02 December 2015

Reviews of Some Classic Christmas Movies

It's Advent now, and one thing that people tend to do during Advent is watch Christmas-themed movies.  So today I'm going to present a roundup of some classics, with short reviews.


The Santa Clause — Tim Allen, famous for the family sitcom Home Improvement and his prominent role in the Toy Story movies, plays a self-centered, divorced lawyer who is failing dramatically to care for his son on Christmas Eve, when he accidentally kills Santa Claus.  (I believe he shoves him off a roof or something.)  Santa's mangled corpse vaporizes upon closer inspection, leaving an empty suit with a business card in it.  One thing leads to another, and soon Mr. Allen and Son are filling Santa's shoes, and rocketing to the North Pole.  There they are informed that, due to some sort of bogus contract, Allen, by putting on the suit, is now the new Santa.  The remainder of the movie is spent dealing with the implications of Mr. Allen's new job.

Home Alone — Macaulay Culkin (what a name!) plays the youngest son of a large, wealthy family living in Winnetka, IL.  (The film was written by John Hughes.)  Culkin's extended family is visiting for Christmas, in preparation for a group trip to Paris for the holidays.  Unfortunately, amidst the confusion of their departure for the airport, Culkin is overlooked, and left sleeping alone in bed.  No one realizes this until they're halfway across the Atlantic.  Meanwhile the young child has the house to himself, goes off buying groceries, wrecks his older brother's room, and does battle with a pair of burglars (the "wet bandits") who try to rob the house.  It's a highly enjoyable film.

It's a Wonderful Life — Jimmy Stewart plays a depressed merchant whose business is about to be taken away from him because of his refusal to cooperate with the money laundering operations of the local bank.  Confronted by the destruction of his dreams and livelihood, Stewart decides to jump off a bridge and drown himself, but he is prevented from doing so at the last second by Bugsby, a half-giraffe, half-zebra who has been sent by the Alien Overlords to harvest his vital organs for further study.  Bugsby drugs Stewart, and most of the rest of the film is spent wandering through hallucinations related to Stewart's past and what life would have been like had he never been born.  The whole thing is basically a horrific twist on A Christmas Carol, made still worse by Jimmy Stewart's unbearably obnoxious voice.

Elf — Will Farrell never understood why he wasn't like all the other elves at the North Pole.  He's much taller than them, etc.  It turns out that Farrell is actually a human, not an elf, and when he discovers this, he runs away to Manhattan, where he lives with a family of squirrel hunters and visits various department stores.  But then, Farrell's adoptive elf father turns up, and tells him the truth about why he was raised among the elves.  Santa's elves are actually evil aliens who have come to colonize the earth and steal the vital organs of millions of people using psychadelic drugs, and so on.  And Will Farrell is the only one who can stop them!  I won't give away the remainder of the film, but it's a wild ride.

A Christmas Story — The cast of The Brady Bunch star in this seasonal slapstick comedy about a family that receives a mysterious crate in the mail just before Christmas.  As they pry open the wooden lid, inside they find a severed, embalmed thigh that has been mounted to a steel pole!  Much hysteria results.  The film also has a dark subplot about the oldest son's obsession with firearms, portraying the psychology of a spree killer in his early years.  I really can't recommend this movie.  Too dark, and lacking in Christmas Spirit.

The Apartment — Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine co-star in this film about a corporate functionary who seeks advancement by offering his apartment to company higher-ups for their use in clandestine affairs.  The film is pretty depressing, and has nothing to do with Christmas, except that one of the main characters attempts suicide on Christmas Eve.

White Christmas — In a refreshing departure from the typical alien-organ-harvesting plotline that dominates the Christmas movie genre, this movie is about two pairs of identical twins who end up at a small holiday resort in Vermont over Christmas, with an old friend.  After a heavy blizzard ruins their plans for a large variety show, the four teach each other how to tap dance.  Great fun.

Christmas Vacation — Chevy Chase plays a man living in suburban southern Maryland who has an obsession with Christmas lights.  Chase's wife buys him a pet hamster as a Christmas gift, but he hamster is accidentally electrocuted when he chews on one of the light strings.  The electric shock awakens the hamster to its original calling: harvesting human organs for an alien collective that needs them for the production of psychotropics.  At this point, the film changes tone dramatically, and becomes a sort of haunted house flick, featuring many missing toes and flickering lights.  It's a little bit of a Christmas cliché, but it's not wholly unenjoyable.  Or it wouldn't be, but for Chevy Chase's annoying face.

Die HardBruce Lee is a New York police officer trying to pick his wife up from work on Christmas Eve in Los Angeles.  After she fails to show up on time, Lee finds a seat at a nearby bar and has a long and thoughtful conversation with the bartender about the conflict between family and career, studded with flashbacks from earlier times in his life and marriage.  Good movie.