CATEGORIES Classics, Comedy, Drama, Family Films, Cinematical Seven, 12 Days of Cinematicalmas, Features, Cinematical
I entirely sympathize with people that complain about the press (or bloggers or fanboys or "the Internet community") over-hyping certain movies because I feel the same way about holiday flicks in general. It's like the "Small World" ride/attraction at Disneyland: the first time you hear "It's a Small World," you think, "OK, fairly inoffensive little song, nice message, good for the kids" but by the end of the ride -- and the 50 millionth rendition -- you want to take a baseball bat to all the speakers in the vicinity and, oh yeah, smash yourself over the head too, to properly bid the song good riddance.
That's just me, though. I realize I may be walking out onto a plank solo with my choices, but these are the holiday movies for which I've developed an unreasoning, out of proportion hatred -- the mere mention of which drives me insane. In some cases I've tried to watch them, sometimes repeatedly, to see what others enjoy so much, but I'm afraid it's a lost cause. Apologies in advance if you're offended; please don't take it as a rejection of your values, morals, or good sense. These are not reviews, they are notes on films I couldn't finish or simply hate on principle. For the record, I don't have a knee-jerk reaction to ALL holiday movies, or movies set during the holidays; I came to enjoy most of It's a Wonderful Life (up to that sentimental ending with James Stewart running down the street), and really dig The Nightmare Before Christmas, Gremlins, Die Hard, and Lethal Weapon.
1. A Christmas Story
I've tried, I've tried, I've tried. I've started at the beginning, I've come back in the middle, I've come back near the end, and the charms of this film still elude me. All due respect to the late Jean Sheperd, but how does his voice not drive you folks up the wall? To me, he sounds like nails on a chalkboard. And he never shuts up! Combined with the kid's unrelenting desire for a BB gun, it just seems to me like one long whine for a present. In general, the tone is far too precious for me. Maybe I heard too many stories from my father about growing up in poverty during the 1930s to enjoy a warm-hearted family tale set in the 1940s. (For an entirely different perspective, read why my boss thinks you should watch it for 24 hours straight.)
2. White Christmas
This was a childhood television perennial, back in the days when our television could only tune in seven channels (yup, I'm older than some of you might think). Every time my brother and I clicked through the channels and saw this was on, we might watch for a minute or two, but invariably the hokey scenarios and melodramatic emotions would repel us into changing the channel. For all I know this might be a perfectly fine little movie, but I instinctively back away whenever I see this in the TV listings.
To be fair, I'm probably conflating my general disinterest in remakes with my general dislike for holiday movies, but I object to the Bill Murray version (directed by Richard Donner) on principle: how many times does this story need to be told? IMDb shows 25 exact matches for "A Christmas Carol" and another 17 partial or exact matches for "Scrooge." This seems like the ultimate exercise in marketing before inspiration. Is there anyone in love with this movie, or can I safely continue my boycott? Yeah, that's what I thought.
4. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
The first entry in the series had a great premise, a raunchy attitude and a fair amount of laughs. European Vacation had a few, isolated laughs and a worrisome devotion to formula. Christmas Vacation ditched the road trip framework and trapped the Griswolds at home, which should have opened things up, but the first few minutes were so deadly dull that I could barely stand it. I think it made it somehow until Cousin Eddie showed up, and then I bailed. What makes me hate this one so much, even though I've never seen the whole thing, is that the potential was sacrificed on the altar of cheap bodily function jokes.
5. The Santa Clause
Before Tim Allen got his TV show, he appeared on some late-night programs doing his stand-up act. He was really funny. What happened to that guy? I hate the premise, per IMDb: "When a man inadvertently kills Santa on Christmas Eve, he finds himself magically recruited to take his place." I hate the tagline, clearly meant to trick parents into taking their children to see a hip, post-modern holiday flick: "This Christmas, the snow hits the fan." Ho ho ho!? My parents never taught me that Santa Claus was real, so this is another film whose evidently inherent charms elude me. I also hate the idea that somebody dies and it's covered up magically. Perhaps it all turns out to be a dream and nobody really dies?
6. Bad Santa
I keep on reading that this is the story of two conmen who learn the true meaning of Christmas from a little boy, and it makes me want to (polite phrase for losing my lunch). Why not have the conmen stay true to their criminal selves, live their entire lives in wanton depravity, and die lonely and alone? Why do all criminals have to be redeemed in holiday movies? If you're going to introduce foul-mouthed losers, don't convert them into the saintly equivalent of prostitutes with hearts of gold. I hate that kind of cheap sentimentality, and Bad Santa reeks of it.
7. Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Dr. Seuss' original story is, what, like four pages long? The Chuck Jones TV version was 26 minutes of perfection. I hate the idea that, reportedly, more than $120 million was spent to make the 2000 edition that supplanted the old version in the minds of a new generation. I tried watching this a few days ago, and it gave me hives. It would have been better if the original version was spiffed up for the big screen -- and then repeated twice. Think about it: kids love to see their favorites over and over again, and with my idea, they'd get to see the Grinch steal Christmas three times in a row. I'm sure it wouldn't drive their parents crazier than if they had to sit through Ron Howard's overstuffed, overinflated production even once.