My review of A Bennett Song Holiday may surprise you for two reasons. The fact I’m reviewing a family Christmas film surprises me for that matter. The other surprise is it’s directed by Harley Wallen, who has also directed films like Eternal Code, Agramon’s Gate and Abstruse, which aren’t exactly family fare.
But, as I’ve said in my reviews he always seems to shy away from the rougher elements of those film’s plots, frequently to the detriment of the film. So I was curious to see him doing something that didn’t have any rough elements and see if that suited him better. So, when I got offered the sequel to Bennett’s Song, I decided to give it a watch.
Cole Bennett (Harley Wallen) and Susan Song (Aphrodite Nikolovski, Blood Immortal, Betrayed) put the Brady Bunch to shame. When they married they created a family with fourteen kids. Now they’re expecting their first child together. But as her due date draws closer, Susan begins to suspect Cole is having an affair. She even has what appears to be proof of it.
Meanwhile, Pearl Song (Calhoun Koenig, Mimesis Nosferatu) and her band have just finished their first tour when her best friend, saxophone player Stefani (Angelina Danielle Cama, Enigma) announces she’s quitting for reasons connected to her new boyfriend Robert (Kyle Patrick). This causes a rift in the two women’s friendship.
Finally, Adam’s (James Caverly) runs St. Matthews Community Center. Realtor Aiden Neville (Corbin Bernsen, The Russian Bride, A Deadly Legend) plans to shut it down as part of his plans to upscale the neighborhood. A big charity concert is planned to save it, featuring Pearl’s band and her new friend and musical flavour of the month Logan French (Bryce Xavier).
I’m not sure how Wallen and writer Nancy Oeswein managed to keep track of all the characters and subplots in A Bennett Song Holiday. As you can guess all of these plots intersect and overlap on a regular basis. There’s always something happening but it can be a little hard to keep it all straight at times. The film probably would have worked a bit better if they had kept the focus on fewer characters and made the story threads clearer.
Despite that, folk who enjoy these kinds of heartwarming holiday films should love A Bennett Song Holiday. There’s all manner of problems to be dealt with and brought to a happy conclusion in just under two hours. I found it felt a bit long at that length, but the film’s target audience will have just the opposite reaction. And between assorted affairs of the heart, fractured friendships and saving the community center, which is of course used by special needs kids, there is plenty to fill the running time.
This really is a family-friendly film, I don’t think I even heard anyone swear. And there’s plenty of positive messages about family, friendship, doing the right thing, etc. And while it isn’t going to replace Black Christmas or To All a Good Night on my holiday movie list, it wasn’t so overly sweet and cheerful that I needed shots of candy cane vodka to get through it either.
Wallen seems quite at home both in front of the camera and behind it on A Bennett Song Holiday. He may want to consider shifting his focus to kids and family films. Then he can make films that live up to expectations rather than thrillers that, despite being well made, frequently feel like they’re lacking something..
A Bennett Song Holiday is available on digital platforms and on DVD from Vision Films. You can check the film’s Facebook page for more information.