I’m definitely missing the flood of Christmas treacle I usually smother myself in this time of year. Did manage to squeeze in a couple of Christmas movies this week, but it didn’t feel like enough.
PETE’S CHRISTMAS (2013) is a Christmas time-loop film that gets points for giving the teen protagonist a really miserable Christmas (“We’re sorry we forgot your gift.”) before the do-over begins. It’s stock from then on, right down to having to spread peace and cheer and matchmake two lonely seniors (which seems to be a staple of Christmas time loops, like last week’s pair) For a while I thought they’d leave some problems unfixed, but no, and the cast isn’t strong enough to grab me (even with Bruce Dern as a grumpy grandad).“Life is like a box—what matters isn’t what you get out of it but what you put into it.”
RICHIE RICH’S CHRISTMAS WISH (1998) has the world’s richest and nicest boy (a long-running comics character) humiliated by one of his mean cousin Reggie’s pranks. When he momentarily wishes he’d never been born, he forgets mad scientist Eugene Levy just set up a wishing machine … To the extent this mythos has any charm for me, it’s the sheer over-the-top wealth the Rich family have, so making him a poor outcast doesn’t really work for me, though alt.Reggie gets some good bits (“Do you expect me to put that in my own mouth?”). Michelle Trachtenberg, Martin Mull, Keene Curtis and Lesley Ann Warren are among the talent wasted here (cover rights reside with current holder). “Announce the factory closing at midnight—I want everyone working a full shift.”
Moving on, BUTTERFLY DREAMING (2008) was, as I expected, a non-qualifier for the book—a professor angsting over his wife’s suicidal car crash finds himself slipping into his flashback booth to confront the truth about what happened. Forgettable in its own right. “It was good for my gambling, bad for my marriage.”
DINOSAUR VALLEY GIRLS (1997) is a really, really bad parody of stone-age adventures such as Prehistoric Women: A martial artist is magically transported back to the primitive age when dinosaurs, big-breasted cavewomen and the Tribe of Men co-existed. He then spends most of the running time having sex with the cave-hotties. I have a feeling writer/director Donald F. Glut thought the parodic nature would make the sexism more palatable (or maybe he didn’t care) but he was wrong. Though this kind of cheese would smell even without that aspect. William Marshall has a small role. “I warn you, I’m a third-degree black belt—not only that, I doubled for Van Damme!”
ANCIENT RELIC (2002) is a German TV miniseries in which the discovery of a videocamera in an ancient Palestinian ruin leads to the realization someone traveled back in time to get Jesus on film. Unfortunately the camera functions as pure McGuffin for a DaVinci Code knockoff as the Catholic Assassins Guild tries to suppress whatever inconvenient discoveries might be on the video. Too long for such formulaic chases to have any appeal, and why do so many of the villains have to be similar-looking grey-haired men in suits? “The Wailing Wall of the Old Temple is one of the few buildings a time traveler could have known would exist 2,000 years later.”
AN ANGEL FOR MAY (2002) is better than I expected: a pre-teen Yorkshire boy falls out of the present into late WW II, where he befriends a girl traumatized by losing her family in the Blitz and being buried under rubble for a week. A simple drama, but quite moving. Tom Wilkinson plays a no-nonsense father, Anna Massey is the aged girl in the modern world. “What do you mean, you won’t milk a cow?”