Christmas movies: something old, something new

The new, alas, were not very good.

SAME TIME, NEXT CHRISTMAS (2019) has Lea Michele taking her traditional family Christmas in Hawaii, where she runs into her childhood crush; despite her last attempt at dating him going badly, she’s ready to give it another shot, but is he? This was so bland I couldn’t finish, even using it as  “talking lamp” (i.e., keeping it in the background while I did stuff online).

I did manage to finish Netflix’s THE KNIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (2019) but only because a Christmas time-travel film is automatically more interesting than a straight romance (for obvious reasons). Unfortunately the story is just as bland as the previous film; Vanessa Hudgens worked as the sweet straight woman in the sitcom Powerless but here the sweetness works against her role as a love skeptic forced to reconsider when she meets a time-traveling knight on a quest. The male lead is worse, and the script lets both of them down: there’s no real romantic conflict nor does the quest seem to matter much. Heck, the knight doesn’t even suffer the usual time-travel culture shock, settling in after one night of binge-watching. I might suggest Lancelot: Guardian of Time as a double-bill because it has a similar romance cynic/true knight relationship, but that would be one mediocre night of viewing. “Modern technology is lit as F.”

Getting back to my perennials, SCROOGE (1971) is one of the many “all actor” (as opposed to All Star) versions, wherein misanthrope Albert Finney reconnects with humanity (a theme that matters a lot to me) thanks to the ministrations of Marley (Alec Guinness), Christmas Past (Dame Edith Evans) and Christmas Present (Kenneth More), all of which works out well for Bob Cratchitt (Michael Crawford) and his family. Shows the influence of the previous Dickens musical Oliver (particularly all the singing street urchins) but regardless of its roots, I love this one. “As for you, nephew, if you were in my will I’d disinherit you!”

WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954) amounts to a backstage musical mixed with the “let’s put on a show” plot Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland frequently used: when entertainers Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye discover their old CO Dean Jagger’s Vermont inn is at risk for going under, they decide to stage their big musical there, drawing enough of a crowd to put his finances back in the black. But how will it affect the guys’ romances with dancing sisters Vera Allen and Rosemary Clooney? I don’t think this would be half as well-regarded if it wasn’t a Christmas perennial, but with the four leads dancing and singing it’s extremely watchable. “My one love affair/Didn’t get anywhere/ from the start/To send me a joe/With winter and snow/ in his heart — wasn’t smart.”

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