Not much to 'Christmas in Conway,' but the stars give it some shine

12/01/2013 5:00 AM

11/30/2013 8:26 PM

If you’ve seen the promotion for “Christmas in Conway” (9 Sunday, ABC), you’ve pretty much seen the film. It’s a thin, but effectively sappy Hallmark Hall of Fame offering, saved by its cast.

Mandy Moore plays Natalie, a hospice caregiver who moves in with Suzy ( Mary-Louise Parker) and Duncan ( Andy Garcia) because Suzy is dying of cancer. Duncan is a crabby coot who adores his wife, and so, her impending death is devastating. One day, he gets the idea to build a Ferris wheel in their backyard; telling you why would amount to a spoiler although it’s not revealed with any subtlety.

That’s pretty much it. There’s are two useless subplots, one with a busybody neighbor (played by Cheri Oteri) who has a long-standing feud with Duncan and Suzy and an obsession with winning a Christmas lawn competition. It seems to aim to serve as a way to add some levity to the bittersweet plot. Instead, it’s just annoying. The other plot presents a kind of love interest for Moore’s Natalie. I think that’s because it’s Mandy Moore and they wanted to give her more of a storyline.

Whatever. Parker and Garcia make this film work just by being good at what they do. They have the chemistry of an old married couple and they make more of the material than it has earned.

And so, by the time the predictable ending comes, you feel something even if there wasn’t that this-is-the-part-that-is-supposed-to-make-you-cry music. ABC has pretty much killed the once-high quality standard of the Hallmark Hall of Fame. But if we are now supposed to judge the film on sap scale, this is a winner.

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