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DVD Review: Buttons: A Christmas Tale

December 9, 2019

By John Corrado

★½ (out of 4)

There is something inherently appealing about the idea of seeing Angela Lansbury and Dick Van Dyke, both legends in their own right, back on screen, and I will admit that their presence is what peaked my interest in Buttons: A Christmas Tale. But aside from the fact that they both retain the ability to light up the screen, the film itself disappointingly can’t live up to their stature.

Directed by Tim Janis, Buttons: A Christmas Tale is a period musical that flew under the radar during its limited one-day theatrical release last year. The film has now arrived on DVD, and despite the number of recognizable names in the cast, it’s not hard to see why this often poorly made movie has gotten the short end of the stick in terms of distribution.

Opening with narration by Kate Winslet and Robert Redford, the film’s story centres around an orphaned young girl named Emily (Noelle Parker) in the early 1900s, who dreams of having a home for Christmas. Emily gets taken to the hospital by a kind nun (Roma Downey) to treat her fever, where she is visited by a guardian angel named Rose (Angela Lansbury), who tells her a story about another orphaned girl, Annabelle (Alivia Clark), who loses her parents (Ioan Gruffudd and Julia Burrows) and is sent to work in a factory sewing buttons onto clothes, but is helped by her own guardian angel (Dick Van Dyke).

While Buttons: A Christmas Tale is not without a few charms, it’s also quite amateurish on a technical level. The film’s sound design is surprisingly bad, and the soundtrack rarely matches up with the mouth movements during the song numbers. While many musicals are lip-synced, the sound here is not synced properly at all to the degree that it is often distracting, with the songs noticeably sounding like they were recorded in an entirely different location. The camerawork and lighting is mediocre at best, and the film often has the feel of a low-budget theatre production that has been filmed and put on screen.

These inferior production values are ultimately the film’s biggest downfall, and it’s somewhat surprising that something as poorly made as this was even able to bring so many talented people on board. What Buttons: A Christmas Tale ultimately feels like is a subpar TV movie made for undemanding religious audiences, and while there is undoubtedly a market for this sort of thing, I also can’t really recommend the film on its own merits. Don’t let the star power of the cast trick you into a purchase.

The DVD also includes the two additional musical scenes “Beautiful Dreamer” and “Two By Two,” as well as a music video for “The Miracle” by Rita Wilson.

Buttons: A Christmas Tale is a Paramount Home Media Distribution release. It’s 87 minutes and rated G.

Street Date: December 3rd, 2019

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