Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Marrying UP. UP TV, which bills itself as “America’s Christmas Channel,” presents the world-premiere film Marry Me for Christmas tonight (12/14) at 7:00 PM ET with encores at 9:00 PM ET and 11:00 PM ET. The movie will also air tomorrow night on UP’s sister channel ASPiRE tomorrow night at 8:00 PM ET.

The romantic comedy-drama stars Malinda Williams (Soul Food), Brad James (For Better or Worse) and Karon Riley (Necessary Roughness).  The ensemble cast also includes Jason Weaver  (The Ladykillers), Tamara Bass (Boston Public),  Carl Payne (For Richer Or Poorer, The Game), Greg Alan Williams (Necessary Roughness, The West Wing), Deetta West (Between Sisters), Chrystale Wilson (For Richer or Poorer) and Victoria Rowell (The Young and the Restless, Diagnosis: Murder).  The movie is produced by Swirl Films’ Eric Tomosunas and Malinda Williams. Roger Melvin (UP’s Sugar Mommas) directs from a script by Rhonda Freeman-Baraka (UP’s Saving Westbrook High).

Synopsis (from the UP press release): Smart, stylish Marci Jewel (Malinda Williams) is the owner and creative director of an up-and-coming ad agency and thrilled with her single life in New York – except during the holidays.  While all of her cousins are married and having babies, Marci remains the lone holdout in the large Chandler family clan who has put marriage and motherhood on hold for the sake of her career.  As the family’s epic Christmas celebration is about to start, Marci learns that her favorite cousin Dana (Tamara Bass), her husband Frankie (Jason Weaver) and their family are leaving the country for five years on missionary work.  So at the last minute, Marci promises to come home for the holidays for the first time in years.  With a deadline looming for a new client, she drags her employee Adam (Brad James) in tow to Atlanta and does the only thing she can do in the face of unbearable pressure from her ailing mom Stephanie (Victoria Rowell), aunt Myra (DeEtta West), uncle Donald (Greg Alan Williams) and cousin Preston (Carl Payne):  fakes a fiancé.  While caught up in the family’s frenetic search for the perfect Christmas tree, unexpected wedding planning to her employee, pressing work calls and more, Marci learns some unexpected lessons about love, trust and family, particularly when it comes to her new faux fiancé Adam and old beau Blair (Karon Riley).

Review: Very reminiscent of the Sandra BullockRyan Reynolds 2009 hit The Proposal, this pleasant-enough entry puts both a yuletide and African-American spin on the story of a successful business woman (Williams) bringing home an employee (James) who poses as her fiancé for a family from which she feels a persistently  subtle pressure to find someone to tie the knot with. The film detours from the plot of The Proposal by introducing a former love interest (Riley). The above press release describes Blair as an old beau of Marci’s but their relationship actually reminds me of Ross and Rachel or Niles and Daphne in the early seasons of Friends and Frasier. In the course of the film it becomes clear that, like those characters, Marci and Blair have spent years being attracted to one another but never found quite the right moment or courage to tell each other. So, of course, even that significant tweak to The Proposal outline is familiar territory to anyone with a TV. But, while there’s not much new or particularly groundbreaking here, the familiar pieces are mixed and matched with skill. The dialogue is crisp, witty and believable. The cast and characters (with one notable exception) are likable and all the performances are good. In the end, you’re left feeling satisfied. Recommended.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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