“Then Came You” is like Valentine’s Day—painfully contrived, cheesy, and easy to forget, but ultimately still satisfying on some level. The film, helmed by a radiant Kathie Lee Gifford and rakish Craig Ferguson, is not destined for the rom-com hall of fame. But with sweeping shots of Scotland, a quaint setting, and likable leads, it’ll do just fine as an easy companion to your microwave popcorn and five-buck chuck on a slow Wednesday.
Gifford’s character is the strange and steely widow of a hardware-shop owner from Nantucket, who transports her husband’s ashes in a chocolate box (his favorite movie was “Forest Gump”) on an extended Eurotrip, which lands her at Ferguson’s inn outside Glasgow. Ferguson is a charming widower whose deprecating humor masks his immense supply of both pain and compassion.
The screenplay, penned by Gifford, is disjointed and overly ambitious. The dialogue induces constant cringing. The acting is stilted. Both main characters are prone to sudden outbursts of emotion that feel completely random.
As you might imagine, their bickering melts into banter. At its heart, “Then Came You” is a movie about love and grief and aging, and the impact of all three hitting at once. The plot takes some twists and turns, one of which near the end emerges laughably from the left-most corner of left field. There are montages. There are sheep. There is Elizabeth Hurley. The ending really drags. It’s essentially a Lifetime movie that wanted to be something a bit better.
But Lifetime movies serve their purpose in our vast cinematic ecosystem. If you watch “Then Came You” with the right expectations, it’ll do just fine. The beautiful setting and too-perfect plot create decent conditions for escapism.
The film’s greatest strength, however, is Gifford and Ferguson, neither of whom delivered the performance of a lifetime, but both of which were a lot of fun to watch. They clearly believed in the movie and poured their hearts into making it. That goes a long way, especially with likable and familiar personalities.
They’re both naturally funny people, and managed to produce some funny moments together. Gifford, of course, sings. It’s amazing, as usual. “Then Came You” is a testament to Giffords’ undeniable charm. Even as the film clunks along, Gifford’s intensity and dedication makes the journey kind of fun.
It’s not a movie that will change your life. It may not even change your night. But we could all use a little sugar in our coffee these days, and sometimes you have to make do with Splenda.
“Then Came You” is available in theaters Wednesday and on-demand Friday.