An estranged family discovers that to understand the past, they first have to face it. For a dear old man on Christmas, the reward is being called Grandpa for the first time in his life. Eighty-year-old Bert Riley is a former movie tough guy living comfortably and surrounded by good friends all vets from Hollywood s Golden Age. With a scrapbook full of memories, life has been pretty good to him. But he never expected any more surprises out of it. That s before he receives word on Thanksgiving that Marie, the estranged daughter he hasn t seen in decades, is in the hospital following a car accident. What s more, Becca, the ten-year-old granddaughter he s never even met, is moving in with him!
If "To err is human, to forgive divine," that counts double during the holidays. When her single mother, Marie (Tracy Nelson), is injured in a traffic accident, 10-year-old Becca (Joan of Arcadia
's Juliette Goglia), is left without a guardian. Due to a rift in the family, shes never met her grandfather, Bert (Golden Globe nominee Ernest Borgnine), who also lives in Los Angeles. Long divorced from his wife, who has since passed away, Bert is also alone, except for a community of retired actors and agents. When a social worker asks if he can take care of Becca until Marie recovers, he's happy to try. At first, Becca just wants to sulk, but then she starts to enjoy the company of her grandfather and his friends, like the piano-playing Roxie (Soap
's Katherine Helmond) and chess-playing Karl (All of Me
's Richard Libertini). With their encouragement, she participates in her schools Christmas pageant. With Marie on the mend, things are looking up for Becca, so it comes as a disappointment that her mother can't see the goodness in Bert, who's doing his best to make up for lost time. Marie only remembers how hurt she felt when her parents split up and has always blamed Bert, but sees him in a new light when she finds out the whole story. Produced for the Hallmark Channel, A Grandpa for Christmas
finds the right balance between realism and wish fulfillment, and the 90-year-old Borgnine gives one of his most enjoyable performances to date. --Kathleen C. Fennessy