Charming DVD!

Every week, Jared Padalecki fights off demons, ghosts and ghoulies as Sam Winchester on The CW's Supernatural. But a few summers ago he was fighting off demons of a different kind - the demons of doubt - as he took on role of a young painter in Thomas Kinkade's Christmas Cottage. It's new this week on DVD and I'm here to tell you all about it.

Thomas Kinkade's Christmas Cottage is a semi-autobiographical film that delivers the traditional, 'you have more blessings than you think' message with a family struggling to make ends meet and an artist struggling to find himself.

Thomas Kinkade is known as The Painter of Light and I'd say he's singlehandedly responsible for putting art into the average home. His stores in malls across America have made him a household name but Kinkade didn't always have it so easy. Raised by a single mother in the '70s, Thomas was the man of the house from an early age and it was fate that took his talent for painting and turned it into a life's dream.

A Christmas story worth telling

In the film, Thomas (Padalecki) is a college student who comes home for the holidays only to learn that his mother, (Marcia Gay Harden) is about to lose the family home. He and his brother (Smallville's Aaron Ashmore) decide to get jobs to help stave off foreclosure and it looks like it's going to be a pretty rotten Christmas for all.

Thomas takes the job of painting a holiday mural for the town's resident marketing maven (Chris Elliot). He goes into it begrudgingly, seeing himself more as an "artist" than a "painter" but he soon sees the work as a real opportunity to give something back to the town that raised him.

The real heart of the movie comes from Peter O'Toole who plays Thomas' mentor, Glen. Suffering from arthritis and possibly the early stages of Alzheimer's, Glen has nearly given up - on painting and on life. But Thomas and gallery owner Ed Asner both feel that Glen has one more painting in him if only he can find the inspiration to get it done.

Rounding out the cast of Christmas Cottage is a wonderful grouping of familiar faces including Charlotte Rae, Geoffrey Lewis, Richard Moll and Richard Burgi who plays Thomas' off-the-wall dad. These characters take us on a journey through a small town Christmas and it's great fun to watch (when it isn't horribly sad.) Moll is engaged in a holiday decorating war with the neighbors, Rae is the church pianist who is in a world of her own and Lewis is a man broken by the death of his son in Vietnam. Like I said, great fun when I wasn't crying.

Kinkade gets neighborly

As with most holiday movies, things go from bad to worse until everyone in town needs a lesson in the true meaning of Christmas, which comes, of course, from Thomas' painting. Yes, it's cliche and predictable but you can do that in a Christmas movie - it's actually expected.

What isn't predictable is the relationship between Thomas and Glen. Jared Padalecki and Peter O'Toole come together in several emotional scenes. O'Toole struggling to do the simplest of things for himself, Padalecki feeling the burden of seeing his hero, his mentor, crushed by the effects of old age, it's difficult to watch at times and yet, so poignant.

I was particularly touched by this movie because I'm one of those people who feels like we don't pay enough homage to those who went before us. I was excited to see people such as Rae and Lewis and Asner - TV staples still doing what they do best. And I had to wonder how much of Glen's tremors and frailty was acting on O'Toole's part and how much was really O'Toole. It's funny. I watch Padalecki every week on Supernatural, but seeing him in this film, it reminded me of how young he really is and how much of a career he still has a head of him.

In the Christmas Cottage DVD special features, Jared talks about an early meeting with O'Toole, where the man looked him right in the eye and told him that he was a good actor. Jared says the compliment nearly drove him to tears then he laughs and says maybe O'Toole was just saying that in order to get him to relax. I don't think so. I think O'Toole saw in young Jared, what Glen saw in young Thomas -- the heart and soul of a true artist.

Thomas Kinkade's Christmas Cottage is only available on DVD and it hits stores this week. Pick up a copy for the true artist on your holiday gift list.

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Comments on "A Christmas Cottage worth visiting"

Deb December 23, 2013 | 12:28 AM

I just saw this movie for the first time a few days ago and loved it. It's a shame that the passing of the great Peter O'Toole is what it took for me to get to see this movie, as it really hasn't gotten much publicity over the years since it's been made. As a fan of the show Supernatural, I'm familiar with Mr. Padalecki's work in the context of that series and I felt he did a wonderful job as young Thomas Kinkade. Being able to hold your own in scenes with actors of O'Toole's, Marcia Harden's and Edward Asner's caliber is no easy feat and he managed that in spades. I have to wonder if being on that show hasn't held his career back a bit, but as you mentioned, he is young enough that he still has plenty of time to make more of a name for himself in Hollywood once the show eventually ends. O'Toole, as expected was perfect in the role of Glen. He really made you feel Glen's pain and frustration with his advancing age and limitations that come with that. This was a wonderful movie that really should be appreciated more and I will definitely be recommending it to all of my friends and family members.

Anna84 November 13, 2008 | 5:34 PM

I loved this movie, thanks for reccing it.

shelby02 November 13, 2008 | 1:18 PM

Cynthia-thank you for the lovely review of The Christmas Cottage. I think that you and Amanda B. have both said it more beautifully than I ever could. The only thing I will add is that in watching Jared's interact with Peter O'Toole, I was reminded of how there always seems to be an element of rawness in Jared's emotional scenes and I think that is because he truly pours his heart and soul into what he is doing. I agree that jared is gifted and genuine. I hope he not only has a rewarding acting career, but a happy life as well.

Amanda B. November 13, 2008 | 12:07 AM

Thank you, Cynthia, for such a lovely and well-written article about this movie! Like you, I watch Jared Padalecki every week on Supernatural - it's my favorite show! - and over its run I have become a big fan of his, due to his awesome talent AND his wonderful personality. I have been blessed enough to have met Jared twice now, both times at Supernatural fan conventions this year, and I found him to be just as beautiful in person as he is on the screen - both in looks AND in demeanor. I am an art degree graduate (2007) myself (I mostly do painting/drawing) and in wanting to give something of what he gives to us fans back to him, I gave him two drawings (of his dogs) at the conventions, both of which he sweetly and earnestly complimented me on and thanked me for, to my delight. I got big hugs from him, too! :-D Anyway though, as a result of those drawings, I got to have a couple of fun and candid conversations about art with him...topics like inspirations, appreciation, and of course, this movie. He laughed and told me that he really couldn't draw even though this movie made it look like he could, and said that he wished he had some measure of artistic talent. I put it the best I could put it (on-the-spot like that!) and answered him that he DOES have great artistic talent in his acting, but the way you put it in this article is beautiful and absolutely what I think as well: "I think O'Toole saw in young Jared, what Glen saw in young Thomas -- the heart and soul of a true artist." YES! You put that feeling into such poignant words, I couldn't agree more! I absolutely love, admire, and adore Jared's humility and his sweet, good-humoredly self-deprecating nature, but yep, I definitely believe that Peter O'Toole meant exactly what he said. And Jared's near-tears reaction to his compliment...funny thing, it doesn't surprise me at all, and yet, it is still so touching to me. It speaks volumes as to how seriously Jared takes all of this, how in touch he is with the TRUE ART aspect of acting instead of just the fame/glamour aspect - the aspect that feeds the heart and soul rather than the one that just feeds the ego and wallet - and also as to how much he respects fellow serious actors (especially those that have been in the business longer than him) and how deeply he values and appreciates every kind word said to him. And all of that makes me respect, value, and appreciate HIM all the more, in an actor AND as a person. With talent like his and that great attitude to match, he definitely does have a bright career ahead of him. I too, enjoyed the movie very much and wholly agree with your review - "great fun when I wasn't crying" is a perfect short description of the supporting cast! And of course, as you said, Jared and Peter O'Toole were great together - and individually, too - and definitely had my waterworks going more than once! Plus, I naturally loved all of the meaningful and inspirational words said about art...especially as narrated by Jared, simply and sincerely. This'll definitely be a must-watch during this holiday season and ones to come (and likely even out of season, too, LOL) Thanks again for the great review! :-)

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