If you were a child in the 1990’s, there wasn’t a show that was much more family-friendly than the CBS, short-lived Christy based, of course on the classic by Catherine Marshall. Not only was it a one-of-a-kind television show of its kind but it gave recognition to titular star Kellie Martin’s career and since then, her roles have been something I have kept an eye on.
Fairy-tales and frogs are what Zoe’s life is all about. She’s enamored with her Blue Moon storybooks – her favorite story being The Frog Prince – much to the dismay of her working, single mother, Gwen (Martin). Zoe (Kiernan Shipka) has got it into her head that even fantasies from fiction can come true and that her daddy wanted his girls to move on – to find someone who would cherish them as he had. During a school experiment, Zoe sets free her frog and gives him a kiss but when a momentary distraction takes her eyes off her amphibian friend, she thinks she’s found her very own frog prince. Turns out, Percy (Simon Kassianides) is suffering a touch of amnesia after losing his memory short term. Zoe takes home the confused Brit, hoping he’s the answer to all her dilemmas! First, she must convince her mother that Percy is the right man for the job – as her new “manny.”
Once in a blue moon something so charming comes along that you forget (or perhaps more easily downplay) its flaws and allow yourself to be swept up into the story – Smooch is such a tale. (Even the name bespeaks of something hard to resist!) Smaller markets as well as larger ones don’t seem to want to be forgotten in getting to be a part of all the fairy-tale fandoms as they continue to make their presence known. Modernizing the “Frog Prince” story was done in this instance by Hallmark Channel (who else!?) and was in no shortage of pizzazz – or it wasn’t from this happy-ever-after girl’s perspective. Reciting a paragraph from her book, the opening of the film re-enacts Zoe’s tale and is a slap-happy demonstration of the sort of imaginary I don’t like which may lead you to believe that the entire film is when in fact, it is anything but an over-exaggerated case of silly theatrics setting up the first minute at best.
As a mother-daughter story, this was adorable. Kellie and Kiernan had believable chemistry – even when mad at each other, they were hard not to like, and adding Percy to the mix was just what both needed for different reasons. (Their nighttime picnic was precious!) His gentlemanly manners were hilarious in the world Zoe and Gwen lived in but are also a reminder – in a loose sense, of the sort of guy we should want and his proper dialect was a small concession to help keep up a pretense of the fairy-tale world. In the scripting, nothing is brilliant but complements are in order to how well writer’s handled the scenes between Percy and Zoe (some of which we may not have realized how careful writer’s needed to be). Irrespective that the story pulls from a lot of other material, there is something that I am unable to put my finger on but delightful that Smooch retains all its own. Staging isn’t always as it should be and the music sometimes plays up the sappiness of the moment (like Percy climbing a staircase – or what passes for one, to reach someone). All the acting was good and I thought the two leads had a nice easy-going chemistry in their scenes but it’s Kiernan who steals the show – even if it is by default. She’s adorable. From finding “Percy” and hauling him straight to her bathtub (in a shopping cart, no less) to her shoving him into a closet, fearing discovery, she carries her character very well. If you like any modern fairy-tale (you could name any you want), chances are in your favor that this will rank among them. Putting a spin on a classic isn’t always easy but again, with its adorable ending and charismatic characters, this one was simply enchanting.
(Parental concerns: There is a kiss or two. Twelve-year-olds navigate school crushes. Zoe back talks to her mother on occasion. Out on the town, Percy becomes drunk once while at a bar.)