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11.26.08

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Phaedra

Thomas Kinkade's Christmas Cottage

One disc; Lionsgate; $19.98

Reviewed by Richard von Busack


Back in the 1970s, Michael Campus, the director of this movie, put my life in peril. His film The Passover Plot played at the Pacific Beverly Hills Theater where I worked. We were threatened by the usual fundamentalist crackpots, ready to bomb that grand edifice if we didn't ditch the blasphemous film suggesting that Jesus (soft-core porn czar Zalman King!) only slumbered on the cross rather than dying, having been slipped a Mickey in the famous vinegar-soaked sponge. I could have died because of his very bad movie and now Campus is trying to kill me again, this time with boredom. In only the most Hallmarkian terms, this purports to be the story of how Morgan Hill's Thomas Kinkade began his career, painting his sinisterly glowing houses of horrors. Apparently, Jared Padalecki's Kinkade learned to paint good in order to help his mom (Marcia Gay Harden) keep her house. As a young man, he was mentored by real-life artist Glen Wessler (Peter O'Toole, in an act of sunset-years prostitution equivalent to Laurence Olivier taking a role in The Betsy). Creating a false dichotomy between art that critics like and ordinary people enjoy, O'Toole coughs up lines like "A mural of Placerville! It's your chance to illuminate what you love." Pitched at families dulled by television, the movie goes a little blue to keep Dad awake: Kiersten Warren flashes some cleavage as the town tart, and Chris Elliott attempts to salt things up in a subplot about the Christmas pageant. Includes commentary tracks, deleted scenes and "Home for Christmas: A Conversation With Thomas Kinkade," 10 minutes of the artist arguing for his art. Apparently, the reason why his houses appeal is that "the lights are always on." It's worked for Motel 6.


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