Christmas In The Clouds

on November 04, 2005 by Susan Green
Periodically in danger of becoming too self-consciously quirky, this otherwise enjoyable indie effort bills itself as "the first Native American screwball romantic comedy." Also the first feature permitted to shoot at Utah's Sundance Resort since Robert Redford himself made "Jeremiah Johnson" there in 1972, "Christmas in the Clouds" places a familiar mistaken-identity plot in the unique setting of a tribal business enterprise.

Writer/director Kate Montgomery assembled a cast from many indigenous nations: The struggling ski area is owned by the Ute people and managed by Ray (Tim Vahle, a handsome Choctaw actor). His father Joe (Sam Vlahos, a Pima Indian and veteran of "Thunderheart") has been writing love letters to a pen pal in the East he's never seen. Earl (a wonderful comic turn by Graham Greene, an Oneida who appeared as the chief in "Dances With Wolves") is a vegetarian chef reluctantly preparing meat dishes but warning patrons about the cruelty of a carnivorous diet. Mary (Sheila Tousey, who has Mohican and Menominee roots) oversees the front desk when not reading romance novels. The enormous ensemble, replete with oddball chambermaids and a nutty Mr. Fix-It (Jonathan Joss), includes a wayward mouse wearing face paint and a red feather.

M. Emmet Walsh makes an effectively dour, hard-drinking critic who arrives to review the resort for his prestigious magazine during the holiday season. The locals, keen on earning a four-star rating, think Tina (MariAna Tosca) is the journalist. She's only in Utah to anonymously observe Ray in the belief he's her mysterious pen pal. (These two engage in a little too much kissy-face.) Joe, meanwhile, has charmed a British tourist (Rosalind Ayres, "Gods and Monsters").

There's so much going on, nobody ever seems to actually ski. On dry land, Graham Greene and that warrior mouse steal the show. Starring Tim Vahle, MariAna Tosca, M Emmet Walsh, Sheila Tousey, Graham Greene, Sam Vlahos and Rosalind Ayres. Written and directed by Kate Montgomery. Produced by Mitchell Stein and Kate Montgomery. A Majestic release. Romantic comedy. Rated PG for mild sexual content and some language. Running time: 101 min

Tags: Tim Vahle, MariAna Tosca, M. Emmet Walsh, Sheila Tousey, Graham Greene, Sam Vlahos, Rosalind Ayres, Kate Montgomery, romance, magazine, journalist, pen pal, ski resort

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