Set primarily on a ski resort owned by a Native American tribe, this amusing film features appealing co-stars, quirky supporting characters, and a story that warms your heart. Just like the screwball pitch this genre is named after, the movie goes in unexpected directions.
Manager Ray Clouds on Fire (Timothy Vahle) wants desperately to obtain a high rating for Sky Mountain in an important travel guide. His chance comes when the guide’s representative is scheduled for an incognito visit right before Christmas. Ray works hard to get the hotel and his unique staff ready for this important visitor, but the wrong person ends up receiving his carefully prepared VIP treatment. It’s no wonder guest Tina Little Hawk (Mariana Tosca) feels surprised at being given such a gorgeous suite and so much attention from Ray. Tina also makes a mistake about someone’s identity. She thinks Ray is her pen pal, the man she’s come to Sky Mountain to meet -- but that person just happens to be Joe Clouds on Fire (Sam Vlahos), Ray’s irascible father instead. Comic mayhem ensues.
After their feelings for each other grow into a full-blown romance, Ray and Tina are forced to face the truth about what’s happening -- and they react like children finding coal in their stockings on Christmas morning. As in most screwball comedies, a funny battle of the sexes takes place. Vahle and Tosca play these leading roles perfectly. Their on-screen chemistry sizzles, and they look wonderful together. Vahle combines Jimmy Stewart-like sensitivity with Cary Grant-like comic timing, while the lovely Tosca oozes old-time movie star glamour.
What would a screwball comedy be without great character actors? How well I remember Eric Blore and Eugene Pallette in films like My Man Godfrey and The Lady Eve. Christmas in the Clouds continues this tradition with veterans E. Emmet Walsh (Blood Simple) as a grumpy travel guide rep and Graham Greene (Dances with Wolves) playing a temperamental vegetarian chef. Walsh and Greene almost steal the show.
Written and directed with considerable style by Kate Montgomery, Christmas in the Clouds earned the Audience Award for Best Feature Film at the 2001 Austin Film Festival and was named Best Native-American Themed Film at the Santa Fe Film Festival that same year. Majestic Films donated a portion of domestic box office earnings from this movie to various schools and screened the film at several fundraising events for other charities. Now there’s an “unexpected direction” we should all applaud!
(Released by Hannover House and rated PG for mild sexual content and some language.)
Review also posted at ReelTalk Movie Reviews.