Joe Lavin

November 26, 2002

Christmas Turkeys

"Write about Christmas movies, " she said.

This is what happens when you date someone who loves Christmas, someone who whistles Christmas songs in July, someone who on just about any day of the year knows exactly how many days there are left until Christmas. It's my own fault, of course. I was the one who asked Jody what I should write about. "Anything," I said. "Just name it, and I'll write about it," I said stupidly in a desperate moment of writer's block, and now all I hear is: "Where's my article about Christmas movies?"

Specifically, I'm supposed to write about "Scrooged," the Bill Murray Christmas movie that is somehow her favorite. Trouble is, I have nothing to say about "Scrooged." It's a funny enough movie. I like Bill Murray, and I like Carol Kane, and I especially enjoy watching Carol Kane hit Bill Murray on the head a lot, but after that what's there to say?

She wants me to write about other Christmas movies as well, but really, I haven't seen many. I've never seen any Bing Crosby movies. I have no idea what the "Miracle on 34th Street" was. And I must be the only person never to have seen "It's a Wonderful Life." Honestly, I don't think I'll ever see any of these films because it's just too much fun to act confused whenever someone mentions them.

"It's a Wonderful Life? No, never seen it. Is that a new release?"

I love seeing the look on the Christmas people's faces when I say things like this, though Jody, who knows she will get me to watch all this Christmas crap eventually, just ignores me.

And so, lacking knowledge of the classics, I turned to some of the non-classics of the genre -- TV movies. This is even more depressing. For example, in one of his finest non-Frasier roles since "Down Periscope," Kelsey Grammer stars in "Mr. St. Nick" as a swinging bachelor from Miami who just happens to be the son of Santa Claus. Gradually, he gives up his wild life to take over the family business and no doubt learns the true meaning of Christmas in the process.

Apparently, Kelsey's wife produced the film, which leads one to wonder: not too long ago, didn't Kelsey Grammer do cocaine, wrap expensive cars around trees, and date centerfolds? What the hell happened that he's now married to someone producing Christmas movies for Hallmark Entertainment? If ever there was an argument against rehab, "Mr. St. Nick" would appear to be it. I'd tell you more about the movie except that in Boston it was preempted for a New England Patriots football game. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

There are, of course, many other movies to avoid this Christmas season. On the Disney Channel, there's "Twas the Night." "Bryan Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle) naughtily steps in for Santa Claus after the Jolly Old Elf is knocked out cold on Dec. 24," reads the TV Guide review. This is another common theme of Christmas movies. Santa's always getting knocked cold by someone on Christmas Eve. What the hell's going on? He's a big guy. He should be able to hold his own.

Over on the Fox Movie Channel, there's "A Smoky Mountain Christmas," in which "a country superstar (Dolly Parton) shares a Yuletide adventure in Tennessee with a backwoodsman (Lee Majors), seven orphans and a witch." It's probably not a good sign for Lee Majors' career when the thought of him playing a backwoodsman suddenly sounds like perfect casting. At least, he's listed ahead of the witch.

Perhaps the best bet is "Christmas Rush" on TBS. Dean Cain plays a policeman who "has been suspended from the department for using excessive force." In true Hollywood fashion, he has not landed in jail for this but is instead wandering about an upscale mall when he witnesses a thief played by Eric Roberts staging a robbery. Cain then "sets himself up as a one-man strike force to take down the criminals and free a group of hostages, which includes the store Santa and [Cain's] wife (Erika Eleniak)."

Yes, it's basically "Die Hard" in a mall. In fact, it sounds so much like "Die Hard" that it seems precisely one "Yippe-kay-ya ..." away from a lawsuit. I'm guessing the only significant difference is that there will be considerably less mullets in this one, which is really a shame. If you ask me, the best part of "Die Hard" was that you could predict exactly which bad guy would get killed next by identifying who on screen had the most ridiculous haircut.

Still, it's not like the other Christmas movies are original either. Plus, this one has something else going for it. Part of it was filmed in Jody's store, and she may even show up in the background. Hey, it's no "Scrooged," but I might just watch.

As for the others, though, I want nothing to do with them. As far as I can tell, I'm not missing much at all. Let's face it. Christmas movies are all the same. In pretty much every one, the main character will discover that the true meaning of Christmas is that it's better to give than to receive, or that Santa Claus really exists after all, or that the best way to kill a terrorist played by Alan Rickman is to push him out a window.

©2002 Joe Lavin

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