholic father who has an epiphany storyline, that is no shocker as it is obvious but the way it gets there is a journey full of surprises and depth as we discover from his mother how as a young boy he was driven to be the best baseball player.
But Robert's story interweaves with that of Maggie as various characters paths cross be it Nathan being looked after by his teacher Dalton who lives next to Robert's mum or Kate striking up a friendship with Maggie at a school concert. But Maggie's story is the touching one as we watch her and her family deal with the heart problem which makes her weaker and weaker as Christmas gets ever closer. And whilst we have Maggie's deteriorating health we also have Nathan desperately trying to raise enough money to buy her pretty shoes for Christmas before it is too late. Now in fairness the whole shoe storyline leads to the movies cringiest scene which features an unbearable song about buying Christmas Shoes but ignoring that it is a touching and highly emotional storyline.
Now the thing is that "The Christmas Shoes" is a made for TV movie and a Christmas one at that and not only does it suffer from some rough editing but also from being incredibly sweet. Scenes of carol singing, the snow falling on Robert's hair as he has an epiphany, the friendships which form it all combines to what amounts to an overdose of manufactured sweetness and emotion. But the power of the interweaving storylines over rides what is heavy manipulation to deliver an emotional experience which beneath the sweetness actually holds a surprisingly sad storyline.
What this all boils down to is that "The Christmas Shoes" isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea not just because it is a very sweet, occasionally cheesy and often emotionally manipulative but because it does have a surprisingly sad storyline. Yet if you are fond of made for TV movies which make you reach for the tissues then I am sure it will entertain you.