The Twenty-Fifth Day of Christmas: It’s a Wonderful Life is my Favourite Christmas Movie

By: Kimbit

Merry Christmas! This month just flew by and we are at our last Christmas blog! I saved (in my opinion) the best for last! It’s a Wonderful Life is my favourite Christmas movie and the only movie I’m guaranteed to watch before Christmas each year.

it's a wonderful life.gifFeaturing James Stewart as the oldest 18 year old ever.

It’s a Wonderful Life didn’t become a favourite of mine until high school. I believe I was shown the movie when I was a bit younger than that, but I had no appreciation for it. We owned the classic black and white version of the VHS and I was (and still am) not a huge fan of black and white movies as I find they can lack energy and they lose my interest. It wasn’t until I was reintroduced to it as it being one of my mother’s favourite Christmas films after she had passed away that I gave it a proper chance and of course loved it!

As I mentioned on a previous blog, It’s a Wonderful Life didn’t actually do great at the box office but did receive critical acclaim. It was nominated for 5 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director but it lost out to The Best Years of Our Lives in all categories except Sound Recording which The Jolson Story won. After losing the awards and not doing great at the box office, It’s a Wonderful Life actually disappeared from the public eye for many years. It was until about 30 years later that TV networks started running the film in their Christmas lineups and helped make it a Christmas classic. Since then VHS and DVD sales have continued to grow.

its-a-wonderful-life-snowIn 1949 the special effects department won a Technical Achievement Award for creating
a new kind of fake snow – so at least the Academy recognized the movie for something!

 Something interesting is that It’s a Wonderful Life only has a small portion of the movie actually taking place around Christmas. The movie spans from George Bailey’s childhood until his mid-adult years covering many seasons and times of the year. Because of this, the movie was shot during the spring/early summer and fake snow was created for the winter scenes. Most of the movies we have covered during this blog have taken place leading up to or on Christmas almost inclusively so how is It’s a Wonderful Life a better Christmas movie than the ones actually taking place solely in the season?

For some it might be the religious aspect which is often missing from a lot of major theatrical releases in the modern age – but it is not for me. I’m not religious at all but what makes the movie the best for me is the messages it sends about families, community and self-worth. A Christmas Carol covers a lot of the same messages but what is importantly different about It’s a Wonderful Life is the message of self-worth.

george_bailey.jpgYou matter!

In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge thinks too highly of himself and his money and learns that the value of family and giving outweighs the value of money. In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey thinks all hope is lost and that he messed everything up for his friends and family (it was really Uncle Billy’s fault) and that the only way out is to kill himself. An angel helps him understand how he has touched so many lives and how that impact continued to ripple positively out from him and his actions. He realizes that he made a difference by consistently doing the right thing and that his life is important.

This message is so powerful and important for people to experience not just around Christmas but at times when you feel you don’t matter. The holidays are an especially hard time for some people and this movie can speak to these people and remind them that they matter – even if they don’t think so. For me the holidays are a very joyous occasion but I still like to be reminded that it is important to always consider others and do the right thing and you will be rewarded (still not a religious thing).

its-a-wonderful-life-bookAlways makes me teary!

The downside of this movie is that some of the smaller things have not really aged well. I find the message powerful enough to still love it and watch it regularly despite its drawbacks. Bedford Falls where the movie takes place is basically white people central with the one black character being the maid. There appears to be one Hispanic family which is portrayed as having the most kids of the entire town as well as a goat – which I also think is a bit racist. In the alternate universe without George, he is horrified to learn that Mary has become –GOSH– a librarian and an old maid having never married. I believe the reaction of Mary’s alternate reality is meant to be painful to George because his wife doesn’t recognize him, but it feels more like he is shocked that she would never marry and become a librarian (she even suddenly has glasses because librarians always have glasses!).

The alternate universe is a bit over the top in general. It needed to be to really hit the message of how important George is to his family and community but if you really think a lot of the things through they are unlikely. Harry’s death for example probably would not have happened (at least not the way suggested) because Harry was tagging along with George’s friends so if George didn’t exist, he wouldn’t have been hanging out with those boys. Also, Mary becoming an old maid and living in Bedford Falls would be unlikely. She seemly only came home from New York because she was “homesick” but she made it pretty clear she came home to get George. So if George didn’t exist, she likely would have never come home and would have gotten a job in New York and likely would have married Sam (or any other eligible bachelor there).

itsawonderfullife_oldmaidClarence take me back! It didn’t matter when my brother was dead or my mother
didn’t recognize me but god-forbid my wife becomes an old maid!

I consider all of these small issues that I like to just pretend don’t exist when I’m watching the movie. I also just enjoy laughing at a bunch of the time period oddities like the extreme neck rubbing, the actors playing multiple ages throughout the movie with minimal changes (just some grey hair should do it!) and sometimes poor use of green screen (military scenes). Overall the movie sends an important Christmas message that doesn’t involve Santa Claus, or commercialization. If you like the religious theme or can overlook it I highly recommend this movie if you haven’t seen it.

Don’t agree with my opinion? What do you think of It’s a Wonderful Life? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

 

The Twenty-Fourth Day of Christmas: A Christmas Story – The Most Honest Christmas Movie?

By: JJ

Throughout these 25 days of Christmas we’ve gone over time and again what commonly makes a Christmas movie – the themes.  This encompasses the joy of family and friends, the slightly vague ‘Christmas spirit’, and in many cases over the top antics that somehow bring us all together.  These are wonderful Christmas themes and ideals, probably for the whole year (re: Bill Murray yelling at as all at the end of Scrooged making me tear up every damn time) but we don’t necessarily all experience it this way every year.  Especially not with actual elves, Santa Claus, lovely but unrealistic family get-togethers, romance or ghosts teaching mean people to not be mean.  Most of us, or I guess most of the people I know, stress about buying presents, worry about the family get-togethers, keep their relationship status the same and have no supernatural life-changing run-ins, whether that be meeting Angels, ghosts or Santa.  And kids?  Kids just want to make sure they get what they want for Christmas.

A Christmas Story is about that last bit – for the most part.  Our hero Ralphie wants a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle.  He will stop at nothing to get it.  He tries to trick his mother, impress and bribe his teacher and even goes to the big man at the top, Santa Claus himself to ask for what he so desperately wants!  But what does he hear over and over again?

You'll shoot your eye out2.jpgPoor Ralphie!  Gun violence is great for children!

Now don’t get me wrong, a huge part of this movie is how bad this kid wants a bb gun, and I will talk about this in the blog, but upon watching it for the I-have-no-idea-how-many-ith time, what struck me about this movie was its lack of magic.  That is what this penultimate Christmas blog will be about.  The magic of no magic, and the comfort of story told honestly.

This movie is about a working class family in the 1940s in a moderate sized town in Indiana living their day to day life leading up to Christmas.  While this synopsis sounds boring beyond belief it provides lots of laughs and has a lot of heart but with a complete and total lack of sap.

This movie is told through the eyes of Ralphie in the form of narration.  The narration is dictated by the adult voice of Ralphie’s character played by Jean Shepherd who is also one of the writers of the movie. He is also the writer of the book ‘In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash’ on which the movie is partially based.  The original book is all stories based on Jean Shepherd’s life, stories that were first made famous by his humorous radio stories from his Indiana childhood.  My point of course being that the narrator of Ralphie is the actual adult Ralphie!

To find this out did actually blow my mind a bit, but it also makes total sense.  Shepherd’s narration is perfect in my opinion.  What is truly great about it is his enthusiasm.  He is speaking about the past, but with the emotion of the child in the moment.  When Ralphie is excited in the movie, Shepherd sounds excited in that unashamed childhood way we adults try to suppress.  When something goes wrong in Ralphie’s life Shepherd narrates it like he is in that moment instead of just telling the story.

Most adult narrations make retrospective commentaries on their behavior, but not Shepherd and not Ralphie.  He tells it like it was and behaves like that’s what it is now and that brings you into the mind of Ralphie more deeply than one would anticipate for a story about a fourth grader who wants a gun.

51958533At least Carl has a pretty practical use for a weapon.

There are very few Christmas movies I can think of, and we’ve blogged about quite a few in the last 4 weeks, that aren’t about anything more than one of the many Christmas seasons experienced growing up, or even as an adult.  The title ‘A Christmas Story’ tells you exactly what it is, just A Christmas story.  One of many, similar to many others, but it’s told with a charm and delight that is unparalleled.

Ralphie’s father, affectionately referred to as The Old Man, is a working man who has daily fights with his faulty furnace and pretty much goes bananas over a tawdry lamp in the shape of a woman’s leg because he won it.  The winning of it seems to be his main drive.  For my money this is because of his embarrassment when it turned out to be a leg lamp and not a bowling alley like he wanted.  His mother, only ever referred to as Mom, is a kind but firm housewife of the time who weaves the workings of raising two very different children and keeping the home beautifully.  Mom however hates the horrible lamp, and we will never know the answer to mystery of how the lamp got broken when she was the only person in the room….

leglamp2Would you blame her?

Then there is Ralphie’s little brother who spends most of the movie fairly silent except for some whining and crying.  His fear that his father will kill Ralphie after he beats the living you know what out of the town bully is pretty adorable though; and while beating up the town bully was more about his sadness after his teacher told him he’d shoot his eye out, it was pretty well deserved in a ‘1940s violence solves all problems’ kind of way.

The only real magic of the film comes from Ralphie’s imagination. He imagines saving his family from robbers with his gun and his teacher giving him an A+++++ and so on for his theme (I think it’s the 1940s version of a paragraph).  There are more but the strangest is pretty insensitive portrayal of him as an adult going blind because his parents made him wash his mouth out with soap when he cursed. This is all however the natural imagination of a child and while adorable and hilarious, not exactly out of the ordinary.

So why do I like it so much if it’s just an everyday story?  I’m the one that raved about sappy romantic Christmas movies and the wonder of New York at Christmas.  The everyday of this movie and the anticipation that a child has around Christmas draws not on our penchant for fantasy but for nostalgia.  The time period may be way off for most of us nowadays but has it changed that much?  I didn’t send away for a Little Orphan Annie decoder ring when I was a kid but I did join the fan club for YTV and waited for my official letter in the mail.  I didn’t want a BB gun but I did want a doll with its own stroller whose mouth moved when you fed it.  Maybe for kids today it’s an online fan club and an iPad or something but it’s still relatable.  In a culture with such an ability to look back on itself, nostalgia has become a hot commodity and this movie brings it; but not in an ‘on this day’ Facebook way, in a full, hilarious, honest story that sucks you in and leaves you feeling like you too got exactly what you wanted for Christmas.  ‘Cause yeah, he gets the gun and damn near shoots his eye out on the first day.

ralphie-1You don’t learn to listen to adults until you’ve become one from doing everything they said not to.

What do you think about A Christmas Story? Anything I missed that you love or hate about it? Let us know in the comments!

The Twenty-Third Day of Christmas: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

By: Kimbit

Christmas Vacation is definitely a Christmas comedy classic. The mostly slapstick humour and hectic family atmosphere is what makes this movie funny and memorable.

clark griswold.jpgIt’s the only “Vacation” movie where the Griswold’s don’t go anywhere.

Christmas Vacation tells the story of the Griswold family Christmas where nothing goes as planned and pretty much everyone is scared of a squirrel in the house. The whole movie is a string of bad luck and unfortunate events keeping in line with the Vacation franchise. It is one of those movies where you end up cringing and covering your eyes because you know something terrible is about to happen and you just can’t watch. Or maybe that’s just me.

Christmas Vacation is unique in the sense that it is the only (as far as I’m aware) live action Christmas movie that is a sequel to other non-Christmas movies. Christmas Vacation is part of the Vacation franchise and is actually the 3rd movie of 4 featuring the bad luck prone Griswold’s. This movie was also writer John Hughes’ first of 4 Christmas movies he would eventually write and the last “Vacation” movie he would write.

christmas-vacation-xmas-reelThe movie was based on a short story that John Hughes wrote for Nation Lampoon called
Christmas 59 
which is referenced when Clark is stuck in the attic.

Christmas Vacation did well at the box office when it was released; landing in the top 5 PG-13 rated films for that year. Interestingly, Christmas Vacation is the most successful (not accounting for inflation) in the Vacation franchise beating out both the original and its remake. It is also the highest rated on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) out all of the movies in the Vacation franchise – something that doesn’t happen a lot with sequels.

Weirdly enough I don’t think I had ever watched Christmas Vacation from beginning to end in a complete sitting until this year. It was always one of those movies I’d catch half of on TV, or would be on in the background in someone’s home. I knew the entire premise and a good majority of the gags, but there was a lot of in between plot I never had truly seen. It was nice to finally sit down and watch this movie but I had a hard time getting through it.

christmas-vacation-quotesThis scene was brutal for me.

I am one of those people that have grown up to cringe at slapstick comedy. It doesn’t mean I cannot still find it funny but usually I just want to close my eyes because it’s so obvious that the situation is going to go badly and I just don’t want to see it unfold. When I was a kid this wasn’t a problem so any movie that does this that I originally watched as a kid doesn’t seem to bother me (Jingle All the Way for example has a ton of this type of comedy). Christmas Vacation also made me laugh as well as cringe so it still did its job!

Much like how I had avoided Elf because of not always being on the Will Ferrell train, I was never drawn to Christmas Vacation because I don’t really like Chevy Chase. I didn’t grow up on any of his movies, and I’ve actually seen very few of his movies so to be fair I’m not judging him on a wide spectrum of content. I’m sure that a lot of his stuff is hilarious and I know that he was pretty big on Saturday Night Live (SNL) but hearing about his behaviour and attitude outside of his movies and TV shows in the last few years has really turned me off of him.

Now that I have actually sat down and watched Christmas Vacation I know it was wrong of me to avoid it because of Chevy Chase. The story is clever and relatable, the whole cast is does a great job (if not underused) and it is funny! I wish there could have been more of Doris Roberts who I just love and more of the in-laws in general. I may have cringed through the entire movie but I can certainly see how this movie has become a classic.

doris-robertsShe was the only reason to watch Everyone Loves Raymond.

My final thought on this movie though is that fact that unlike many movies throughout this blog, Christmas Vacation has less of the heartwarming lessons learned vibe. While there are some family values shoved in there and his boss learns his lesson, the Griswold’s didn’t really do anything wrong that they needed to grow from (they learned maybe to tone it down a bit for next year). It puts a twist on the usual formula for a Christmas movie yet still is a Christmas favourite for many.

What do you think about Christmas Vacation? Don’t agree with my thoughts? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

 

The Twenty-Second Day of Christmas: Miracle on 34th Street – Which Version is Best?

By: Kimbit

Much like the comparison I did between the versions of How the Grinch Stole Christmas (animated vs. live action) I am going to try to break down which version of Miracle on 34th Street is the best and which one you should watch this year.

kris-kringle-paperWhat a terrible article title.

Miracle on 34th Street tells the story of a mall Santa, Kris Kringle, who claims to be the real deal. In the original movie a psychological evaluation of Kris is ordered and the psychologist ends up working against Kris in order to have him institutionalized. This is the same for the TV movie that was aired in 1973 but in the 1994 theatrical remake Kris is arrested after rival department store employees set him up. In all of the films, Kris Kringle then is forced to defend himself in court to prove that he is actually Santa and is not insane.

Miracle on 34th Street was first written and released in June of 1947. That’s right June! I’m pretty sure it is the only Christmas movie that we have covered throughout this blog (not including incidental Christmas movies and The Nightmare Before Christmas) that wasn’t released during the traditional Christmas season (November-December). The reasoning behind this was that more people go to the movies in the warmer weather and the original poster minimized the Christmas setting to attract viewers based on its stars.

miracle-on-34th-street-1947-poster-comparisonThe original 1947 poster vs the updated 1947 poster.

After the original’s success there were 2 TV specials in the 1950’s. One was as a part of The 20th Century Fox Hour and one was aired live and in colour for the first time during NBC Friday Night Special Presentation. These versions were never widely released and followed the first film closely.

In 1973, another TV movie was made by 20th Century Fox and again followed the plot of the original movie fairly closely with only a few deviations.

Finally, a theatrical remake of film was released in 1994 which greatly changed the plot from the original version. In my eyes this version is the main competitor to the original as it was the only other film to be widely released to the public.  For the purposes of this comparison I am going to focus on this film vs the original.

miracle-on-34th-street-1994Did you know that John Hughes wrote the screenplay for the remake?

According to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), the original film is rated 7.9 out of 10 (31, 024 total votes) compared to the 1994 remake which only received 6.4 out of 10 (22, 457 total votes). The amount of votes for each movie actually surprises me considering that it was the opposite for How the Grinch Stole Christmas; with the older movie having fewer votes. To me this only strengthens the argument that the original is the higher quality film since more people have gone to IMDB (only founded in 1990) to rate the old movie. Though it is worth noting that film critic Roger Ebert gave the remake 3 out of 4 stars and stated that it was a “sweet, gentle, good-hearted film that stays true to the spirit of the original and doesn’t try to make everything slick and exploitative.”

Additionally, the original movie won 3 Academy Awards and 2 Golden Globes. It was also nominated for Best Picture but lost to Gentleman’s Agreement. The 1994 remake received no love from any major awards though Richard Attenborough (who portrays Kris Kringle) got nominated for a Saturn Award. The original was selected in 2005 for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”. The 1994 version being a remake has not been selected which isn’t really a surprise.

saturn-awardsThe Saturn Awards: one of the many awards you probably haven’t heard of.

In the original film the rival stores were Macy’s and Gimbels with both stores providing their permission for their names to be used. Gimbels had gone out of business by the time the remake was filmed but Macy’s actually denied the production the permission to use their name for the remake. To me this shows the stores lack of faith in the production. To be fair though it is believed that Macy’s removed support without having seen the film. Permission was granted for the original after the movie had already been completed.

I also forgot to mention that the original is in black and white for those who are fonder of movies in colour. Much like other Christmas classics like It’s a Wonderful Life it has been colourized in more recent releases of the film should you prefer to watch it in colour. The 1994 remake was released in colour which is not surprising based on the fact that most movies have been released in colour since the 1950’s.

miracle-on-34-street-in-colorThe umbrella whacking in full colour is just marvelous.

Lastly, to repeat myself a little bit from my blog on How the Grinch Stole Christmas there is usually a bias against remade films. The original was already a classic by the time the remake was made and a lot of people had preconceived ideas about the movie before viewing the remake. The remake also changed the story a fair amount which likely bothered anyone familiar with the original.

Overall it is quite clear that the original movie is the better movie in this case. My family owned the remake and therefore I watched the remake first but when I saw the original only last year (a difference of over 20 years from my first viewing of the remake) I liked it better. I’m not even a huge fan of black and white movies because I find that the colour gives the film more life and energy but the original story was just told that much better. So if you only have time for one viewing of Miracle on 34th Street I recommend the original 1947 version!

miracle-on-34th-street-musicalOr you can try to watch the musical!

Don’t agree with my opinion? Let us know in the comments!

The Twenty-First Day of Christmas: Elf is Full of Plot Holes and a Creepy Romance

By: Kimbit

I didn’t expect to like Elf. I had always imagined it to be like many Will Ferrell led movies to rely on too much screaming and generally unfunny antics so I had mostly steered clear. Strangely enough though, I didn’t hate and actually enjoyed certain parts of it.

elf.jpgIn terms of Christmas movies in New York City I’d stick to Home Alone 2.

If you haven’t seen or heard of Elf I will give you a brief rundown. A baby up for adoption crawls into Santa’s bag and is mistakenly brought back to the North Pole. Instead of returning the baby, Santa decides that an old elf will raise “Buddy” as his own. Eventually, due to his incompetence as an elf worker, his adoptive father sends Buddy to New York City in search for his real father who doesn’t know he exists. His father has to decide what is most important to him when Buddy interferes with his work and family.

It is a pretty good premise for a Christmas film and checks all the right boxes. Christmas spirit – check. Family values – check. Overcoming fears and saving the day – check, check! It also features a cute romantic sub plot that is totally not necessary, and extremely creepy (more on that later) but manages to weave it into the story fairly nicely.

elf-peter-billingsleyAlso it has Peter Billingsley (Ralphie) in a cameo!

Generally when I watch Christmas movies I try to turn off my brain a bit and suspend my belief. Christmas movies are usually pretty bad for plot holes and I try not to let them bother me when I’m watching the films. For some reason though, they just kept bugging me throughout my screening of Elf. There was also, while not really plot holes, illogical choices made solely for the purposes of the comedy of the film but just don’t make sense to me. Of course without these things the movie wouldn’t exist or would be a documentary or something not very funny so I understand.

So the whole movie revolves around the fact that “Buddy” becomes an elf by sneaking his way to the North Pole. I don’t get why Santa wouldn’t just return him to the orphanage or to a family who is wishing for a child for Christmas? Of course, no movie if he does that so moving on. They decide to raise him as an elf, knowing full well that he is a human and will become much bigger than them and would likely cause problems. I mean I’m not an expert on the best time to tell your kid that they are adopted, but 30 years is a long time when there are noticeable differences in size.

elf-size-differenceHow do you not notice this?!

Apparently elves have four food groups consisting of candy which should actually mean that Buddy would be greatly malnourished. The movie seems to imply that Buddy has had nothing but candy for his entire life until he goes to New York which seems fairly impossible for a human to survive and grow on for 30 years. It also seems strange to me that the elves would not teach boundaries, such as maybe don’t go into the women’s locker room. When he is in New York City he seems to know well enough that he cannot look in the shower but not that he shouldn’t be in there at all. He did shower at the North Pole in the movie so maybe they only taught him not to open the curtain?

Santa and Papa Elf send Buddy back to New York City they decide that he only needs to know the basics. His father’s name, his place of work, his mom’s name, not to eat gum off the street, where the original Ray’s pizza actually is, what a peepshow is not, and that his father is naughty. Nothing about what a car is and how to cross a street without being hit by a taxi. Nothing about how people might look at him different because of his outfit and that not everyone believes in Santa. Nothing about how to survive in New York City!

elf-hit-by-taxiI feel like that would hurt more. Enough to learn to look at least!

Again if they had told him more about how humans act and what to expect they would have lost the physical humour of him being hit and almost being hit by cars. Pretty much all of the comedy comes from the idea that Buddy is a fish out of water and is only slowly learning about the rules of New York and humans. This is the same idea with him being mistaken as a store employee. It adds to the comedy of him freaking out about the impostor Santa. I’m pretty sure it would be hard to mistake someone in a completely different elf costume, who is much taller than the rest of your staff as an elf employee. I mean Buddy has no birth certificate, no SIN number to even work, no last name (officially) as far as we know – so how would the store manager be attempting to track his hours of work? He would realize at least after a short amount of time that he doesn’t work there.

I could probably go on and on about the plot holes and illogical story points but I want to talk about one more thing – the creepy romance. Buddy somehow ends up convincing the girl to go on a date with him because of his childlike charm but everything he does before that is downright weird. He starts off by staring at her, ignoring her requests to leave her alone, and physically blocking her path to leave. Then he escalates by entering the women’s locker room to listen to her sing. He is arrested and removed from the store following a violent altercation (not involving her) but comes back violating a restraining order to come ask her out. For some reason Jovie never finds this creepy and weird and accepts it, and then their romance becomes cute and delightful. This reddit user has a twist on it as well.

elf-i-didnt-know-you-were-nakedLook at that sly creepy smile.

Even with all of these issues the movie doesn’t rely on Will Ferrell screaming too much (more yell singing than I would like though) and has many cute and funny moments that make the film enjoyable. If you are a person who has no trouble looking past plot holes then this film should never bother you in the ways it bothered me. Despite its plot holes I’d actually recommend it especially for families with older (7+) children and for adults who enjoy Will Ferrell.

Don’t agree with my opinion? Find more plot holes? Let us know in the comments!

The Twentieth Day of Christmas: The Santa Clause – Good for Adults too!

By: Kimbit

I hope you aren’t sick of Tim Allen from yesterday’s article about Christmas with the Kranks because today I am going to talk about The Santa Clause!

santa-clauseTim Allen’s first starring movie role!

The Santa Clause is about a man who kills Santa Claus and takes over his life. Sounds pretty dark for children yet somehow it is totally charming. As far as I can remember it was my first Christmas movie I owned (probably given to me for Christmas – but I was 6 years old so who knows?). So logically it was probably my first favourite Christmas movie as I was too young to appreciate my current favourites but it’s definitely been inched out of my top movies now.

That being said, it is still a wonderful movie and I wouldn’t be hurting to watch it more frequently. It definitely is more appropriate for kids and it keeps the Santa magic alive. Though even after I stopped believing in Santa Claus I continued to watch and enjoy this movie. Until recently though, I hadn’t watched this movie since my childhood.

santa-claus-legsI’m sure I loved this classy leg action just as much when I was a kid!

The Santa Clause was Disney’s 2nd original live action Christmas movie and it was immensely successful. It followed One Magic Christmas released in 1985 and Babes in Toyland in 1961 (which was based on an operetta). The Santa Clause made back over 7 times its original production budget and was in the top 5 highest grossing films of 1994. It terms of Christmas movies it is in the top 10 highest grossing Christmas movies of all time (all 3 movies in The Santa Clause franchise are in the top 10). Other than Home Alone, the Santa Clause franchise is the most successful Christmas franchise!

The Santa Clause may have been magical to children but what makes us remember it and keep it in our hearts as adults is the clever story and fun dialogue. Watching this for the first time in many years as an adult I have been finding myself laughing at quite a few jokes I wouldn’t have appreciated as a kid. There are also a bunch of plot holes but who really looks that close in Christmas movies anyway.

santa-clause-missing-sleighUhh… where’d the sleigh go?

The story answers the questions that kids who doubt Santa start to ask which makes the movie very smart for kids. It also never feels like the movie talks down to the children in the audience which is important. Then of course there are the hidden adult jokes that are put there to humour the parents who end up watching this with their kids. The lines themselves are good but I also love the sarcasm and off the cuff comments Scott makes throughout the film; which in fairness given my harsh stance on bullying could sometimes be seen that way considering his comments toward Neil. Somehow his comments in this movie seem much lighter and more in jest than aggressive.

Given this is a family film I’m surprised they were able to fit in so many of the naughty adult jokes. I think my favourite was when the principal asks Scott/Santa what he did with Charlie on Christmas Eve and he responds “We shared a bowl of sugar, did some shots of brown liquor, played with my shot guns, field-dressed a cat, looked for women…”. I don’t remember that at all from when I was a kid since I’m sure the humour in that went right over my head but I’m surprised they were able to joke about that at all in a Disney movie!

the-santa-clause-flying“It’s okay I’m used to it, I lived through the 60’s!”

Something else I want to mention is that I’m pretty certain that this movie was one of my earliest exposures to the idea of divorce. It is something that hasn’t been a part of most Christmas movies (I’m not counting Four Christmases since it is terrible and aimed at adults) which is a real shame since unfortunately many families in modern times are dealing with divorce (maybe fortunately to some – I do not judge). I did not grow up in a divorced home but after seeing this movie (and probably a few others that I don’t remember) I did have friends and family deal with divorce and I understood the idea better because of movies. The portrayal of divorce in this movie is not perfect (for example Scott being sarcastic and snotty to the step-dad) but it is nice to have the blended family included in a Christmas movie aimed at kids.

Overall, The Santa Clause is over 20 years old now and in my mind is definitely a Christmas classic. It has plenty of Christmas spirit, without the commercialization; plenty of family values, without trashing or hyping divorce; and it is funny – to both children and adults. It captures all of the main ingredients to a quality family Christmas film. It may not quite be old enough to be a true classic; it continues to be popular and memorable, not to mention the fact that it spawned a franchise – enough to be a classic in my book.

santa-clause-tool-beltAlmost forgot the Home Improvement reference!

What do you think of The Santa Clause? Is it enjoyable as an adult? Let us know in the comments!

 

The Nineteenth Day of Christmas: Christmas with the Kranks is more about Peer Pressure than Community

By: Kimbit

Originally, I was going to talk about the strange phenomenon of not so great Christmas movies released in the mid-2000’s (and a few incidental Christmas ones as well) but then I ended up watching Christmas with the Kranks as a part of that research and I felt the desire to talk about it.

christmas-with-the-kranksFeaturing Dan Aykroyd with a “punch-me” face most of the movie!

Christmas with the Kranks is about a family whose daughter is going away over Christmas and they decide to just skip Christmas. As it turned out this family spent over $3000 a year on celebrating Christmas so going on a cruise was more affordable (I wish I had that much money to spend on Christmas – geez!). They are surprised when their daughter calls them last minute to say she is coming home with her new fiancé and is expecting the usual Christmas traditions. The neighbourhood comes together to help the Krank family pull out all the stops for their daughter even though their Christmas skipping antics had rubbed them the wrong way initially.

Christmas with the Kranks joins the ranks of Christmas movies that were based on books. Did you know that large number of the Christmas classics you are familiar with were original based on novels or in the case of Christmas Vacation – an article in a magazine? A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, Die Hard, not to mention others which I have already revealed throughout this string of blogs were all based on books! Before I get too off topic, Christmas with the Kranks was actually based off of a John Grisham novel, Skipping Christmas. I was surprised when I discovered this since I mostly think of his legal thrillers like the Pelican Brief (also made into a movie) when I think of his books.

skipping-christmasWith more snow than the entire movie.

The movie was not well received when it came out in 2004 barely making back its budget of 60 million domestically (United States). It is only rated 5.2 out 10 on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) and has an even worse rating on Rotten Tomatoes! This isn’t really that surprising considering that the book also received some negative reviews and is generally considered sub-par compared to John Grisham’s other writing.

I started watching this film expecting the worst, but I don’t feel like it was that bad. I don’t feel like I would rate it much higher on IMDB but it definitely made me less angry than Four Christmases. It did however make me angry still. This movie presents itself as a story of a comedy where a family makes an impulsive decision and the community pulls together (with the spirit of Christmas, blah, blah) to save the magic for their daughter. The movie isn’t really about this though. It’s about a rich, mostly white neighbourhood that appears to be obsessed with Christmas to a point where they feel the need to bully those who do not wish to participate in the festivities!

kranks-newspaperThey even make the front page of a newspaper – this isn’t news!

The majority of the movie takes place before the Kranks know their daughter is returning and the “comedy” is mostly from them defending themselves from the peer pressure of everyone in the community. They have mobs of neighbours who yell at them on their lawn, neighbours purposely send Christmas carolers to their house to guilt them and Luther Krank (Tim Allen’s character) is even harassed at work when he passes around a very polite note about the fact he will not be celebrating Christmas(which he shouldn’t even need to explain)!

The whole concept just baffles me about how that is funny, because it isn’t. They seem to make an effort to say that it’s not a religious thing and that they are inclusive to other faith’s holidays but not to a personal choice. The Kranks are mainly treated so harshly because they have been so generous and completely in the holiday spirit in the past; which is so unfair. Also to be clear, the Kranks end up making the decision to completely boycott Christmas after Luther Krank pressures Nora Krank (Jamie Lee Curtis’ character) into it. So the peer pressure isn’t just limited to the community.

krank-fall-off-roofBut Luther falls off the roof so I guess he gets his penance.

Nora still likes the idea of doing things like donating to her charities or putting up a few decorations but Luther insists that they would need to do nothing in order to afford their cruise- which I disagree with. If they choose not to celebrate Christmas in order to save money, it makes sense not to buy a tree, new decorations, to not throw a party, even to not donate to their charities (maybe just donate less?)…etc., but it doesn’t cost money to put up existing decorations does it? I know that if I was already cutting back on Christmas because of money, maybe I might be lazy about putting up decorations – it’s pretty reasonable.

The difference between me and the Kranks though is I wouldn’t find it to be a big deal if my neighbours offered to put up the traditional neighbourhood decoration(s) for me. However unreasonable this mindset may be though; people need to respect that! This PG rated movie only teaches children that those people who are not celebrating the same thing or way as you are wrong and they should be pressured into doing what the majority sees fit which is a terrible lesson.

botoxAlso the lesson of never get random Botox for no reason to the plot what-so-ever!

With my anger out of the way, I will admit that there was some silliness that I did enjoy in the movie. I also really enjoy Jamie Lee Curtis as an actress and she did a great job playing Nora as being completely out of her element with skipping Christmas. She is one of those actresses who doesn’t receive any love from the Academy Awards but has been recognized multiple times from the Golden Globes for her comedic portrayals (and has won twice!).

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend Christmas with the Kranks, unless you want to use it as a teaching method about peer pressure, bullying and holiday exclusion. If you agree with me, check out this hilarious review that expands more on the plot holes of this movie.

What do you think about Christmas with the Kranks? Disagree with my opinion? Let us know in the comments!