AUSTIN -- The Christmas film "When Angels Sing" boasts Willie Nelson as Santa Claus; Lyle Lovett as a holiday-happy neighbor to Harry Connick, Jr.'s Scrooge, due to his unhappy Christmas past; and Kris Kristofferson as his dad, and his heart if full of the season's joy.
So, of course, the soundtrack is X-mas excellence.
The film -- shot in Austin and premiered at South By Southwest -- is as family-friendly as they come, with Connick's usual charm and easiness oozing from in between the green and red trim. The trademark seems to be Hallmark, though the film has yet to get picked up. The music won't hurt its chances: Family singalongs, a stumble into a church, caroling and a gander through Austin's hot spots (including Salt Lick, nom) provide ample opportunities for originals and Christmas classics.
Lovett has an extended acoustic jam with Kat Edmonson and Nelson gets a solo on "Amazing Grace." Connick refrains from singing in the film until a duet with Nelson on the closing credits. I especially loved the cameos from the Trishas and from Dale Watson, who give this film a particular Austin glaze that could help sell music, if not the film itself.
"Kris and Harry are great," Nelson told me of his co-stars and collaborators before the premiere. "I like good writers, good singers and good people. They don’t get any better than those guys."
Which leads back around to the spotlight city. If "When Angels Sing" isn't an endorsement for holiday cheer and/or Black Friday (get your house lights NOW), it's like an extended commercial for Texas' capitol, with the metaphoric Live Oak Lane representative of the town's live music reputation. As a newly transplanted resident here, I felt a great amount of pride in seeing this miniature showcase of roots, blues, country and folk music, even within the context of Christmas carols, music that I love.
The movie will try hard to draw a tear to the eye, but the music moreso invites the listener into a seat, or on their feet, for Austin, even aside from the SXSW context.