“Midnight at the Magnolia” is a holiday romance as tasty as bargain-shelf whitebread and edgy as a butterknife. It’s Example One in that age-honored adage that America is filled to the brim with competent actresses and actors, but “star power” and “screen charisma” are what count, and are still as rare as Tanzanite.
Maggie and Jack are lifelong friends who’ve realized a lifelong dream. They co-host “The Windy City Wakeup” onFM98.8 in Chicago. And all we need to know about the movie is right there, in the sparkling banter between perfectly pretty Maggie (Canadian Natalie Hall, of “You’re Bacon Me Crazy”) and unshaven/snarky Jack (Canadian Evan Williams, of “A Date by Christmas Eve”). As in, there isn’t any.
These two couldn’t host a podcast from Paducah, much less an energy-ratings driven morning show in the Second City.
But gosh, here’s their boss, telling them they’re up for a satellite radio promotion thanks to the legend “Judd” someone or other.
They chat, frankly but benignly, about their love lives on the air. Their families, who’re close, don’t mind. But their latest romantic partners? The ones they haven’t allowed to “meet” their respective families? They’re a bit put off. Nice about it, but…
Telling a radio audience they’ll relent and introduce them to their (united) extended families over the holidays in the legendary jazz bar/restaurant their dads co-own isn’t considerate or discrete. EVERYbody can see their friendship stands in the way of new love.
Who WILL they share a New Year’s kiss with on “Midnight at the Magnolia?”
I mean, their siblings and parents have all expected them to make a love connection, Maggie’s “If something were going to happen, it would have” notwithstanding.
Jack’s fecklessness and Maggie’s eagerness to accommodate show history, but can they “fake it” convincingly enough to fool their radio audience with a surprise “We’re TOGTHER” announcement, on the air and online, New Year’s Eve?
There isn’t a single line in the script pithy enough to bother quoting. “The Man Who Came to Dinner” this isn’t.
There is nobody in the supporting cast colorful enough to steal a scene, much less the movie.
And the leads? Competent, attractive, with no chemistry and zero sizzle or spark. G-rated or not, this “romance” should make us feel the longing they’re denying, the hurt they feel if things don’t pan out.
Hall and Williams would have trouble standing out in this blase supporting cast, much less as leads.
When everyone and everything is this low-heat, even a Hallmark level holiday romance faces that dreaded two-word review every actor and filmmaker fears.
MPA Rating: TV-G
Cast: Natalie Hall, Evan Williams
Credits: Directed by Max McGuire, script by Carley Smale. A MarVista movie, a Netflix release.
Running time: 1:27