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Friday Film Review: 12 Men of Christmas

12 Men of Christmas (2009)
Genre: Romance
Grade: C-

I had no idea this movie existed until Phillipa Ashley was our featured “First Sale” back in November. It’s based on her first novel “Decent Exposure (aka Dating Mr. December)” though the action is moved from Cumbria, England to NYC and Montana in the US. And while I wouldn’t call it a total waste of time, it does fall under the category of “read the book. It’s better.”

EJ Baxter (Kristin Chenoweth) is a New York publicist who thinks she has it all: a great fiance, a fabulous job and she gets to live in New York City. It all falls apart when she catches her boss and her fiance in a stall in the ladies room during the firm’s Christmas party. Fired after she destroys her boss’s designer shoes, she’s out of work for months until offered a job in Kalispell, Montana promoting the town for corporate retreats.

Needing a change of scenery as well as a job, EJ heads out to the back of beyond and starts work. The people are friendly, the scenery – what we see of it – is gorgeous and she finds herself actually enjoying her work as she settles in and makes friends. When she learns that the local volunteer search and rescue needs to raise funds to buy new equipment, she devises a plan to have the men of the department pose for a calendar. Despite their initial skepticism, she sways all of them except the irascible Will Albrecht (Josh Hopkins), a wealthy local businessman with whom she’s had clashes already.

But when one man backs out, Will capitulates and poses as Mr. December. The two begin dating and are soon hot and heavy. But Big Misses abound in movies as well as romance books and one rears its ugly head just as EJ gets offered a position with her old NYC firm. Will the lure of the big city and her broken heart keep EJ and Will from a HEA?

Okay, so I’ve already advised you to read the book but I’ll say it again. The book is much better than the adaptation to a movie. Much of the screenplay and movie plot are taken straight from the book but there are a few differences. More time is spent on EJ’s past which caused her to go to Montana and on her persuading the men of the search and rescue group to pose for the calendar (lots of cute scenes here) so there is less time to develop the romance, expound on the breakup and bring EJ and Will back together. Since I had already read the book, I could mentally fill in the gaps but people new to the story will probably feel something is missing or being rushed and it is.

I do like that EJ’s character, while presented as a fish out of water, isn’t stuck up nor does she condescend to the natives. She obviously doesn’t quite fit in initially but she doesn’t attempt to force herself to nor does she stick her nose in the air and sneer. She makes friends and genuinely wants to do a good job as well as make sure the calendar succeeds – not just to boost herself in her job but because she wants her friends in the search and rescue to have the equipment they need to help the community.

Will’s character gets shafted as we see nothing from his POV and he has to act the meanie until the plot is ready for the romance to begin. Fans of “Pride and Prejudice” will immediately realize that his “I’m interested in you” speech is lifted from Darcy’s first proposal as EJ’s reaction to it taken from Elizabeth Bennett’s rejection of it. There’s even a truncated Wickham subplot as well. But there isn’t enough time spent on transitioning Will from being against the calendar to posing for it and we just have to accept that he’s been romantically interested in EJ for enough time that he’d be at the stage to start a relationship when they do.

The gorgeous scenery of Alberta, CA stands in for Montana and there are plenty of hunky men to ogle (note I’ve tried to include lots of ogling shots from the movie in the slideshow) but the only other actor I recognized is Anna Chlumsky (of “My Girl” 1 & 2 fame) who plays EJ’s new friend in Kalispell. The other actors are okay but obviously C listers at best.

There is a reason for the existence of the cliche about “a Lifetime Movie Network film” and this one demonstrates it perfectly. It’s a light weight, ‘made for TV’ production obviously aimed at romance readers who know the story tropes and who will be able to fill in the holes left in the plot by time constraints. It’s also clear that no one is going for Oscar worthy performances and that the budget is tight. It’s an okay time filler that offers some male eye candy and might be worth the effort if you happen across it on TV (see this schedule for showtimes) or want to put it in your Netflix queue but rather than seek it out, I would advise reading Phillipa Ashley’s book instead. C-

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

17 Comments

  1. ‘Dear Author’ happiness | Author Phillipa Ashley
    Dec 17, 2010 @ 06:33:07

    [...] a very interesting feature from Dear Author today on Dating Mr December and the movie. What do you [...]

  2. Tweets that mention Friday Film Review: 12 Men of Christmas | Dear Author -- Topsy.com
    Dec 17, 2010 @ 06:42:17

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Phillipa Ashley, dearauthor. dearauthor said: NewPost: Friday Film Review: 12 Men of Christmas http://bit.ly/h7O9zx [...]

  3. Phillipa Ashley
    Dec 17, 2010 @ 06:51:56

    Jayne – I’ve been fascinated by your comments. I guess I could write a thesis about the process of having your book made into a movie. On a lighter note, I was delighted they did it, if only for the chance to go on set and have lunch with most of the calendar boys featured in your montage. Despite the steaming hot plate of Alberta beef the caterers served up, funnily enough, I couldn’t eat a thing…

  4. Lada
    Dec 17, 2010 @ 07:35:39

    I guess I have to disagree with Jayne. As someone who didn’t first read the book and also doesn’t expect “oscar worthy” performances from FaLaLaLa Lifetime, I think this is a cheerful little movie. Definitely lighthearted and nothing to take seriously but I kinda figured that from the title. My opinion mostly has to do with Kristin Chenoweth who I think is terrific & is the main reason I watched this to begin with.

    Great to know the book is better and I look forward to reading it now!

  5. Jayne
    Dec 17, 2010 @ 07:39:45

    @Lada: Watch for my review of the book to be posted later this morning. Yeah, I can do the tie in thing!

    I think the movie is what it is: easy entertainment which is fun spirited. You could certainly do worse as far as holiday movies are concerned.

  6. Jayne
    Dec 17, 2010 @ 07:43:50

    @Phillipa Ashley: Ooh, now that would have been a fun lunch. I’m sure that the process of “book to movie” is a story unto itself. Got any interesting tidbits to share?

  7. Phillipa Ashley
    Dec 17, 2010 @ 07:57:41

    Jayne – lots (winking smiley.) When we arrived at the set which was in a wooded area, it was cold and pouring with rain – and it all looked and felt remarkably like the Lake District where the book is set. My husband, daughter and I were all wearing our English wet weather gear and got out of the car, looking and feeling rather confused and sheepish. Was this really happening to us?

    Anyway, we were shown into a trailer full of bored and equally wet people and told ‘not to look so scared’. Then it dawned on us, they thought we were extras!

    I was so embarrassed but had to say the immortal words: “Um. I’m the author’ or we’d have ended up in the film! They then drove us to the set and we watched the filming of the Locker Room scene and later, the Bar scene. The real bar is owned by an English woman from Ambleside where my book it set.. spooky…

  8. DianeN
    Dec 17, 2010 @ 08:27:10

    For anyone who wants to see it, there are 3 showings on Lifetime next week–9 PM on 12/20, 8 PM on Christmas Eve, and midnight on Christmas Day. I might check it out just because I love Kristin Chenoweth.

  9. Debs Carr
    Dec 17, 2010 @ 08:34:17

    I loved this book and can’t wait to see the film. Unfortunately we have to wait quite a bit as I live in the UK.

  10. Jayne
    Dec 17, 2010 @ 09:43:36

    @Phillipa Ashley:

    I was so embarrassed but had to say the immortal words: “Um. I'm the author' or we'd have ended up in the film!

    You should have told them you wanted to be extras too!

    They then drove us to the set and we watched the filming of the Locker Room scene and later, the Bar scene.

    Roar! The Locker Room scene….yum.

    The real bar is owned by an English woman from Ambleside where my book it set.. spooky…

    LOL, I bet she got a kick out of it.

  11. Jayne
    Dec 17, 2010 @ 09:47:24

    @DianeN: Am I the only one who the schedule link isn’t working for? Anyway, thanks for posting the airtimes, Diane.

  12. Jayne
    Dec 17, 2010 @ 09:49:35

    @Debs Carr: The whole movie isn’t posted but if you go to youtube and type in “12 men of christmas” there are some previews up.

  13. Darlene Marshall
    Dec 17, 2010 @ 10:17:21

    I enjoyed the beefcake, especially since my “Men of Cricket” calendar is about to expire.[g] Thanks for the review, though it does make me wonder, again, why so few top notch romance novels get made into movies?

  14. RebeccaJ
    Dec 17, 2010 @ 11:12:01

    I’m so glad you posted this because I was contemplating buying this book, but I hated the movie, and that made me hesitant to buy the book. I couldn’t stand Chenowith’s little girl voice. And I think when the movie doesn’t work, you tend to discount the book. But I LOVED A Season For Miracles, despite the fact that the movies is just …eh…so now I’m going to buy this book. I was HOPING it would be better than the movie:)

  15. Jayne
    Dec 17, 2010 @ 11:41:56

    @Darlene Marshall: The beefcake in the film is mighty fine. Though most of them keep at least a pair of shorts on – unlike the book in which they totally strip down and just use strategic props for modesty.

  16. RebeccaJ
    Dec 17, 2010 @ 14:23:18

    A really great marketing strategy would have been to give a beefcake calendar with this book….:) Maybe I should hold out for that..LOL!

  17. Heather
    Dec 18, 2010 @ 01:14:38

    Now see I think the movie is better then the book, and the movie is pure fluff. But cute fun fluff. Like Lada I watched it because of Kristin Chenoweth who I have loved for a while now.

    But to be fair the book isn’t bad it just isn’t my usual genre that I enjoy reading. Very sorry Ms. Ashley.

    Heather

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