My only thought after watching Dear Secret Santa is: return to sender.
After learning that her aging dad (Bill Cobbs) had a bad fall, Jennifer (Tatyana Ali) heads home to take care of him and possibly make some arrangements. Being in her childhood home brings back some hard memories like her mom passing away when she was younger and her best friend and neighbor Jack (Lamorne Morris) being in a fatal car crash. Soon she starts receiving Christmas cards from a secret admirer and is stunned to discover who is writing to her.
This is just a dreadful film. From start to finish, there is just so much to dislike. I thought it was rather insipid that every guy that bumped into Jennifer commented on her beauty. Really, that’s all you have to say to someone you haven’t seen in awhile is, “Wow, you look gorgeous. OK, I won’t give you a speeding ticket” or “You look beautiful, sorry I cheated on you in the past.”
The cast is actually a pretty great collection of actors. I mean, Della Reese and Ernie Hudson are icons, let alone Ali herself has some cache on her own. But Reese’s character is abysmal and Hudson is wasted. Jordin Sparks may be most notable from her time on American Idol but I don’t think much of her acting abilities. Someone who could have done well in the role of Jennifer’s best friend is Jurnee Smollet but this film would definitely be considered a step down for her because that girl can act. Unfortunately, none of these actors could save this clunker of a script.
The premise reminded me a bit of The Lake House. It’s a hard concept to believe in and the film does a horrible job trying to convince the audience. Barely a quarter of the way through and I was already shifting my focus elsewhere, listening to Dear Secret Santa in the background as I did other things. I’m not an overly picky viewer but if you lose me, you’ve done too much wrong and very little to no things right. I tried getting back into it when Morris showed up but it was rough. I have a soft spot for Morris. I mean, he’s Winston “Winnie” Bishop on New Girl, he’s adorable! But all I could think about is that he signed on for this film to fulfill a childhood fantasy of kissing Ali from her Fresh Prince of Bel-Air days.
This is one of the most dreadful films I’ve seen Lifetime put out. It didn’t feel like it fit in with their brand at all. If you plan on watching something on Lifetime tonight, skip Dear Secret Santa and turn on Crazy for Christmas at 10pm instead. Or better yet, watch the Hallmark Channel tonight.
It was said multiple times in this movie that “it is never too let to get it right.” Well, unfortunately for Dear Secret Santa, it is too late and it got way too many things wrong.
Cast: Tatyana Ali, Bill Cobbs, Ernie Hudson, Della Reese, Jordin Sparks, Lamorne Morris, Jay Ellis, Ben Patterson, Elimu Nelson
Bottom-line: Skip it.
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