Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square: I Will Always Love You, Dolly Parton – Netflix Review

Dolly Parton made a Christmas special and it’s corny and wonderful.

SUMMARY

Welcome to Fullerville, the town that Norman Rockwell painted when he had just a little bit of Ecstasy. Everything is bright and shiny and musical and happy, until it’s revealed that the town is being sold by local rich woman Regina Fuller (Christine Baranski) and her assistant Felicity (Jeanine Mason). The local pastor, Christian (Josh Segarra), and his wife, Jenna (Mary Lane Haskell), lead the citizens of the town, including Regina’s lost love Carl (Treat Williams), her former best friend Margeline (Jenifer Lewis), and bartender Mack (Matthew Johnson) in a protest against Regina. However, it turns out that there might be someone a little bit more magicall, and a lot more fabulous, might be trying to help turn Regina around (DOLLY F*CKING PARTON). Also, there’s an underaged bartender named Violet (Selah Kimbro Jones) who might be the best character in any movie ever.

If you don’t want Dolly Parton as your guardian angel, you need help.

END SUMMARY

I feel like I have to start this review by saying that I have nothing but respect and love for Dolly Parton and that will probably color this review a bit. I put her in the category of Mister Rogers, one of the rare people who seems to be both so talented and so nice that it borders on the unbelievable. Dolly Parton has written a song a week on average since she was 14 years old, including 25 number ones, and has funded charities ranging from homelessness and literacy to building a theme park for the Appalachians and helping develop a vaccine for COVID-19. She would be a billionaire if she didn’t keep giving money away. I have difficulty ever judging anything she is involved with objectively, which may be why I thought this film was amazing.

Fun fact: that glow was not an effect. She just does that.

I don’t mean that this film is going to win any Oscars. It’s not “good” by most traditional measures, nor was it supposed to be. It’s an old-school Christmas special, like Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas or Babes in Toyland starring Keanu Reeves, and it is just as corny as most of those were, in the best possible way. Everyone in Fullerville is, for the most part, a good person and they want to keep their simpler and more wholesome way of life. They’re so idyllic that they make a villain of Regina, even though she’s not stealing the town, but rather paying everyone large amounts of money for their property. Whenever she points out that fact, no one ever says she isn’t being fair about the amount, only that they simply don’t want to break up their community. Fortunately, the movie wisely shifts to being more about Regina learning to care about people again than about her being greedy. It does have a message to teach about being caring and helpful to people, to the point that Dolly Parton practically demands that the viewer do better. Coming from her, it works.

Hell, she probably baked those cookies.

The structure of the film is largely just coming up with subplots that can justify another song. While none of the tunes in this film will go down as Dolly Parton’s best, they’re still her work and above the average original songs from this kind of special. They do showcase her love of wordplay quite a bit and some of them are actually fairly catchy. Treat Williams showcases that he still has a great voice after 41 years (since he was in Hair). Most of the supporting cast really give their all to the songs, which helps immensely.

That’s it, you silver fox. Go out and sing in the town square.

But I can’t end without talking about Violet. This entire film would be worth watching just to see the scene with Violet. She’s a prepubescent bartender, something that you would not expect to see in Fullerville, but since she’s truly innocent, it’s never really concerning to the viewer. Everything Violet says is gold. She’s one of those kid characters that is truly wise beyond her years by virtue of not being distracted by the inanities of maturity. She counsels Christine Baranski and does so more effectively than anyone else in the film, while also providing a cute and kind of sad song. It’s a truly bright spot in the film.

I want to be her when I grow up.

Overall, this movie was pretty much exactly what I wanted it to be. It’s a sincere Christmas parable from a person who really does seem to represent many of humanity’s best traits. Plus, it’s just fun.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Netflix Mini-Review: Heartstrings – Dollmark, It’s Hallmark but for Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton brings us a series of made-for-tv movies that are themed around Dolly Parton having written some amazing songs.

SUMMARY

Basically, Dolly Parton introduces a movie and talks about the song that inspired it, usually with funny asides, then the movie plays and it’s typically set up like a Hallmark film. There are a handful of B-List celebrities in each episode and there’s usually a musical number or sequence, often performed by or with Dolly herself. 

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Parton the interruption.

END SUMMARY 

My father is obsessed with Hallmark Christmas films and, because of that, I have sat through an innumerable parade of bad acting featuring B- and C-Listers and the occasional A-Lister who needs money to buy a pony for their child. My mother used to watch a lot of Lifetime movies, which means that I’ve watched a lot of strong women find out that the real solution to their work troubles are in a man’s pants or that the abusive husband they’ve been putting up with is, in fact, an abusive monster and they’re better off on their own.  All of these films are generally formulaic, filled with terrible dialogue, and no apparent second takes. However, because I love my parents and sat with them through these films, I also have a soft spot for those ridiculous made-for-TV monstrosities. Fortunately, these are all quite a step up from those, but they still bear the *ahem* hallmarks of the genre.

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Haven’t used this in a while. I made bad jokes, but I stopped feeling shame.

Dolly Parton introduces the films, which usually includes an explanation of what the song is and where she got the inspiration from. My favorite was “Jolene,” which apparently was a name she liked from a fan, and the idea of the character of Jolene was based on a bank teller her husband flirted with. The story that is presented definitely isn’t what you would think, but it could still reasonably be the basis for the song. That’s pretty much how all of them are, although, if you don’t like Jolene, you probably won’t like the others. The endings aren’t all as happy as Hallmark prefers, but still happier than Lifetime prefers. 

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… She can steal your man, Dolly, and I’m sorry about that.

It also has awesome background music, because no matter who you are, you probably secretly love Dolly Parton’s songs. Hell, you might not know what they all are, since she’s written over 3,000 of them (no, that’s not a typo), and a lot of them were performed more famously by other artists. Did you remember she wrote the song from Transamerica? She got death threats over writing a song supporting trans women, which is amazing for someone in the country genre. 

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She’s so fancy.  You already know.

Overall, just a solid show. If you like made-for-TV films either ironically or sincerely, this show’s gonna work for you. If you like Dolly Parton, it’ll work for you better. That said, the episodes are wildly inconsistent, so pick your poison carefully.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Jolene Cover

I was inspired by a Facebook post (it’s at the bottom) to compose a cover of the song Jolene by Dolly Parton that depicts Jolene as a monster. It didn’t take long, but I enjoyed it, so I’m publishing it here.

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene

I’m begging of you please don’t take my man

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene

Please don’t eat him just because you can

Your fury is beyond compare

With flaming locks of brimstone hair

And eyes that fire bolts of emerald green

Your breath is like the fires of hell

Your roars drown out my loudest yell

I cannot help but run from you, Jolene

On sight of you, I tear my eyes,

Weep bloody tears ‘neath bloody skies,

My wails will always bear the name Jolene

The mortals scream and roil in pain

But sound won’t reach her native plane

The many-angled one they call Jolene

Our world is but her dinner plate

You cry and scream, bemoan your fate

But nothing hungers like the dread Jolene

Darkness Falls across the land

Mankind’s last hour is at hand

Damnation hath but one name, that’s Jolene

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene

My soul is being shredded by your hand

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene

Please grant me the swiftest death you can

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