Recently, I reviewed the hilariously spot-on holly-jolly spoof Cup of Cheer. The comedy did such a good job calling out tropes, clichés, and lazy writing found in Christmas movies. What it didn’t do, and what I realized after watching My Dad’s Christmas Date, is that Cup of Cheer didn’t poke fun at deceptive movies that bait viewers with seasonal qualities to dress up an otherwise dismal story. If My Dad’s Christmas Date didn’t occasionally show Christmas lights or garland, you would’ve thought this film took place in February.
David (Jeremy Piven) silently mourns the loss of his wife, while his daughter Jules (Olivia-Mai Barrett) quietly observes her father sombrely drifting off on a daily basis. Although they have empathy for each other, they rarely see eye-to-eye with conversations often resorting to sarcastic looks and remarks. But with Jules’ heart eclipsing her angst, she secretly plays matchmaker for her dad through dating apps. As Jules searches to find a companion for her dad, the arranged meet-ups remain a secret to David (even during the “date”).
The matchmaking plan is a key component to making this movie work, but the concept never truly takes off because of a poor execution by its writers (Brian Marchetti, Jack Marchetti, Toby Toriesse) and a director (Mick Davis) who is unable to pull the story through nonetheless. These improper dates are hardly given a chance to build momentum for the characters involved. David’s ignorance immediately sours the atmosphere and snuffs out the misunderstanding’s potential. David eventually receives a longer date with an old friend he wants to reunite with (played by Genevieve Capovilla), but he abruptly ends this conversation in a desperate attempt for the film to end the scene. Then again, David is a confusing character who isn’t convincingly motivated.
Speaking of puzzling the audience, even though they are both grieving the loss of the same family member from different perspectives, David and Jules are identical with how they decide to process their emotions. There’s no unique dynamic to this, and it often feels as if Piven and Barrett are playing clones of each other. This mediocrity results in a boring movie that’s simply going through the motions.
While My Dad’s Christmas Date is as disappointing as an empty stocking on Christmas morning, in the spirit of the holiday season, I would like to take the high road and conclude on how this flawed flick still benefits Jeremy Piven’s acting career. His character is cheaply written, but Piven plays this soft-spoken fatherly role really well. Previously known for his high-strung performances (ranging from kids fare like Spy Kids: All the Time in the World to his Golden Globe winning role on HBO’s Entourage), Jeremy Piven shows that he’s now willing to dig into untouched vulnerability and make an effort to connect with introverted, less “cool” characters. However, his brand of shot-calling boisterousness occasionally comes out in My Dad’s Christmas Date – exposing that his New Year’s resolution may involve improving his ability to commit outside of his natural element.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie