In the glut of holiday-related movies that spew out of Hollywood every year, a few have managed to get into an elite canon of films that gets obligatory airtime each holiday season. Every year a couple dozen movies from yesteryear find their way around the dial (you see kids, back in Grandpa’s day, the television had a device mounted to it that required manual rotation to engage programming on other channels; the dial typically went from 2-13, which was overkill since there were only 5-6 stations, tops, that actually aired anything – yes, this is why Grandpa is now diddling himself sitting in the rest home with a remote that gives him access to over 120 channels of basic cable. Anyway…).
It’s a perfect franchise, holiday movies. About 11 months have gone by since the last time a holiday reveler saw his or her or its preferred shows, so just enough time has passed to feel like it’s appropriate to watch them again. A lot of holiday movies just disappear into the fog of ages as most movies do, but every so often something clicks and a new classic is added to the pantheon of movies we will see repeated every year.
What sets movies like these apart isn’t necessarily that they are good films. In fact many are so damnably formulaic (and the formula is rotten) that one has to wonder how the heaven or hell it has any sort of appeal whatsoever). Elf is incredibly predictable (did we really think James Caan’s “Walter” would not give in to holiday cheer?), but it stimulates very well that illogically gushy part of us. Just the right amount of likable characters and humor or sentimentality, and, voila, another hit in the making. For our part, we hate The Santa Clause. But, we begrudgingly admit that the formula works. It’s sappy in an happy/silly kind of way so the kids love it and the parents without taste (too many to count) enjoy it with them. On the other hand, the abortion that was How The Grinch Stole Christmas! (2000 with Jim Carrey) is so confusing, offensive, and scary that no kid wants to touch it and unlike some more mature fare that at least parents can enjoy, it completely misses the mark. On the other hand, the book by Dr. Seuss and its 1966 made-for-TV adaptation are worthy of the long-lived love for them.
[Side note: Speaking of Christmas movies made for grown-ups, here are some of our favorites: Bad Santa, Die Hard, Scrooged, and A Christmas Carol (2009, this time with Carrey getting it right).]
A Christmas Story (1983) is one of those movies that had just the right mix of everything to get into the elite club. Taken as a movie on its own, perhaps it’s just cute and amusing, but tied to the holiday, it has such an endearing and enduring appeal. The characters are enjoyable, the premises are funny, the narration is a brilliant touch (and maybe precisely the right gimmick to make the movie so good), and there are so many clever tag lines that you’ll hear “You’ll shoot your eye out!” and “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine. Ovaltine? A crummy commercial? Son of a bitch!” Ah, it never gets old.
Anyway, to the point. The main protagonist, Ralphie, looks like Glenn Beck. That’s pretty much where this post was going.