by Adam Riske
Christmas movies (and corporate thrillers) are among my secret movie shames. Being a Jewish man (which I love being, don’t get me wrong), I do not get Christmas every year and that’s too bad, because the commercialized version of Christmas in popular entertainment looks quite fun. The nearest I get to having Christmas is by watching Christmas movies. As a result, I love Christmas movies; even many of the bad ones. There are no Chanukah movies, so what choice do I have really? To celebrate this holiday season, I’ll be watching a Christmas movie every day over the next 30 days. Some will be classics, others not so much.
My goal with these columns is to not only review the movies, but to comment on Hollywood’s depiction of Christmas in popular entertainment. For example, why are so many Christmas comedies grumpy? Ever notice that? It’s like they think the only way to generate laughs is by depicting characters who hate the holiday.
This first column will cover the first three days of the challenge.
Do you have a favorite Christmas movie or have any thoughts on the ones I’m watching? Leave a comment below!
Day 1: Ernest Saves Christmas
So I popped up my Netflix and picked out my first movie of the month. I ran a search by the word Christmas and quickly scanned the page. Looking for something undemanding, I chose Ernest Saves Christmas.
Let me set aside the suspense right away: Ernest Saves Christmas is not a good movie, but that’s not to say it’s bereft of charm. Some of the picture (a fancy word for movie) works. I really enjoyed Douglas Seale as Santa Claus. He commits to the bit. The story of Seale’s Santa looking for a replacement is intriguing and the best part of the movie. It helps that the actor playing the new Santa (he’s played by Oliver Clark, who I remember from one episode of Full House) is just as affable. All of this material is fine and makes Ernest Saves Christmas a watchable Christmas movie.
Where the movie hits the skids, though, is Ernest himself, as played by Jim Varney (oh yeah, and that lying girl who is a nails-on-the-chalkboard character). I used to really like Ernest when I was a kid, but as an adult I think I finally see why my parents used to dislike the character so much. He’s an annoying fuck-up that I just want to get away from. Ernest doesn’t so much “save Christmas” in Ernest Saves Christmas as much as stops fucking up long enough to have everyone else save Christmas for him.
Ernest Saves Christmas is also very anti-horror, which makes it a little lame. In the movie, several characters are all up in arms over the fact that there is a Christmas-themed horror movie being made called Santa’s Slay, which is about an alien that comes down to Earth to terrorize children at Christmas. That sounds like a movie I would totally watch in 2014. I get that Ernest Saves Christmas might be commenting on the controversy that was Silent Night, Deadly Night from the 1980s (where parents did get upset that Santa was being used as a horror device), but seriously, I’m not sure I want to give Ernest Saves Christmas that much credit for sly social commentary.
Lastly, is it just me or, for a Disney production, does Ernest Saves Christmas still look like it was made for $1.50?
Day 2: I’ll be Home for Christmas
So we get JTT as a college-aged con artist who is dating the 11-foot tall Jessica Biel (which is crazy because JTT is like 4’11” dripping wet) that gets Gary Cole bribed (with a Porsche) to come home for Christmas. So you immediately hate the lead characters right off the bat. What a heartwarming story about a family that bribes each other with expensive material possessions to spend time together! This is just one example of this movie’s cavalier attitude about money, which everyone at the college seems to have. I was never broke in college, but c’mon! These kids have access to everything and anything they want despite being college students!?! I’ve never seen a movie so tied into mommy and daddy’s credit cards. This is a recurring motif in many Christmas movies, where characters act as if money grows on trees and you can simply buy away all of your troubles.
Anyways, I still like this movie in a strange way. It’s so bad that it’s entertaining. The comic setups are lame but in a way that becomes fascinating. It is also a total nostalgia trip for late '90s Disney culture, which was focusing heavily on teens through NSync music and landing stars from teen shows like 7th Heaven, etc.
This movie bombed, which is kind of a bummer. It’s so innocuous that stepping on it seems akin to a capital crime.
Day 3: Die Hard
I’ve written about Die Hard before in a column from my early days at F This Movie! (it was a “Like You Were There” piece about seeing all five Die Hard movies in a row at a theater) so please excuse me if I’m repeating anything. The movie’s great. There is no sense in reviewing it at this point so here are some quick observations…
Why does the front desk guy at Nakatomi make John McClane look up Holly Gennaro when he knows everyone that’s left in the building is on the 30th floor at the party?
Has everyone who has ever seen Die Hard tried the “making fists with your toes” bit? I have, and while it doesn’t beat a shower and a hot cup of coffee, it is kind of nice.
The only benefit of taking four years of German in high school is that I can understand what the terrorists are saying when there are no subtitles. Links, rechts….
How much would you tip Argyle? He’s the best limo driver ever! I would say you have to go 100% or maybe even 200%. IT’S CHRISTMAS!!!!!
The Die Hard poster has the longest tag line I’ve ever seen. Plus, it has TWO tag lines!
Has there ever been a better title for a movie than Die Hard?
The woman cop at the 911 operator (who thinks Bruce Willis’ message is a prank) is pretty attractive. Never picked up on that before.
Three days in, I’ve loved having the opportunity to watch a Christmas movie every day. We’ll see if that changes in the weeks to come.
Tune in next week as we’ll discuss Christmas with the Kranks, Christmas with the Muppets and my first ever viewing of The Holiday, with the infamous Cameron Diaz running scene!
Have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving everyone!