2020 has put a crimp in a great many things, among them, going to the theater. And while no one in the area has likely missed the Great White Way, if you're a fan of community theater, there's been a definite void in your life. But fear not, Dolly Parton has come to the rescue with Christmas on the Square. Not only has the Tennessee Angel donated $1 million toward developing a vaccine for the COVID scourge and released a new holiday album, but she's written 14 songs and produced this Netflix feature in an effort to provide a brief respite from our woes. Simple and sincere, this Christmas story sports the kind of exuberance found in community theater productions and reminds us that hope exists in dire times and redemption is possible, even for those of us who are most lost.
Without a doubt, Fullerville is the singingest, dancingest town you've ever seen. The citizens there would rather warble than speak and subscribe to the notion that you should never walk when you can hop, skip and prance. It's an enthusiastic, happy place, never more so than at Christmas. However, the citizens of this lovely burg have a humbug in their midst in the person of Regina Fuller (Christina Baranski), a former resident who's come back to get her father's affairs in order after his passing. Seems he was the man who founded and owns the town, a place his daughter couldn't wait to leave when she was young. Resentful over having been called back and hiding a secret hurt, she takes it upon herself to serve eviction notices to the local shopkeepers, telling them the town is being sold to a company that develops malls. Thank goodness there's an angel (Parton) in town intent on putting things right.
All of this occurs at a breakneck pace, the film running a brisk 98 minutes, propelled by Parton's upbeat melodies and director Debbie Allen's energetic choreography. Light Your Lamp is a moving, inspirational tune about spreading good will that doesn't lay it on too thick, similar to Everyone Needs an Angel which helps lift angel-to-be and Regina's assistant, Felicity (Jeanine Mason), when she needs it most. Of a different vein, but the highlight of the film is Keeper of Memories, a genuinely poignant number in which Regina's lost love Carl (Treat Williams) reminds her that the past is worth remembering.
Those who are lactose intolerant should stay away as the film is so cheesy its likely to get an adverse reaction from those afflicted. Yet in the end, it's all the better for embracing simplistic sentimentality and running with it. The entire cast channels the kind of enthusiasm you find in a community theater troupe intent on putting their love of performing into every high note they sing and every dance step they take.
Parton's adherence to the Christian faith and positive thinking are evident throughout as well as her belief in the strength of community. To be sure, there will be Scrooges who poo-poo the simplistic nature of Square, yet it's the sort of movie we need right now. With so much enmity in the air, a refresher on the power of faith, hope and charity is needed. Yes, Christmas on the Square is corny and has more than a few eye-rolling moments. No matter, it proves to be a modest instrument of healing, its simple honesty and genuine heart being the balm we need right now.
Christmas on the Square is currently streaming on Netflix.