‘Twas another Friday before Christmas, and all through the DVR-O, not another better option was stirring, not even something with Charo. That might have been dumber than what I said last year about Jamie Farr and it might not even be true. Because if you have Pee Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special on your DVR, that is probably a better option than any of these movies I am about to talk about and Charo does show up for a minute there. Still, Charo really adds nothing to that magnificent Pee Wee special, other than the realization that Feliz Navidad may be, technically, the most repetitive Christmas song ever written (in an ocean of repetitive Christmas songs). And that Charo may, technically, not be essential to our continued survival as a human race. Like you could take Charo away and I think we’re all right.
That’s a debate best left for a different day though, Flag Day, but for now it’s almost Christmas and I wanted to hit you up with another set of quick takes as we’re coming down to the final stretch here:
1) The Tree That Saved Christmas
First of all, great title. I was already on board with this sucker from the opening credits. Plus, Lacey Chabert is in it and she’s beginning to look a lot like a Christmas Queen this year. It doesn’t hurt that she was also in A Royal Christmas and a few other movies from previous seasons and I actually like her okay. There were some strange, awkward moments and although the Money vs. Christmas paradigm has been explored over and over again, I feel like some of these films are starting to get lazy and just assume we will blindly accept this premise, even if it doesn’t make sense at all. Like the Evil Bank wanted to take Lacey’s parents’ Christmas tree farm away so they could sell the land to Evil Developers to build a resort on but it actually would have really helped the small town they lived in, one hit exceptionally hard by the recent economic depression. Then Lacey fights back by getting her house deemed a historical landmark so it can’t be sold. But then Evil Bank counters with, “Okay, your house is a historical landmark but we are going to physically move it into town where it can be historically landmarky there.” What? You can’t just move a historical landmark. Or a house! But of course, she happened to have The Tree That Saved Christmas and unfortunately for the Evil Bank Guy, he did NOT have The Tree That Ruined Christmas so it’s game, set, match – Chabert. 3 Eggnogs
2.) Christmas at Cartwright’s
You may remember that last year, I spat some venom in the direction of one Alicia Witt. It was nothing personal, I assure you, she just left us with two pretty solid lumps of coal in the forms of A Very Merry Mix-Up and A Snow Globe Christmas. Movies weren’t great and she was unlikable. I’m thinking that puts her at two strikes. And I’m no baseball expert here but I’m pretty sure that one more and she’s out. Well she took another swing with Christmas at Cartwright’s and I don’t think I would call it a complete whiff. More like a long foul ball hit way out of play so that she’s still alive for at least another pitch. This time she plays a single mom, down on her luck, desperately looking for work before Christmas and I almost believe that. Through angel magic, she gets a job as a department store Santa. SHE does. “She” as in, a female. But underneath that suit and big beard and voice that sounds like Homer Simpson when he is pretending to be someone else, no one else picks up on her gender. I have no clue why the angels would want to intervene in quite this specific manner but what the hell, it almost sort of works. And I do give Alicia Witt some credit for trying to break another barrier here. I don’t know if all other actresses would have taken that on. But I also kind of don’t want to know. 2.5 Eggnogs
This is not a normal, made-for-TV Christmas movie. In fact, I believe it was a theatrical release over in the UK but in my country, relegated to repeated showings on the Up Network. We only watched it because we wanted to see Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger and figured we might not understand the sequel without catching the original first. It stars Martin Freeman, who’s pretty generally awesome and there are several other aspects that make this of a higher quality than your average Hallmark fare. That said, is a nominative absolute that gets said a lot these days. Like way more than it used to be and now that I’ve started to notice it more, it’s starting to get on my nerves a little. That said about “that said”, I am going to use it again right now because it does seem to apply really well to the tone of my next statement. Maybe it’s not that we’re using it more now because it’s the trendy thing to do, maybe it just applies more to the way we express ourselves now? That said about that said about “that said”, I will tell you that I didn’t particularly enjoy Nativity! in the sense that it really wasn’t like these other films and thus, left me unfulfilled in this particular context. There was some weird stuff but it wasn’t fun-weird, just different weird. Kind of like the way people over there spell certain words differently like “color” with a “u”. Different and weird but doesn’t really do anything for me. Empty Glass.
4.) Best Christmas Party Ever
There’s another one for you. “Best _____ ever!” We say that a hell of a lot these days. Sometimes people want to punctuate it, literally with punctuation (periods) – “Best. Party. Ever.” I have to admit that this has gotten on my nerves too. More than even “that said” and I’m not totally sure why. There’s the obvious reasons about things becoming over-saturated but I can usually roll with all that. Maybe it’s just the superlative nature of the statement. Everything can’t be the best whatever-it-is ever unless we’re seriously exaggerating or just completely fickle. Like did Best Christmas Party Ever really depict the best Christmas party ever? No. It was more just nice that everything came together and kind of worked out in the end. Was Best Christmas Party Ever the best Christmas movie ever? Hell no. I do give them credit for sort of trying to play with some of the classic tropes (maybe the rich guy’s not so bad, maybe the love interest is just kind of a dick) but then I give them anti-credit for eventually bailing out on it (rich guy really is a dick, love interest is sweet and has hair like strudel). I’m going to give them some Eggnogs too but in this case, only 2.5 Eggnogs. THAT SAID, at least these are the BEST EGGNOGS EVER, which is to say that they are pretty much Eggnogs.
5.) Who’s the Boss
Oh my God, I just figured it out. It was Angela. Angela was the boss. Because she was the person who hired Tony to be her housekeeper (although if you watch the premiere, she actually did this sight unseen, which is pretty amazing considering he was also going to live in her home along with her young son) and paid him to do a specific job for her. I can’t believe this was ever even posed as a question or a matter of any debate. Now as far as who let the dogs out, however, that person is still very much undetermined.
6.) The Most Wonderful Time of Year
This one’s from a few years back (now it might have been called, “Best Time of Year Ever!”) but it happened to be on when I was looking at the TV recently so I watched it again. Good! In fact, it was interesting to see what a Hallmark original made-for-TV movie looked like in 2008. It was kind of better. At least, there was just a slightly different feel and some of the difference involved quality of some kind. Henry Winkler was in this one and I was wondering if it bothers him that he’s played two characters on TV shows with way better names than “Henry Winkler” – Arthur Fonzarelli, aka “Fonzie”, aka “The Fonz” and Barry Zuckercorn from Arrested Development. Although I guess Winkler is kind of a fun/funny thing to say. That guy really has it all. And he was good in this movie too, albeit as more of a supporting role. Maybe because it was a little higher in quality and a generally less whimsical production, I did find myself craving some of that Christmas movie craziness I tend to love so much. About the only thing that came close was a scene where the love interest for Brooke Burns wants to help her get a bike for her son but the bike store is closed so he ends up tracking down the bike store guy and challenges him to a fight in an alley – winner takes bike. The bike store guy is bigger than the love interest and so he accepts these terms, because who doesn’t just want to fight a random guy in an alley on Christmas Eve over a child’s bicycle? But before any of this can really take place, the love interest just nails the guy with a trash can lid, knocking him unconscious. And the whole time, those goofy clarinets are tootling away to indicate light, playful humor going on when really, the store guy could be pretty hurt and the love interest is probably going to jail. 3.5 Eggnogs.
7.) Christmas With the Kranks
Definitely not a made-for-TV movie nor even something theatrically released in other, weird countries. This baby hit the big screen over here in the US of A about 10 years ago but I am including in my Quick Takes Review because I want to point out that many of these larger-scale films are considerably worse than anything you might see on Hallmark or Lifetime or Ion or even Up. And that’s on a bad night. Christmas With the Kranks was terrible. Just terrible. I understood the premise but the actual problem made no sense. A married couple whose daughter has just grown up and won’t be home for the holidays decides they aren’t going spend as much money on Christmas this year and feel like taking a cruise instead. Fine. But none of that means that they can’t celebrate Christmas at all. They can still put up lights, go to holiday parties, whatever as long as they’re not spending a ton of cash but for some stupid reason, Tim Allen decides to write a letter and hand it to everybody he knows, saying that they are skipping Christmas entirely this year and won’t go to parties or do anything festive. Then people get really upset and start harassing him and his Jamie Lee Curtis wife, who acts like she is still being pursued by Michael Myers when neighbors come to the door offering to put their decorations up for them. Then uh oh, it turns out the daughter IS coming home this year, which she tells them at the last minute, and now they have to cancel all cruise plans and scramble to get all their normal, traditional Christmas activities in place and can never tell her that they were planning to do otherwise or……I don’t know. The movie goes way overboard dramatizing all of these events like Home Alone on steroids. It actually think I got ‘roid rage watching it.
8.) The Christmas Parade
It’s probably a sign that I am simply getting old here but I honestly had a difficult time understanding AnnaLynn McCord in this movie. Her delivery and affectations seemed pretty over the top and especially during conversations with her character’s producer, another lady who talked a lot like her, I was completely lost. The guy who played her love interest must have had a hard time too because that dude looked old. Not necessarily old-old but way too senior to be AnnaLynn McCord’s beau, as she only looks about 24 herself, talks like a teenager, and I’m pretty sure some of the clothes she wore were made for a child. Being unabashedly Canadian as well, I can’t imagine he could make heads or tails of much of what she was saying. Thank God he had a copy of the script or they never would have gotten together in the end. That all said (even if I couldn’t understand what was being said), I do appreciate that they tried to make ALM a little bit more of a sympathetic character than I would have expected. And despite what a mismatched couple she and the guy were, their moments of flirtation together looked kind of real. But, that may have been more due to the fact that ALM is in a constant state of flirtation rather than there being any real chemistry. There was even a scene where she was driving, staring straight into the camera, but she was still batting her eyelashes and rolling her tongue over her teeth and doing other weird face-mouth things to indicate sexual interest in what I can only assume was the highway. This all made for a different viewing experience, I’ll give it that, and although we’ve seen some pretty insanely egregious uses of garland this season, I think the Christmas Parade might take the cake. And if there’s cake to be taken for some really bad, self-parody level green screen effects, this movie snatches an entire bakery. And maybe some Eggnogs too. How many? I don’t know, is there a mathematical symbol for cake? I know we have one for pie so you have to assume there’s one for cake too. No? That’s racist. Cake Eggnogs!