'Christmas in the Clouds'

Just in time for the holidays (Valentine's Day and Presidents' Day, anyway), Kate Montgomery's agreeably schmaltzy rom-com tempers its near terminal folksiness with stereotype-tweaking irony. Set in a Utah ski resort owned and operated by an Indian tribe, Clouds brings together the establishment's beleaguered manager (Tim Vahle), his dad's pen pal (the stunning Mariana Tosca), and an incognito hotel critic (M. Emmet Walsh, irascible as ever) for a yuletide case of multiple mistaken identities. Few clichés go unexercised, but there's also something quietly amazing going on here: For once, American Indians are portrayed not as spiritually attuned mystics or powerless patsies but as ordinary working stiffs, or at least the cinematic equivalent thereof. Rarely has mediocrity seemed so radical. Perhaps that's why Graham Greene and Wes Studi turn up to cheerfully take the piss out of their iconic screen personas, and maybe it has something to do with the film being unceremoniously dumped in February instead of, oh, I don't know—Christmastime?

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