Best elements of bad movies of the week
Watching the DVD of the 2008 Hallmark Channel movie “Mail-Order Bride” reminded me of the hokey chick flick made-for-TV movies of the week that were very prevalent on Sunday nights in the ‘70s and ‘80s and now provide much of the content on the Lifetime network.
These movies provide decent mindless entertainment in which the genuine goodness of one character reforms the character of the other gender who life has turned bitter. These characters actors who portray them seem to try for Hepburn and Tracy and end up as Shepherd and Willis. The clichéd plots and dialogues and less-than-exceptional acting are what make these productions so enjoyable.
Daphne Zuniga of “Melrose Place” apparently got the female lead in “Bride” as a con artist from 1888 Boston who replaces her dying friend as the mail-order bride of a Wyoming rancher because TV-movie queen Valerie Bertinelli was unavailable.
Cameron Bancroft of “Beverly Hills 90210” plays the rancher who has led a solitary life since his prior mail-order bride ran out on him. A huge plot hole that is typical of these guilty pleasures is why this kind attractive man with a moderately successful ranch cannot find a local woman to marry.
Greg Evigan of the completely unwatchable late ‘70s action-comedy “BJ and the Bear” about a trucker and his monkey provides the best camp element as the Boston gangster who owns Zuniga and who comes to Wyoming to capture her. It is hardly a spoiler that he and the rancher have a large confrontation that the rancher wins.
The very dull Evigan is the weak link in all this, and I wonder if the monkey from his old series would have done a better job. Evigan simply does not express much emotion or even get into the fun of playing the villain.
Conversely, Bancroft seems to enjoy playing the quiet man with good values, a decent amount of wit, and just enough evil to make him fun. One of the better moments consists of him asking Zuniga what effect an impending rainstorm will have on the dress that she is wearing.
The bottom line is that this movie will be a treat for fans of the three stars or of movies-of-the-week. My watching it on a cool drizzly Sunday evening was very appropriate.
Anyone with thoughts about this far cry from the specials that Hallmark made for CBS for many years is welcome to e-mail me at email@example.com.
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Review by John Stahl
John Stahl is a freelance legal writer who is also a fan of classic and cult television programs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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