Some cinematic lumps of coal to lift your spirits
This time of year we are literally inundated with good cheer and gay frivolity. Between the multiple obligations and stressed out shopping it can become overbearing. When holiday specials and traditional programs — to say nothing of the Hallmark Christmas films –display an unerring string of celebratory glee it may not always reflect the tension-filled gamut we are enduring. A break from the merriment may be due.
Maybe instead of the prefab perfection that you cannot live up to, a studio misfire on the holiday might turn things around. Seeing a movie fumble and shatter the holiday spirit can help you feel better about your stressful but still festive condition. You can possibly start to feel right watching Hollywood getting it wrong.
So if you are in need of elevating your mood and feeling better about your situation here are some titles to put you in superior spirits.
DECK THE HALLS
A common theme of these dysfunctional holiday larks is the presentation of sociopathic characters who get redeemed by the end credits. Here we get competing neighbors who think holiday decorating is more important than things like giving, and love — and their families. Matthew Broderick is a Christmas obsessive who micromanages all aspects of the season but sees his life disrupted when a crass Danny Devito moves in across the street. He desires to have his Christmas lights so gaudy they can be seen from space.
A rivalry flares up that manages to alienate both families and disrupts most of the small town. Naturally, all come together for a completely unearned happy ending. The lowlight is a scene with a naked DeVito and Broderick sharing a sleeping bag. Spiked eggnog will help.
CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS
When their daughter departs for the Peace Corps days after Thanksgiving Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis decide to take the money they’d spend on presents instead on cruise tickets. Their decision to forgo Christmas upsets co-workers, business owners in town, and the neighborhood homeowners association, because they are not decorating the home in a large light display like the others. The scenes of Block Captain Dan Aykroyd leading a crowd demanding the Kranks relinquish their plastic lawn Frosty are particularly disturbing.
The daughter then calls from Miami to announce she’s coming in for Christmas Eve, with a fiance after just a couple of weeks. Now all the commentary in the script about the excess of the holiday gets tossed in the landfill as they scramble to put on a lavish holiday party in just one day. The film attempts to bail itself out when Allen gives the cruise tickets to the neighbor he has fought with, whose wife has cancer. No – shut up, movie. You do NOT get to award yourself this happiness after being belligerent with holiday cheer!
Ben Affleck stars as a cynical advertising executive with no time for Christmas. When his girlfriend breaks up with him he instantly desires to spend Christmas with ANYone. It’s like he has North Pole-ar disorder. He goes to his childhood home where a family with anger issues resides, headed by James Gandolfini. Ben offers to pay them exorbitantly to make him part of the family for Christmas and, despite displaying deep emotional issues, they agree.
Smashingly unfunny and stomping on all elements of the holiday while dehumanizing all involved we grow to hate everyone displayed. Of course, we see the “hero” falls in love and a delightful bow is placed on the film, instead of all being committed to an asylum, and their home burned to the ground, as should have rightfully taken place.
Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn desire to avoid each of their divorced parents and families and instead fly out to Fiji. Once their flight is canceled a TV news crew interviews the couple and their families see the report and expect them to now come by for the holiday. The escapades at all of the families visited in one day are a joyless humor-free affair in this comedy. The lack of chemistry between the couple is a result of the two stars not getting along on the set — always a help in a romantic comedy.
Despite the disturbing family units the couple has decided to form their own family. They decide to get married and have a baby, something they elected to hide from all the families. When Reese gives birth it is on January 1, and being the New Year’s baby means they are all on the news again, to set up for a non-arriving sequel.
JINGLE ALL THE WAY
A supposed comedic lecture about commercializing the holiday the entire film is about commoditizing Christmas. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a work-obsessed mattress salesman who neglects his kid, so he feels that buying him the hot toy of the year — a Turbo Man action figure — will make up for his horrible parenting. Battling crowds and a hostile mailman (Sinbad) Arnold fails until he hits upon a solution.
At the holiday parade he somehow finds his way into a Turbo Man costume on a float, and gesturing to the crowd he awards his kid a doll. He also discovers the suit is fully operational and he can actually fly, so he thwarts an evil plot during the parade. The lesson seems to be if you can’t buy your child’s love then becoming a superhero will salve all the emotional trauma.
Now go feel better about your stress, and have a few visions of sugar plums along the way.