Touted as the first romantic comedy with a predominantly Native American cast, Christmas in the Clouds has charm and a certain uniqueness going for it in the midst of a somewhat routine storyline.
First-time writer-director Kate Montgomery focuses on a group of characters involved with a struggling Indian-operated ski resort. The handsome young resort manager Ray (Timothy Vahle) is fretting over the rumored arrival of a hotel critic traveling incognito, and Ray’s rambunctious father Joe (Sam Vlahos) is getting an unannounced visit from Tina, a young Native American woman (Mariana Tosca) whom he knows only through the letters they’ve been writing to each other.
The travel critic is an easily irritated buffoon (farcically played by M. Emmett Walsh), but Ray mistakes the letter-writer Tina for the critic and lavishes special treatment on her in ways that lead almost inevitably to romance. As the broadly played comedy of mistaken identities unfolds, the hotel critic gets entangled in a side adventure when he accompanies Joe on the latter’s trek to a casino in quest of winning a van—a Cherokee, of course—at the weekly bingo session.
The romance of Ray and Tina and the transformation of the Walsh character are the central events in this warm and occasionally too-cute comedy, but some of the best stuff in the film comes from secondary characters and supporting players. Graham Greene does some wry comic bits as a chef who tends to over-identify with the animals he cooks, and Rosalind Ayres is winningly droll as a spunkily aging Brit tourist. Wes Studi does an edgy cameo as a bingo caller.