Plot: Corey (Andrew McCarthy) planted a tree to mark the birth of his son and over the years, it grew strong and tall. His son Rock (Evan Williams) is now seventeen and quite proud of the tree, which has been at the center of many lessons his father has shared with him as time passed. After the tree used for the White House Christmas event is struck by lightning, a new national tree is needed and Rock enters his tree, however unlikely it seemed that it would be chosen. As it turns out, his tree is selected to be the new national tree and while he is excited, his father isn’t so certain about uprooting and relocating a family heirloom. Katie (Keri Matchett) is a public relations expert sent to help coax a positive response to the move, but even after both Corey and Rock agree, the trip itself presents even more chances for mishaps. Will Rock’s tree become the national symbol for Christmas, sharing a piece of his family’s legacy with the entire country, or are more surprises around the corner?
Entertainment Value: While most of these Hallmark holiday movies center on romance, The National Tree takes a broader approach and seeks to appeal the entire family, rather than just those after love stories. The narrative still includes a light romance, but is more about family relationships and coming of age, since Rock’s father is having to face that his son is growing up. I like that more universal themes are looked at here, even at a light, surface level, as it makes The National Tree stand up a little from Hallmark’s usual romantic comedies. At the same time, I wasn’t taken with this one, as it felt slow and just never hooked my attention. The father/son bond is a common narrative device and the potential is here to make use of that, but I thought it felt forced and with the story jumping around often, it never takes root. I wasn’t a fan of Andrew McCarthy’s detached, erratic approach to the character either, though I suppose the script is as much to blame as he is. So the family drama more or less stalls out and the romance elements are just as thin, which makes this one hard to recommend. Even if you’re a Hallmark devotee, I feel like there are much better options to choose from.
I mentioned this before, but I was not a fan of Andrew McCarthy’s performance here and to me, it detracted a lot from the overall experience. That dynamic between father and son is a main theme of The National Tree, so McCarthy’s lackluster effort has an impact that lessens the ride here. I do think the script is a concern, as it doesn’t give him much to work with, but McCarthy seems disinterested on top of that, or takes such a passive approach, he seems barely conscious. His tone shifts a lot as well, though with the story moving around so much, building effective emotional beats is tough, so he isn’t solely to blame on that front. I just think the father/son dynamic is so important here, which makes his lifeless performance a real downer. Keri Matchett provides a likable, energetic turn however, which helps in some scenes. I wouldn’t have minded more focus on her character, since she is the most enjoyable part of The National Tree. The cast also includes Evan Williams, Ted Atherton, Paula Brancati, Jayne Eastwood, Kristina Nicoll, and Amanda Joy.
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