Basically, the message of this movie is, “Believe in the Magic of Christmas! Or I’ll kill you!”
I recall seeing cheerful commercials for this movie showing Santa Claus and cute kids and magic everywhere endlessly during the halcyon olden days of the Disney Channel (at this point, you may take a sip anytime I wax nostalgic about stuff like that). I never actually watched it.
Which is absolutely a good thing, as it would have indubitably scarred me for life (but more on that later). I was totally unaware that this was a theatrical release that Disney put against “Santa Claus: The Movie!” And until I read some comments from people who had seen the film in theaters, thinking they were in for “Santa Claus,” I was completely unaware of how utterly f***ed up this movie was.
OK, plot details: In the first act, we meet Mary Steenburgen, who is having a total buzzkill of a Christmas. Although the movie is vague on this point, it seems that her family is poor, she has a crappy job, she must move out of her house, and her husband has recently been laid off. Meanwhile, her Adorable Waifish Daughter (henceforth referred to as AWD) is well aware of the family’s situation and she’s starting to wonder aloud (in that sickeningly sweet little kid voice of hers) if there really are such things as Santa Claus and Angels and blah.
All of this action is being watched by a Christmas Angel, played by Harry Dean Stanton. As he watches over the family, you get the idea that maybe he’s invisible – but then he’ll say hello to them and they’ll say hi back. So then you figure maybe he can only interact a little bit with them, but then he uses his magical Retcon powers (seriously) to fix little problems that crop up here and there. Otherwise, he just kind of hangs out.
In the second act, all of this comes to a head and everything goes to hell.
In the *third* act, the movie goes through a sudden shift in tone that is so completely balls-out insane in the wake of the preceding action that it reaches a “Radio Flyer” level of sheer tastelessness. In preparation for “The Best Parts” section, I feel the need to reiterate that I could not make this s**t up if I wanted to:
The Best Parts:
1 minutes in – And the Harry Potter shippers go insane!
3 minutes in – Something tells me this isn’t going to end well.
7 minutes in – Could these kids get any more waifishly adorable?
11 minutes in – UNWANTED TOPLESS SCENE!!!
14 minutes in – Funny, I had expected the SHOWER OF DOOOOOM to have a bigger payoff.
That’s the thing about this movie; it builds suspense the same way a horror movie would. Come to think of it, it wouldn’t be hard to recut this movie into a straight horror movie, and you’ll see why in a bit.
17 minutes in – Oh, the irony. If only they knew that they really looked like Andy Walsh’s dad dressed like Roland the Gunslinger.
18 minutes in – “And they’re making sure that you don’t fall and split your head open as I do this to you!”
(Given what happens in about a half-hour, I’m surprised that was actually averted.)
19 minutes in – Well, at least they aren’t as in dire straights as the kids in “Jack Frost“.
21 minutes in – “And I want an NES, and some My Little Ponies that I don’t have yet, and the She-Ra castle, and the Barbie Townhouse with the elevator that really works, and…”
24 minutes in – Well, this does not have any creepy overtones at ALL. 😦
(Again, very easy to recut this as a horror movie.)
25 minutes in – Well, thanks for giving me something adorable to think of every time I see a Christmas Angel, Disney.
26 minutes in – ZOMG!!!
Oh, thank goodness for Angel Roland’s Retcon magic!
31 minutes in – Well, I’m about ready to gag on the glurge here.
Also, Great-Grandpa knows how to be tactful in front of little kids.
33 minutes in – THIS. IS. NOT. RIGHT.
35 minutes in – Being genre-savvy *REEEEEEALLY* sucks sometimes…
39 minutes in – Emo Christmas Song!
47 minutes in –
I have to say that this particular plot twist was unexpected. (This is where everything starts to go to hell.)
49 minutes in – EPIC CAR CHASE!!!
And by the way, HOLY WTF???
51 minutes in – God, that tree branch they keep focusing on better do something because ZOMG!!!
53 minutes in – (Ness just stares at the screen in appalled fascination.)
54 minutes in – Roland the Angel saves the day!!!
Except for the husband and, I guess, the bank robber. Sucks to be them.
56 minutes in – That’s… that’s not what “killed” means, kids. And does anyone have any antidepressants?
1 hour in – You have GOT to be kidding me.
I have to say (and this is where things reach a “Radio Flyer” level of tastelessness) that this plot twist was also unforeseen.
1 hour, 2 minutes in – (Ness just stares at the screen in appalled fascination again. But for different reasons.)
1 hour, 3 minutes in – Hey, it’s that one scene the Disney Channel actually used in it’s commercials! (Sadly unavailable on the YouTube.)
1 hour, 14 minutes in – We can read.
1 hour, 16 minutes in – “It’s a MIRACLE! / It’s a mi-ra-cle! / It’s a MIRACLE! / It’s a mi-ra-cle! / It’s a MIRACLE! / It’s a mi-ra-cle! / An’ dreams are MADE of emotions!!!”
1 hour, 17 minutes in – I’d love to know how all of this went from the dad’s point of view. Are we to assume that he walked home from the hospital?
1 hour, 19 minutes in – ZOMG Retcon?!
1 hour, 23 minutes in – Hey, it’s that one other scene the Disney Channel used in it’s commercials!
1 hour, 25 minutes in – Atta boy, Roland the Gunslinger!
Classic Lines of Dialogue:
“Mr. Krump? My daddy says you’re a dork!” – AWD
Mary: “See, sometimes bad things happen…”
Son: “And sometimes GOOD things happen!”
Mary: “Yes, but this is about a bad thing that happened.”
~*~ Poetry Corner ~*~
“Lost! / One little star! / Lost! / Here out in space!” – Mary’s Emo Christmas Song (paraphrased)
Things I Learned from this Movie/Book/Whatever:
* – Ralph Kramdem’s threat to send his wife “right to the moon” is twice as creepy coming out of a little kid.
* – Medford MA is stuck in the Ice Age.
* – Angels dislike inconspicuous clothing.
* – Christmas Angels have magical retcon powers.
* – Christmas Angels are also actually the spirits of humans who have ascended to a higher plane of existence. After DYING AROUND CHRISTMASTIME WTF DISNEY?!?
* – Santa can’t see you in the bathroom.
* – Santa is a Moleskine Snob.
Things That Can Save Any Movie:
Cool Creatures? No.
Good Soundtrack? Lots of ironic cheery oldies and Christmas tunes.
Hot Guys? No.
Pretty Scenery? No.
Nifty Animation/Special Effects/Illustrations? All the awesome magic effects of 1985!
Drinking Game Potential? Whoo boy. Drink when Roland the Angel makes Christmas MAGIC with the awesome effects of 1985. Drink when there is a spooky close-up of an object that looks like it is going to cause some drama later on and drink again when it doesn’t. And then drink yourself into a stupor because this movie is so blasted depressing.
Head Movie Potential? I would say no.
Jon cheering people up by making them suffer.
A Walt Disney Pictures Film made in 1985. Written by Barry Healey and Philip Borsos and directed by Philip Borsos.
Mary Steenburgen, Harry Dean Stanton, and Elisabeth “Tastes Like Diabetes” Harnois.
The Film Atheist – A screamingly funny review that does not allow this film’s… unusual take on Christmas or theology pass without comment.
Foster On Film – And this review does not let the films G rating (???!!!) pass without comment: “No child has ever been psychologically harmed by the sight of a nipple or by hearing the word “f*ck,” but this film will mess a kid up for life.”