Movies: Still more Christmas

SNOW (2004) has an opportunistic hunter capture one of Santa’s reindeer for a zoo, which results in Santa’s replacement showing up to recover it and flirt with a Pretty Zookeeper in the process. A bland film, courtesy of ABC Family (which is to bland Christmas movies what SyFy is to bad monster movies). “I can’t seem to find the paperwork on this reindeer.”
CHRISTMAS ANGEL (2012) has a young girl discover her schoolmates’ wishes coming true isn’t due to divine intervention but reclusive retired singer Della Reese attempting to atone for a bad life. This is more explicitly Christian than usual (“Angels don’t fulfill wishes, they’re messengers of God.” and lots of going to church) but it’s just as schmaltzy and forgettable as the regular kind. With Teri Polo as Mom and Kevin Sorbo as a possible new spouse; I’d have cut this short except I was curious if it would turn out there was a supernatural element after all (nope). “These are wishes you made for someone else. That’s how I knew they were worthy.”
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (2001) has a framing sequence (Charles Dickens reading the book on his American tour) then slides into an animated retelling with Simon Callow as Scrooge, Nicolas Cage as Marley, and Kate Winslett as Belle. This has a more brutal Scrooge than usual, sending thugs to evict the hospital where Tiny Tim gets care and Belle now works (plus Dad is coldbloodedly up front that young Ebenezer is only useful for the money he can bring in). It also has several odd additions such as two mice in supporting roles and hints Scrooge can yet win Belle; it’s as if they wanted to make a more kiddie version, but lost their nerve. “Ignorance is bliss—until you look it in the face.”
Turning to the good stuff, MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947) has Macey’s executive Maureen O’Hara discover store Santa Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) believes he really is Santa, an absurdity that leads to Gwenn fighting in court to prove Santa exists. Remade four times (if you count Whoopi Goldberg’s unofficial remake Call Me Santa) but whimsy is something Hollywood did much better back then. With Natalie Wood as a very good child actor. “You’ve heard of the French nation and the Spanish nation? This is the Imagi-nation!”
FRANZ KAFKA’S IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE AND OTHER STORIES (1994) is a collection of short films, the first of which stars Richard Grant as Kafka, struggling to write The Metamorphosis (“Grigor Samsa awoke to discover he’d become a …. banana?”) only to be increasingly distracted by oddball neighbors and callers. Not exactly a parody, but certainly entertaining; a shame I had to skip the others on the DVD for time constraints. “I’m so glad this conversation is imaginary.”
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1951) has Alastair Sim as a cruel yet amazingly believable Scrooge (the scene where he offhandedly condemns a debtor to debtor’s prison is creepy precisely because he doesn’t give a damn) who learns that all his yesterdays have lighted him the way to dusty death unless he changes his ways. Easily the best adaptation of the Carol (though there are several other strong contenders), with Ernest Thesiger as an undertaker and Una O’Connor as Scrooge’s housekeeper. “What did you feel when you signed the register of his burial and took his money, his house and his few mean sticks of furniture?”
SCROOGE (1970) has Albert Finney as a much more flamboyantly mean miser who rediscovers his humanity thanks to the musical ministrations of John Gielgud’s Marley, Edith Evan’s Christmas Past and Kenneth More’s Christmas Present (future Phantom Michael Crawford plays Cratchitt). Along with a strong cast and good songs, I think I like this one because of the strong sense of Scrooge reconnecting with people, something that always touches me. “There is no such thing as rich enough—only poor enough!”

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