Alex: I still can’t believe that Hallmark kicked out two duds in a row last week – Window Wonderland and Fir Crazy. Never thought I would say this about a movie in general, let alone a Hallmark or Lifetime Christmas movie, but those just weren’t very good. I desperately needed to get back into the win column so we once again, we turned to the Zunes (Daphne Zuniga) for redemption. Calling On Strike For Christmas a classic in our household is a little bit of an understatement. It was THE movie that got my wife and I on this trolley in the first place. It also well-represents the paradox that is my relationship with these films. I make fun of them, think they’re silly, etc., but at the same time, there is a part of me that enjoys watching them non-sarcastically, blurring the lines between sincerity and irony. It also parallels some of my own life too, or at least my own perception and acceptance of the natural development I undergo as a human being.
Maybe that’s going a little over the top but allow me to explain. On Strike For Christmas stars the Zunes as Joy, the mother of two older boys who are both going away to college the following year, despite the fact that I don’t think they are twins. One of them is really into sports and has a very special haircut, the other one is really into music. She also has a husband. He works as a teacher and novelist but you’d think he was lying about the latter when he mentions it. The actor does an okay enough job in general but there are a few lines he delivers that come off awkwardly, to say the least. It’s as if he isn’t from Earth and although he understands 99.9% of our human interactions, there are a few things that either slipped through the cracks or he just becomes so distracted thinking eventually laying his alien egg sacs inside all of our brains that he loses focus. Here, this scene will better illustrate exactly what I’m talking about:
Now, the son in this scene is not totally without blame but I give him a pass here (for acting performance, not hair). Because he’s just seen the look in his father’s eyes and he knows that look. It’s the how-many-alien-egg-sacs-am-I-going-to-lay-in-your-brain-although-as-far-as-you’re-concerned-one-is-too-many look. We’d all sound a little flat and mechanical after seeing that, especially while being asked, “How much time is left in the quarter?” Then Dad chases it with an oddly ominous-sounding “Niners need this game.” I guarantee you that he’s not talking about football and my beloved San Francisco 49ers. It’s a thinly-veiled declaration as to just how badly he wants to lay his alien egg sacs in your brain and how his pod people children will later feast on the goo inside. Maybe I’m reading too much into this but if you’ve ever seen an alien pod people invasion movie or even most disaster flicks, you’d know that there is always one crazy fool who sees the whole thing coming but no one believes him. Until it’s too late!
Anyway, where was I here? Oh yeah, On Strike For Christmas. So Zunes has this family and she is the perfect wife and mother. Especially around the holidays. She bakes the best cookies, hosts multiple parties, and does up Christmas like nobody’s business. All while running a yarn shop. She also looks great. In fact, she’s lovely. It’s not just physical loveliness either, it’s this deeper combination of maturity, sweetness, and matriarchal harmony. This was when I realized I was was getting older. Not so much because I recognize all those qualities but because I truly understood their value. I used to think that everybody just resigned themselves to aging. Of course nobody necessarily wants to do it, at least at some point in their life, but it happens so we all have to accept it. What I didn’t know was how you could also embrace it at the same time. And not just by telling yourself to be embrace it but because there can be things that are indeed very embraceable. Like if you end up with a wife like Zunes and thumbprint cookies at Christmas time and the Niners defense is shutting them down so far, you might have won Life. It could really be that simple. And within your grasp.
But of course, this wouldn’t be called On Strike For Christmas if Zunes’ family understood these things. You can tell they love her but have really been taking things for granted lately. Part of this is on her though. She is an enabler in the sense that she does everything for them. Especially around the busy holidays. Don’t get me wrong though. Superlady Zunes is up to the task. But when they start bailing on classic family Christmas activities, like going to get a tree, she starts to get fed up. Around this time, she notices some workers at a local market have gone on strike. Zunes wants to support these strikers, even though she doesn’t seem to completely understand what the strike is all about. Give her a break though, she runs a yarn shop! She doesn’t have time to examine all the details surrounding grocery store labor relations, she just knows some people might not be getting fair treatment and she can relate to that.
I should note that she does have some help in the yarn shop. Her mom works there and is Julia Duffy, last seen on Newhart dating Tom Hanks’ old bosom buddy, Peter Scolari. The funny thing about this casting is that Julia is only a few years older than the Zunes but seems perfectly content to play her mother. How many actresses in Hollywood (or even, Vancouver) would go for something like that? Usually it’s the opposite, right? But Duff just rolls with the whole thing and even does a classic, caricature old lady accent. That’s the kind of professionalism everyone brings to the table here. You’ve got Duff not getting caught up in her vanity, the alien father/husband managing to keep most of his extra-terrestial cravings under wraps, and no one had to die to make me care more about a character so far.
But after being let down again by her family, Zunes finally decides to go on strike for Christmas. She’s not going to bake any more cookies, host any more parties, or do any of the Christmas stuff she normally does for these schmoes. Not until her demands are met. And what are her demands? I don’t really know. I think the husband and sons just need to appreciate her more. For some reason though, they think they can handle this strike. They just assume they can bake those cookies and take Zunes’ entire workload on this holiday season using the internet. Of course this leads to hilarious results and lesson learning, all without the use of magic or switching bodies or traveling back in time or discovering that Dad is an alien.
This makes things a little tricky with writing a review. There isn’t really that much to poke fun of. I guess the joke’s on me because I just kind of like the movie. And a part of me hopes my wife goes on strike for Christmas one year, even though we all love and appreciate her and will never lose sight of that. Maybe that’s even part of this film’s appeal. It helped me to better realize what a fantastic gal I am married to and she didn’t even have to go on strike. Nor did I have to lay alien egg sacs in anyone’s brain. In fact, if anyone laid alien egg sacs in anyone’s brain, it would be the Hallmark Channel and this movie in my brain. So you probably shouldn’t trust my review of On Strike For Christmas because this could very well be my alien host talking here, but if you are interested in how other life forms might rate one of our Earth movies, here goes: