TV Review: Mail Order Bride

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Every girl's got to make do and earn a living one way or another even if it's the late 1880s in rough-and-tumble America.

Hallmark Channel's bare-boned romantic drama "Mail Order Bride" tries to build on this premise but unfortunately doesn't run very far with it. The story of a young con woman who goes West to be a mail-order bride is slim pickings in the story department. The cast can't do much with what's here (or not here, actually) and doesn't seem to know what to do about it.

Daphne Zuniga plays the woman in question, a self-taught and hardened female who makes her living as a con artist but soon has to flee her handler and get out of town. When her good friend dies from TB, Zuniga takes her place and goes out West to marry the man said friend had corresponded with to be his mail-order bride. What could ensue except a little of everything but the kitchen sink?: Some drama (but not too much of that), some lies, a little redemption and lots of gorgeous photography from Dave Pellitier that truly saves this story from going under.

Zuniga gives her character all the color she possibly can. But it still seems as if she's drab and standing still despite her character's penchant for running out of doors, hiding in corners, even riding a horse with ease. Most of the movie seems to be walking through molasses. The characters are static, less than two-dimensional to say the least and not given much in the way of dialogue that is believable or anywhere near original.

Nevermind that we've seen this story before in many different versions. Nevermind that costume dramas are better off when they have a solid script. Nothing here seems to work to our advantage. Anne Wheeler's direction is static, mostly owing to Tippy and Neal Dobrofsky's unoriginal script. The viewer can't help but think there is nothing motivating any of the action, and for the most part it seems a wonder that anything moves, even the horses and the stage coaches, which also seem stagy and unrealistic.

It's as if everyone got dressed up for a costume party and tried to re-create some feel for the American landscape circa the 1880s. But the costumes, as beautiful as they are, don't compensate for the lack of anything to do once the party begins.

Production: A Randolph Films Production in association with Blueprint Entertainment.
Cast: Daphne Zuniga, Greg Evigan, Cameron Bancroft.
Direct: Anne Wheeler.
Writers: Tippy and Neal Dobrofsky.
Producer: Randolph Cheveldave.
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