Dolly Parton is what Mrs. Goode refers to as "a natural actor" or one who appears on screen to be pretty much like they would be in "real life". Which is even easier for Dolly in A Smoky Mountain Christmas because she's basically just playing a version of herself in this Christmas fantasy which she not only stars in, but also co-wrote.
Lorna Davis (Dolly) is a country star living in L.A.; She's getting burned out and decides to take a break and go back to her roots in the Tennessee mountains where she grew up. She breaks a window when leaving and everyone assumes she has been kidnapped. When she arrives at the cabin, Lorna/Dolly finds a bunch of kids (escapees from a local orphanage) are already living there. Since neither Dolly nor the kids want to be discovered by the outside world, they all agree to keep each other secrets. There's a lot of great interaction between Dolly and the kids and I think some of it must have been improvised by Dolly when some of the child actors reacted as normal children.
Dolly has several forces working against her in A Smoky Mountain Christmas. One is a mountain witch woman (Anita Morris) who has an unfounded jealousy about Dolly and the local Sheriff (Bo Hopkins). Then there's the Sheriff himself, who tracks the kids down and carries them back to the orphanage and arrests Dolly at the same time. Finally, unbeknown to Dolly, she has been followed from L.A. by a paparazzi (Dan Hedaya) who's trying to get a scoop on her. Luckily Dolly has at least one person, Mountain Dan (Lee Majors), on her side.
There's a couple of nods to fairy tales in A Smoky Mountain Christmas. When Dolly first arrives at the cabin before the kids come home, it's very reminiscent of Goldilocks and The Three Bears. Later in the movie, in a nod to Sleeping Beauty, the evil witch feeds Dolly a poisoned apple pie putting Dolly into a deep sleep. There's a twist with this story, since the handsome prince's (Mountain Dan) kiss doesn't awaken the sleeping princess, but I won't spoil the story by telling what does.
There were only a couple of very slight flaws in A Smoky Mountain Christmas. First, I thought there were too many close-up face shots between Dolly and the children smiling at each other. This, of course, would have to blamed on the director, Henry Winkler. The other flaw was on several occasions Dolly would be singing while the kids were doing whatever work was involved at the time. While I realize this was a way to integrate some of the songs into the movie, it just seemed out of place to me each time it occurred.
I guess it goes without saying....but, I'm going to say it anyway....A Smoky Mountain Christmas has a happy ending. There's nothing wrong with that and the film isn't as saccharine as you might think. And even if it is as sappy as you might imagine when you get a chance to watch A Smoky Mountain Christmas, you just might just find your Grinch heart melting a little bit.