Sunday, 28 December 2008

The Cheap-Arse Film Review #13- "LEPRECHAUN IN THE HOOD."










(Yeah, this one's going up late as well. Three days late at that. I have no excuse, other than this time of year is mental. Normal service shall be resumed this coming Wednesday. Promises)

"So," I can hear you say, "No New Years themed review?"

In a word, no.

In two words, bugger that.

The Christmas reviews were fun to write, and I'm pleased people seemed to like them (if we're going on comments alone, the "Home Alone 4," review is the most popular one I've done so far), but putting the thing together was a bloody nightmare. When I started, I had three films already in place, but I wasn't worried about finding a forth one, because hey, it's December, how hard could it be to find a Christmas movie? The answer, as it turned out, was "borderline fucking impossible." There was nothing out there, at least not in my price range. I lost count of how many times I cursed myself for not making the price limit £2.00. If I'd gone to £2.50 I could have covered "Black Christmas." It was total dumb luck that I found "White Christmas," in my local CEX, not even out on the shelves, in a bleeding box that I started digging through because I was totally out of options and this close to knocking on my friend's doors and asking if they had any Christmas movies they felt like selling me for a quid. So I'm going to enjoy being able to review whatever I want to for a little while.

But after having said all that, there is a slight method to my madness with regard to this film. Now, I'm not a particularly superstitious person, at least not to the level of my sister. She once screamed for me to come into the kitchen like she'd just had something terrible happen to her, I ran in there expecting to see blood and possibly a missing limb of some sort, only for me to find that she'd dropped a knife on the floor, and wanted me to pick it up for her, as she'd heard that it's unlucky for you to pick up a knife you've dropped. WAT? But at the same time, I don't have the best luck in the world, ask anybody that knows me (actually, don't), so I'll admit I was a little bit nervous going into my 13th review. I mean, what if my fingers seize up, or I make even more spelling and grammar mistakes than usual (or the review goes up late...)? So I decided to counteract any possible bad luck by invoking The Luck of the Irish. Hence, a movie with a Leprechaun in it.

The "Leprechaun," series is legendary amongst people who love cheesy horror movies, usually from an ironic standpoint. The first one however is on the radar of anybody who calls themselves a cinephile, as it features Jennifer Aniston in her first feature film role (and maybe her first role in anything, I'm not too sure), in which she does a topless scene, causing some of the bawdier denizens of the Internet to refer to it simply as "The movie where Rachel gets her tits out." When asked about it today, her stock answer is to jokingly say she wasn't in it, in a manner that makes it obvious she wishes she wasn't joking. There were three straight sequels to this, the last of which taking The Leprechaun where all great B-Movie horror icons must go- Space. Then the franchise took a four year break, only to come roaring back to life with an urban makeover.

You'll also have noticed from the picture at the top that this film comes as part of one of those value "4-in-1," DVDs. And no, I'm not reviewing all of them. I considered it for about a second, but in the end it would be a pointless venture, because say I did and I really, really liked two movies, and absolutely hated the other two. What would I do then? Cut the disc down the middle and throw half away? No, it's better to just let the hopes of the disc ride on one movie, that way if I do like it and keep it I can consider the other movies a bonus, and not feel too bad if/when they turn out to be shit.

The movie begins with The Leprechaun (who I'll refer to as Lep, as he he often does in the movie) walking down a stone spiral staircase, before reaching a pot of gold. As he does this, we hear him recite a rhyme in voiceover: "Death to he who sets a Leprechaun free, steal his gold, it will corrupt your soul you see. For many a moon, the legend has grown, death toll increases, solution: unknown. Beware the evil wanderer in search of his loot, lest ya suffer the wrath of his golden flute (must... resist... dick joke...). Flee while you can, the futures not good, for no one is safe.. from a Lep in the hood." I have to say, this is an awesome use of economic character establishment, telling you all you need to know about Lep in about 30 seconds- he's an evil little bastard, and if you touch his gold, he'll kill you. By the way, he's played by Warwick Davis, the guy from "Willow," who was probably The World's best known Dwarf actor until Vern Troyer turned up. Having never seen any of the "Leprechaun," movies before (so yes, I can review all of them if I find them cheap enough), I assumed Lep would be represented by puppetry or bad CGI, so to see him on-screen as a guy in make-up was a nice surprise, and finding out Davis plays him made it even better.

Then, following the credits, Ice-T smashes through a wall dressed like a pimp with an Afro. I can't believe I just typed that, but there it is. I like Ice-T, both as a rapper and an actor. He doesn't exactly have what what you'd call range, and this part doesn't stretch him even if he did, but he's a very charismatic guy, and unlike alot of rappers who take a stab at acting, he seems to be willing to pay his dues, not just appearing in movies, but also securing a regular gig on one of the seemingly endless "Law & Order," spin-offs. And as for this movie, well, like I said, dues need to be paid.

Judging by the attire worn by he and his cohort, who doesn't have a name so he'll obviously be dead soon, we're left to asume this is taking place in the 70s. They've seemingly broken into an abandoned subway station looking for someone... or something... I'm not really that sure. I think gold is mentioned. Anyway, all they find is some Colt 45s and fast food of the fried chicken veriety (HELP! I'M DROWNING IN RACIAL STEREOTYPES!), which causes Mack Daddy (Ice's character, which I forgot to mention in te previous paragraph), to throw his friend through another wall when he makes a joke about their situation, which seemed a little harsh to me. Anyway, on the other side of the wall, the find not only the pot of gold, but also a really creepy looking statue of a Leprechaun wearing a gold medallion. I wonder if that medallion thing has been in any of the other movies, or if they just decked him out in it to make him fit in a bit with his 70s surroundings. They celebrate their find, then Mack finds what I presume is the Golden Flute mentioned by Lep before the credits, and doesn't seem all that interested in the rest of the gold, leaving his bitch (what else am I supposed to call a man who gets thrown through a wall and then acts like nothing happened?) to collect the rest.

Does he take the medallion off the statue? And does it come to life and kill him? Yep, on both count. Kills him with his Afro comb too, which was a nice touch. Mack Daddy and Lep then have a stand off. He comes at him with a gun, which Lep quickly disposes off with his magic. Mack then... pulls a flick knife out of his afro? Um... okay, I'll go with it, it's wacky but not totally unbelievable. Lep gets rid of that too, so Mack... pulls a baseball bat out of his fro?! I... I don't know if I think that's fantastic or not. That too proves useless, and Mack finds himself at Lep's mercy. "Stealin' me gold's no way to grow old," he informs him, "now me little room shall become... your.. tomb." Oh Jesus, is he going to speak in rhyme the entire movie? It was fine at the start, but I can see that growing highly annoying as this thing goes on. Thinking on his feet, Mack opens a conveniently-placed steam valve in Lep's face, causing him to fall back on a piece of wood that had been conveniently placed on a brick, conveniently making it a sort-of seesaw that the magic medallion had been conveniently dropped on, causing it to fly up into the air and conveniently land around Lep's neck, tunring him back to stone. I was going to make a joke about how there was so much convenience in this sequence that you could open a Convenience Store and sell it, but I thought against it as it wouldn't have been funny.

As you can tell, the first seven minutes of this movie (and yeah, all that happened in seven minutes) are pretty damn awesome. And I hope you enjoyed reading about them, because that's basically your lot. From this point forward, the film can't sustain that level of awesome for any prolonged period of time. There are sporadic fits of awesome here and there, but they're overshadowed by everything else. The first thing that drags it down is the fact that the opening scene, and the front of the box, which has Ice-T's name and Ice-T's name alone listed next to the movie (poor Warwick Davis doesn't even get a mention), sold us something of a red herring, as he's not the main character. He's an important character, the secondary villain, but I was really hoping we'd be following him all the way through this film. I mean, I just watched him pull an arsenal out of his hair! How could I not want to film to be about him? But sadly it's not to be, and from this point on we're supposed to care about a bunch of geeks in a socially conscious rap group, made up of Postmaster P (Anthoney Montgomery), the only one who seems all that interested in putting a positive message out there, Stray Bullet (Rashaan Nall), the ambitious would-be Gangsta who's more than happy to get rid of all that hippy crap if it'll get them signed, and Butch (Red Grant), the fat smart virgin. When we first meet them, we see them on a stage auditioning for some contest that'll supposedly get them signed. They sound alright in an old-school way, but they don't exactly blow your skirt up. Maybe that's the point. Anyway, they're doing their thing, Butch seems to be mesing around with chemicals on the mixing desk for no reason I can think of, and then suddenly there's an explosion big enough to send P and Bullet flying off the stage and through tables. That was... unexpected.

So now they have to replace the recording equipment they destroyed, which they do so by trying to flog a bogus Jimi Hendrix guitar to a couple of stores, one owned by a stereotypical asian named Chow Jung Pi that there's not really much to say about, the other by Jackie Dee (Dan Martin, who anime nerds might be interested to know has provided voicework for "Trigun," and, "Akira," amongst others), who is a living, breathing example of one of those sporodic fits of awesome I was talking about. He sees through the guys scheme, tells them to fuck off, calls P's message wack and informs Butch, "Boy you need to get yourself some pussy, before you blow your dick off messin' around with all those chemicals." All in a voice that sounds like Darth Vader decided to become a lounge singer. He's in this movie nowhere near enough.

Eventually we finally get to see Mack Daddy again, and discover in the proceeding 20-plus years, he's given up pimping and appears to own his own hip-hop label. "Gangsta Hip-Hop," P informs us, in a tone that lets us know this is supposed to be A Bad Thing. He also doesn't seem to have aged at all in all this time, although he has lost the 'fro (BOOOOOO!). The movie makes no atempt to explain why he still looks the same. I mean, it would have been pretty easy, they could have just said that the Golden Flute he carries around with him prolonges his life Master Ring-style, but no, we're just supposed to believe getting a haircut equals getting old. He talks to the guys, and they manage to arrange a meeting with him to play one of their tracks. He listens to it for a couple of seconds with a look of pure distain on his face before having it shut off. His verdict is, "It's not much, but it's not the worst," which sounds pretty fair to me. He then says he'd be interested in signing them if they knock this positive message shit on the head and start rapping about firearms and vaginas. This doesn't go down too well with the the group themselves. Well, in all honesty, Postmaster P's the only one who has a real problem with it, Stray Bullet in particular seems like he's been waiting for someone to say this for a very long time. There's a little bit of in-fighting, Mack Daddy hears enough and tells them they've blown their chance, insinuates that he's had sex with Stray Bullet's mother, blah blah blah. It ends with them being no better off than they were that morning, not signed, broke and still without recording equipment, which causes Stray Bullet to suggest for them to rob Mack Daddy's home, that way they can buy new equipment with what they find, and make him pay for dissing them, with P once again being the only person person not down with this. I really don't get how P and Bullet are even friends, let alone how they can co-exists musically, they're such diametrically-opposed people.

Anyway, he eventually comes round to Stray's way of thinking, and next thing you know, they're in Mack Daddy's house turning shit over. Seriously, that's the next scene. And you'd think it wouldn't be that easy either. I mean, not only is Mack Daddy a very rich guy, ut he's a very rich guy with magic artifacts lying around. You'd think he'd at least, y'know, have security cameras or a front door with a decent lock. Mack Daddy comes in and finds them there, and then P accidently shoots him. I'll give the movie some credit here, it goes out of it's way to get accross that the shooting is an accident, done with a gun that P didn't bring with him, but found on the scene. However, once they're about to make off with all the gold they've found, which of course includes the medallion from around Lep's neck that causes him to return to life, and they turn round to see this strange little man rhyming at them (and name-dropping Tiger Woods, too), their first instinct is it PUMP THE LITTLE FUCKER FULL OF LEAD! Including P, who I guess thinks, "fuck it, I've already killed one person, may as well keep going." They shoot him so much, his arm flies off. It's...amazing.

Of course, neither Mack Daddy nor Lep are really dead. There's still over an hour of run-time left, after all. Mack is saved de to a piece of jewellery he's wearling (CONVENIENTLY!) stopping the bullet, and Lep, well... he's magic. No explaination needed. They make a deal in the men's room of a club over a shared joint ("A friend with weed is a friend indeed," Lep says. "Oh fuck off," I said) that Mack is to bring back all the gold P and his riends stole and return it to him, otherwise he'll kill him. Actually, that's not rally much of a deal, is it? He then shows he's serious by ripping off one of Mack's fingers, one that had a ring on it that was presumably originally part of his pot. The best thing about this scene is that it's very obvious watching it that this isn't the first time Warwick Davis has smoked a joint. He then leaves the stall and discovers rap music, and...

... oh God, he's going to rap at some point, isn't he? Sure, why not? If the Scottish can claim they invented rap (because white people absolutely positively need to believe they invented everything!), then why can't the Irish get in on the act too? It never hurt Everlast.

The guys use the gold they've found to buy new equipment off the same people that shunned their scam earlier. I love that, the fact that these places just accept gold as currency no questions asked. During both these scenes, P is scene mourfully hanging out in the background, obviously troubled by what he's done, playing around with the Golden Flute he took off Mack Daddy's body (obviously he wasn't remoursful enough for it to prevent him from robbing the presumed dead), and blowing into it. Both time he does, a strange tune plays, and the other three people in the scene turn to look at him, all slack jaws and dead eyes. They then shake it off and nothing comes of it. It's later explained that the flute can be used to make people think their music is better than it is, which would also explain why Mack Daddy is so desperate to get it back, but here it's just strange. Especially the fact that they feel the need to do the same thing twice. What were they, afraid we wouldn't notice the first time of something? Lep then goes on a rampage, killing the store owners that now have his loot (including using the image of Jackie Dee's dead wife, Jackie Cee, to seduce him), before deciding to go after Postmaster P and friends to get his flute back.

They've got problems of their own already though, as what they believe is the ghost of Mack Daddy has come looking for them to get the Flute back, causing them to take refuge in the one place he wouldn't think to look for them, that being with the outrageously gay crossdresser Fountaine Rivera (Lobo Sebastian). It's a one-note joke that's only funny if you find the sight of bulky, in-no-way feminine-looking men prancing around in pink dresses and wigs amusing. Facinatingly, this movie seems to find this concept the funniest thing in the world, but we'll get into that more later. Lep shows up and is greeted by Fountaine, who he initially dismisses with the pithy line, "I didn't come to play with fruit, I only came for me Magic Flute." I'm ashamed to admit it, but I chuckled. Anyway, Lep kills him (in a manner that makes it look like he's having sex with him, because there's no way they could pass up the chance to make that joke), before getting set on fire when Butch finally gets to put his knowledge of chemicals to good use.

Finally realising they're up against dark forces, they decide their nextport of call should be a church, specifically the one run by Reverend Hamson (Ivory Ocean... the actors in this movie have fantastic names), who agrees to let them stay one one condition- they must provide the musical entertainment for that day's sermon. They reluctantly agree, and predictably they don't go down that well, which probably has something to do with them singing about hoes. P uses the flute to bring the congregation back, including Coolio...

... wait... Coolio? Yeah, Coolio. Standing in the door of the church, looking as confused as I'm sure I do now. And then he's never seen again. This is one of the most random movies I've ever seen. The celebrations prove shortlived however, as both Mack Daddy and Lep show up to claim what they both believe to be theirs. Lep blows a hole in Mack's bodyguard using his magic (which makes me wonder why he doesn't just do that all the time), Mack Daddy runs for his life, and the guys outsmart Lep by trapping him in a safe. I've just noticed that at this point this film has become an adult Looney Toons cartoon.

Thinking the coast is now clear for a while, the boys decide to refocus on the audition that's going to take them to Vegas, with them using the Flute to win over the crowd. Again, it's amazing just how fast Mr. Positive Message is willing to sell out his beliefs and cheat to get ahead. Lep meanwhile finally remembers he can use magic, and summons help to get him out of his trap. Brilliantly, he calls on the help of "The Zombie Flygirls." I was hoping they'd be all rotting and slow walking, but sadly they turned out to just be normal (though attractive) women with green glowing eyes like they'd been exposed to too much Gamma radiation (sorry, geeky reference). One distracts the Reverend whilst another frees Lep, who then kills him by shoving his entire hand through his stomach from behind. I could complain about this and say that Lep's arms are far too small for him to be able to stand next to the Reverend with his arm through him, but you know what? Fuck it. It's a cool death scene and at this point I'm going to try and find enjoyment in this movie anywhere I can.

The guys are told be the owner of "Dope Disc Productions," (who's for some reason played by a chubby white guy in a cowboy hat) "The biggest Hip-Hop Label in history!" we're told by Stray Bullet, that they're going to the finals in Vegas. The Lep once again shows up to rain on their parade, forcing them to hand over the Flute, then using his magic to make Stray Bullet turn is gun on himself.

Not wanting their friend's death to be in vain, P and Butch come up with a plan to get the Flute. Are you ready to hear what their plan is? Their plan is to dress up as women to get close to Lep, who they've established has a thing for shemales from earlier, and get him to smoke a joint full of Four-Leaf Clovers. I didn't make a single bit of that up, I swear. They first convince the Zombie Flygirls to take a toke, and once they've turned back to normal (m, aren't they supposed to be dead? Shouldn't they just fall to the ground when the magic wears off), P gets them to tell him where Lep is. They go to him, get him to smoke the joint, and... oh Christ, he wants P to give him a handjob. I don't need to see this, if I wanted to see this I could type a whole bunch of keywords into Redtube...

... phew, he passes out before the deed is done. Butch and P then try to escape, but who have they forgotten about? Mack Daddy, of course, who turns up and shoots Butch, who mournfully begs his friend, "Notin a dress, Dawg," before uttering his last words, "They got pussy in Heaven, right?" I hope so, son. God, do I hope so. P, who had his back to us during this, then turns to face the camera, and... YES! YES! HE'S CRYING! THE MAN IN A DRESS IS SHEDDING ONE, LONE, MANLY TEAR FOR HIS DEAD, DRAGGED-UP FRIEND! STOP THE FILM! IT'S PEAKED! It's worth mention at this point to just how seriously the three man leads have taken this movie. You'd really think they were in "Menace 2 Society" or something similar, and I have to sayb I have grudging admiration for them because of that. Their efforts are misguided, but at least there was effort there.

P then decides being a Gangsta is the only option left to him at this point and shoots Mack Daddy twice in the chest. Strangely, this doesn't kill him. If anything, it makes him stronger, as he rises up laughing like a madman and actually helps P fight Lep, who finally does away with him by making his stomach explode (WHY DOESN'T HE DO THAT ALL THE TIME?! SOMEBODY EXPLAIN THIS TO ME!), and then it gets... confusing. Once again the medallion ends up flying through the air, and once again we assume it lands on Lep, freezing him. However, we then cut to a scene of P performing on stage (and I use "performing" in the loosest possible terms, because all he does is come out and chant the same line over and over again), in a black suit and shades, which once removed, show his eyes are glowing green. Lep is then shown in the crowd grinning, and informs the audience, "I taught him everything he knows." So... did Lep kill P? Is he now controlling him? Did they cut some kind of deal? None of this is made clear. The last thing we're presented with is Warwick Davis performing the song, "Lep In The Hood." And I don't even really care that much, I'm just glad it's over.

I can't really put into words how strange a movie this is. I mean, it's obvious what they wanted to do, they wanted to do what was trendy at the time, which was a horror-comedy. And if that is the way you want to go, then you can have worse starting points then having a killer Leprechaun going after some rappers. But the thing is, it doesn't work. As a horror movie it fails because it's just not scary. It's gory, I'll give it that. It doesn't skimp on the gore. But gore does not a good horror move make, at least it shouldn't. As a comedy it's vaguely more successful, there were a few moments that made me titter, but it's never really of the laugh-out-loud veriety. And it's hung up on the oddest things, like crossdressing. This movie, and presumably the people behind the making of it, seems to think that a dude in a dress is the funniest thing in the world. Now, I'm not going to say it's not funny, because it can be, but when you have three guys dressed up as women in the whole movie, and the entire ending is based around it, then I don't really know what to say.

Other than...



Get away from ye, ya shitty movie. Ya not that good and ya... smell of... doodie?

Okay, that's nt as easy as it looks.

Until next week, I'm The Cheap-Arse Film Critic, and my Grandpa asked me one time if I care whether I live or die. Yeah I do. Now it's too late.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

The Cheap-Arse Film Review #12- "WHITE CHRISTMAS." (4 WEEKS OF CHRISTMAS: WEEK 4)









PRICE: £1.00

This review isn't late, I just thought it'd be more appropriate to hold it off until Christmas Day. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

First, to get it out of the way- yes, I've changed the page design. I'd been contacted by a few regular readers (God, how my ego loves being able to write that...) who had expressed a problem with viewing the page the way it was previously. For some of them it was simply that white text on a black background gave them a headache, and for others it was actually causing problems with their browsers, for whatever reason. So I decided that, rather than put off people who clearly wanted to be here, I may as well give another template a go. I was never really married to the old design anyway. When I first set this up, it was more a case of thinking, "Yeah, that's alright," and starting to write. But after a while I noticed it looked a bit, well... Emo. So I probably would have ended up changing it anyway, this just made me pull the trigger faster.

Now, with that out of the way, I'd like to open this review by talking about two things I love, but society, or at least most of the people around me, think I shouldn't, that being Christmas and musicals. I love Christmas. Admittedly, I don't love the lead up to Christmas. I don't see how anyone could love that, not without having something genuinely wrong with them. But I love the day, I love the gift giving (mostly the recieving if I'm totally honest), the food, the telly (good or bad, because even if it's bad you can bond with the family by moaning about it together), having an excuse to see friends and family you don't really see that often. All of it. And that really does seem to bother some people I know. One friend in particular who really hates this time of year, and who doesn't need much prompting to go off on a rant about how it's just another day and how anybody who does enjoy it is a moron, always shoots me a very distinctive look whenever I'd try to say something positive. For the longest time I couldn't figure out what that look meant, but recently I figured it out- he's looking at me with pity.

Yes, I'll conceed that alot of what comes with Christmas is crass and exploitative. And yes, there's a case to be made for all those people you don't see very often not really liking you all that much and only doing it out of some kind of obligation they feel. But speaking for myself and myself alone, I stagger through life pointing and sniggering behind the back of all existance, and it just feel nice to have one day a year off from all that, to just let out a deep breathe, go "AHHHHHHH," and allow myself to just get lost a bit in the happiness of people around me. It helps that almost everyone in my family also loves Christmas, on a level above even me. How much do they love it? The air freshener in my toilet is currently "Mulled Wine," scented.

Think I'm joking?

Smells quite nice, too.

As for musicals, I suppose I don't have to go into too much detail about why I wouldn't shout about loving them from the rooftops. Basically, I live in a part of the world that has a very, shall we say, basic grasp on the concept of masculinity. Case in point, in 1997, an British movie came out called "The Full Monty." If you're not from the UK, there's still a very good chance you've heard of it as it was one of those movies that managed to cross social and cultural boundries and become at least a minor hit in several other territories. However, in case you haven't, the plot is essentially six out-of-work steel workers from Sheffield decide to become strippers. Along the way there are twists, turns, tears, laughs. In all honesty it's quite a formulaic and shamelessly manipulative movie, but it had a big heart, a fantastic cast and a great soundtrack that somehow managed to make both Tom Jones and Hot Chocolate relevant again, however briefly. I was 15 at the time of it's release, and I really wanted to see it. However, I kept putting off doing so. Why? Because the people I went to school with, mostly the boys, but some girls too, had decided that all this film was about was six men getting their cocks out, and if you wanted to go and see it, you must like looking at other men's cocks, therefore you had to die. Simple as that. It's difficult to describe now, but at the time I was legitimately afraid to go and see it, for fear that word would get back to the wrong people and something bad would happen to me. And I know what you're thinking, you're thinking something about being you're own man, not bowing to peer pressure, standing up for what you believe in, blah blah blah. These are the thoughts of people who have clearly forgotten what it was like to be 15, and how utterly soul-destroying it can be to feel outside the pack, especially when you're already are little bit and are scrambling desperately for a way in.

And anyway, I'm talking about it, so I obviously went to see it eventually, didn't I? I went with my Dad, we both laughed and agreed it was a good film. And then I didn't tell a soul I'd seen it, and even denied seeing it when asked if I had for fear of falling into some sort of trap, until I was 18. THREE YEARS! Three years it took me to think the coast might be clear on that one, and maybe we'd all grown up enough to not be so bloody judgmental and small-minded. And you know what? Some people still gave me a funny look! As if to say, "Well, that explains a few things..."

What can I say, other than "Welcome to Romford?"

No sooner had I put the disc in my player and selectrd a language than I'm informed over the Paramount logo that this is the first movie presented in "VistaVision." I have no idea what that is. I hope to God Windows isn't involved, because I would like this disc to work properly, and not ask me things like, "Are you sure you want to stop the movie?" or "Are you absolutely positive you want to pause things here?" After the opening credits sequence, we are told that it is Christmas Eve in the year 1944, and we see a song-and-dance show being performed and watched by soldiers amongst the ruins on a city, as explosions in the distance light up the sky like lightening. Straight away it's quite an arresting contrast that pulled me in, on account that it wasn't what I was expecting. I was expecting things to be all happy-go-lucky and jolly straight from the get-go, but instead we ge something (comparatively) a bit darker. And this mood remains when Bing Crosby takes the stage, playing Bob Wallace, and performs a stark, somber version of the title song. It's been said before by men much more knowledgable about these sorts of things than me, but despite whatever failings he may have had as a human being, Bing Crosby had a fucking amazing voice. I'm tempted to use a tired cliche and say it sounds like silk, but I don't think that's good enough. He very much had a man's voice, it managed to sound like it had a bit of boom to it even when he was practically whispering, but when it comes time to do duets later in the movie, he's doesn't overpower his partner. He's very giving with his talents.

Wallace finishes the song, then starts to say a few nice words about his regiment's Major General, Thomas F. Waverly (Dean Jagger), who suddenly appears on stage to hold a field inspection before telling all his boys, in his own way, how proud he is of them, and how much he'll miss them. They respond to this by singing a rousing rendition of "The Old Man," in unison (a song that's much more heartfelt than the title implies, I feel like mentioning), pausing when enemy planes drop bombs overhead, and then scattering to defend themselves when those bombs actually start hitting the base. As you can tell, all of this is actually quite grown up, which wasn't unusual for musicals of that time. They were mostly family pictures, there's no denying that, but they were family in the sense that there was something in them for everybody and they were allowed to invoke a wide range of emotions. It's only in fairly recent times thanks to Disney's adoption of the genre that it's come to be associated with children.

In the attack that follows, Wallace is nearly killed by a falling wall, only just being saved at the last moment when another soldier, Phil Davis, pulls him out of harm's way, injuring his own arm in the process. In the medical tent not long after the attack, Wallace tells Davis that he owes him his life, and that if he ever wants anything, all he has to do is ask. Does Davis want something? Why of course he does- he's written a song that he would like Wallace, who it's been established is something of a mnor celebrity in the world of music outside the army, to perform. Not only that, but it's a duet, and he'd like to become Wallace's partner, which, after some resistance and alot of arm-based guilt-tripping, Wallace agrees to. This all feels fairly convenient if I'm totally honest, even for a movie. He even has the song on him, tucked inside his uniform. Were this film to be remade today, there's prbably be a twist ending that revealed that Davis actually set the whole this up in order to convince Wallace they should team up. It would probably be some morality tale about people's desire for fame at all costs, and in the end Davis would be left on stage alone when his partner abandons him, a broken man. Directed by the bloke who did, "Step Up." Starring Justin Timberlake Chris Brown.

Davis is played by Danny Kaye, who was the third choice for the role after Fred Astaire passed on the script and Donald O'Conner couldn't perform due to illness. Now, there's not really that much shame in being someone's second choice. My entire dating philosophy is built around this belief. But knowing you weren't even that, I could see that playing on somebody's mind. If it plays on Kaye's mind at any point though, you can't tell, because he enters a spirited performance. He has good chemistry with Crosby, their voices compliment each other, and he shines during the moments he's allowed to take the spotlight on his own, especially when dancing. Sure, part of me wonders what Fred Astaire would have brought to the role, but to be honest with you, he's not missed all that much.

So anyway, they go on the road, and their act is a massive hit, so massive they eventually become producers and put on their own stage musical that runs for two years. It's after one of the performances however that we begin to see that the relationship between the two has become slightly strained. Davis attempts to set Wallace up with a dancing girl, which angers him. He says that Davis has been trying to hook him up with women for months, and he doesn't understand why it's that important to him. What an ungreatful prick. I would kill, kill, to have a friend whose mission in life it seemed to be to get me laid. I think most of the guys reading this right now would, too. Davis could be my mate any day of the week, I'd love him like a brother. He isn't just trying to pimp out his friend though, he has his reasons, one decent (he believes Wallace is either miserable, or "happy for the wrong reasons," and meeting a girl will bring him out of his funk), one selfish (he'd like Wallace to meet someone so he'll have something to do other than work, which will actually give Davis a little time off, even as little as 45 minutes). It's a scattershot, fast-paced dialogue-heavy scene, and both men manage to keep the energy up right until Wallace sadly admits that there might be some truth to what his friend is saying, but the sad truth is most of the women you meet in their line of work aren't the kind you start relationships with. Hmmm, I wonder if he'll meet a nice woman who appears just that little bit too young for him who also works in showbusiness who is the kind of girl you start a relationship with...

They the travel to a local club to audition an act, Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy(Vera-Ellen), The Haynes Sisters, to come on the road with them after recieving a letter from their brother, the absolutely brilliantly named, "Freckle-Faced Haynes, The Dog-Faced Boy," asking them to. It turns out both Wallace and Davis served with this man in the army and are doing it as a favour to him, even though they don't believe any of his siblings could be attractive enough to be worth bothering with (YAY causal fifties sexism!). As it turns out, not only are they attractive, but Wallace, whilst watching them perform their trademark number, "Sisters," finds himself instantly smitten with Betty. I don't blame him at all either, she really was a striking looking woman in her youth, with big animated eyes and a pinball smile that lit up her whole face. She's talented too, a decent actress and dancer with a very good voice. Infact, she's so luminous that her co-star, Vera-Ellen, suffers when being compared to her. Unlike he fresh-faced on-screen sister, she photographs quite old, which is strange because I think her character is supposed to be the younger of the two. I was also going to complain that she doesn't do any of her own singing (Trudy Stevens and Rosemary Clooney herself provide the singing parts), but in all honesty her character doesn't really sing that much, instead focusing on the dancing side of things, where she more than holds up her end of the deal, especially when she and Davis dance together to, appropriately, "The Best Things Happen When You're Dancing."

With both men impressed with what they've seen and Wallace already in love, they agree to meet the sisters after their act. Seeing that Wallace is clearly into Betty, he conspires to get them alone together, asking Judy to dance and kicking off the previously-mentioned number. However, the second they're alone, Betty can't help herself and tells Wallace that her brother hadn't sent the letter that brough he and Davis there, but instead it had been her sister's doing. Rather than be angry about it however, Wallace finds this to be slightly amusing, as it confirms his belief that all people are constantly working angles, that "everybody's got a little larceny in them," which actually manages to piss Betty off, as she tells him that's a terrible thing to think about people. Personally I would have just been happy that he's not more annoyed, as I think he'd be perfectly within his rights to be, what with the brotherhood he shared with the other men in his regiment being so shamelessly exploited. They go on like this for a while (as their two counterparts comment on how well they seem to be getting along), before deciding that, since they chances of them meting again are quite remote since they're both leaving town tomorrow, there's no point in continuing this argument. They then toast and smle at each oother in a manner that's far too cosy for to people who just had such an intense disagreement.

After Davis and Judy have finished dancing, Betty comes to collect her sister so they can do thier final performance, only to be informed by one of the club's waiters that the Sheriff's in the manager's office with a warrant for their arrest, due to the fact that their landlord is trying to scam them out of money. Davis, who had been told by Judy that the pair had planned to go to Vermont for the month to spend the holidays in the snow and was now seeing whatever chance he had of pairing off his partner going up in smoke, decides to help them out. There's some wonderfully funny dialogue in this scene, the best being Davis' response to what he would get out of helping them- "45 minutes all to myself." His plan is also superb in it's own way- sneak the girls out with his train tickets, and he and Wallace drag up and perform the girl's number, miming over a record of them singing and doing their full routine. Well, I say "drag up," but that aspect is very lackluster. The best they manage is some shorts and some tiara-looking things. I was going to suggest that maybe that was as far as you could push that particular angle in mainstream American movies in the 50s, but then I remembered "Some Like it Hot," came out in 1959 (although, to be fair, that movie was lightyears ahead of it's time in almost every way). It's still an amusing scene though, due to the fact that two grown men more than old enough to know better swanning about with feathery fans can't not be funny on some very base level. After that, they get on their train, with Davis convincing Wallace to buy two tickets to Vermont instead of where they wanted to go originally. Wallace eventually discovers he's been duped by his partner into going where the Haynes sisters are heading, and after initially being miffed about it, they all meet up in the club car, and suddenly all is forgiven. They then sing a song about snow, entitled, imaginatively, "Snow," where they take turns singing about how much they're looking forward to reaching their destination and seeing all the (have you guessed yet?) snow. In my opinion this is the worst song in the film. It goes nowhere, and it goes on forever. I also refuse to buy that four grown human beings could get that excited about snow. Sadly, the truth is, when you grow up, snow is no longer something you get excited about. Snow is nothing but an inconvenience. And, inconveniently, after all that singing, they get to Vermont and are greeted by... no snow. It's apparently unseasonably warn (hello, Al Gore). So what do they do? Start singing about snow again! It's not here, folks. Get over it.

They arrive at the local lodge, only to discover that it's owned by Thomas Waverly, the guy's old regiment leader, now retired (although he still rides around in a jeep, seemingly for the louls). The girls had expected to perform there as the floor show, but found out the second they arrived that their show had been cancelled, and that the lodge itself was on the verge of going out of business due to lack of custom, due to lack of... do I really have to say it? I don't want them to start singing about it again. Wanting to do good by their old chief, Wallace and Davis decide to try and save the lodge by bringing their entire stage show there, all the sets and performers included, to open on Christmas Eve. I don't know how they'd fit an entire broadway production into a hotel floor show, but just go with it. They convince Waverly it's a good idea, inbetween him throwing out some wonderfully-gruff yet good-natured putdowns, and suddenly we're off into rehersals!

The first big performance is heralded by a black chalkboard with the name of the number they're about to run through on it. On of those words, though, is a word that can make the the stomach of even the most vaguely liberal person in the room fall into their big toe.

That word is, "Minstral."

Thankfully though, it's not that kind of Minstral show. I kept looking to see if any of the background dancers were in black-face, but I don't think they were. All it is, is a crisp song-and-dance number with some comedy thrown in, performed by women in flowing dresses and men in ludicrous tuxes. I guess the lack of the words "Black & White," does away with all that. Everyone shines here, Crosby and Kaye seem to be have the time of their lives, Vera-Ellen does some great dancing, and Clooney seems to be having a ball getting throwing down and trading sung quips with the boys, and also looks drop-dead gorgeous.

Inbetween other rehersal-based performances, there's some main-and-sub-plot action going on. The romance between Betty and Wallace continues to heat up whilst they bond over working together, to the point where they actually kiss.For some reason I was suprised when they kissed each other.Most modern films make a big deal aboutt kissing and try to make it this big, climactic thing. But here, even though it's interrupted, it's treated as what it actually is in most cases, that being the start of something, rather than the goal. ALso in that scene, Wallace and Betty perform "Count your Blessings Instead of Sheep," the ballad that got this film it's lone Oscar nomination for Best Song. The fact that, of all the songs in this film, this was the one the Academy liked really perplexed me. I mean, it's not a bad song, don't get me wrong, but it's a very slight one, very much in the shadow of some of it's more robust, showstopping siblings. The only thing I can think of is, since this is a Jukebox Musical, this may have been the only song in the film written specifically for it.

Also, we find out that Waverly, missing the Army, has sent a letter to a friend of his there with some pull, looking to see if he could have him called back up. He recieves a reply that Wallace reads to im, in which his friend gently breaks to him that his survices will not be required any time soon. I've really not talked enough about Dean Jagger's performance as Waverly. As previously stated, he's excellent when verbally cutting Wallace and Davis down to size, but here he shows another side of he character- he's too strong to show how disappointed he is at being turned down, but you can see it all over his face. He's a strong-man trying desperately to hide the fact that his heart is broken and he feels like he's been forgotten, and he does it masterfully. Wallace, wanting Waverly to know that he's still appreciated, decides to try and get as many of the surviving members of their regiment together for the opening night, by putting out an appeal on the Ed Harris show. This is where the conflict in the relationship plot is amped up, when the lodge's busybody housekeeper listens in on that call at just the moment when the person on the other end of the line suggests they comedown and film the show to be broadcast live, thus gaining Wallace and Davis a boatload of free publicity, and just so happens to ang up before Wallace sets the guy straight. She then tells Betty about it, who, convinced the boys are just working and angle and only helping their old friend for selfish reasons, decides she no longer wants to be in the show.

Now, y'see, I've said this before in other reviews, but films keep coming back to this, so I suppose I'm going to have to keep addressing it- maybe it's me, but even if that was the case, even if he was going to have the show broadcast from the lodge, I don't see why that's something to get so angry about. They'd still be doing a good thing, putting on a show that'll hopefully pack out their old friend's place of business with paying customers. Would getting a little something for yorself out of the barguin invalidate that? I honestly don't think so. It's just this weird morality thing that crops up all over the place that states that all acts of kindness have to be selfless, and I don't buy into it. An act of kindness is still an act of kindness, whether you're alone when it happens or in a crowded room. Just my two pennies worth.

Anyway, off my soapbox and back to the movie. Seeing the aftermath of the seeming lover's tiff between Betty and Wallace, Judy telly Davis she believes the reason Betty's suddenly gone cold is because she's dedicated her life to looking after her sister and wouldn't want to settle down with anybody until she was setled down, too. This leads her, in a rather predatory manner, to try and convince Davis to pretend they're engaged, so she wouldn't feel obligated to be alone anymore. Danny Kaye is hilarious in this scene. It's obvious through the whole movie that he has a real gift for comedy, but this scene may be his tour de force, as he tries to weasel his way out of having to do this, the thought of even pretending to be engaged to someone almost paralysing him with fear, describing himself as, "... not the marrying kind... I'm not the engaging kind either... I'm more the, "I don't mind pushing my best friend into it, but I'm scared stiff when I get anywhere close to it myself"-ing kind." However, when reminded that they'djust be ding it for their friend/sister, and obviously thinking about that mythical 45 minutes alone, he agrees to it, although he wants no public annoncement and no kissing, uless it's absolutely necessary.

The nex scene is the per-show party for the cast and crew, and when it becomes obvious that Betty and Wallace are still having problems, Judy talks Davis into reluctantly announcing they're engaged. Judy congratulates them, andlater that night Judy not-so-subtly starts mentioning that, now she's engaged, she doesn't ave to feel responsible for her anymore, and she can do whatever she wants. Betty takes this as permission to, literally, fuck off, leaving the lodge, and causing the show to be one performer down. Davis and Judy come clean about their sceme, and about ho they're sure they accidently drove her away, and so Wallace heads to New York, where Betty's gone, to try and bring her back. When there, he sees her in her new stage show, performing a very pointed song called, "Love, You Didn't do Right by Me." It's another great song, and Jesus Christ does Clooney look smoking performing it, all white gloves and purple satin dress. This woman was amazing. I think I'm developing a crush on a dead person. Wallace trys to convince her to come back, and he seems to be making some headway, until they're interrupted by somebody informing Wallace that his cab to the Ed Harris Show has arrived, and Betty, getting the wrong end of the stick again, goes cold. Thankfully the truth is finally revealed when when she sees his appeal to the other soldiers of his regiment, and returns to the lodge just in time to perform.

Waverly, who's been tricked into wearing his own uniform, shows up at the barn to be greeted by his old men, standing to attention andonce again performing "The Old Man," as he tears up. It's a shamlessly sappy moment, but the look on Jagger's face is so heartbreakingly real that you can't help but be slightly moved by it. He then gives them one last dressing down, before declaring, "I've never seen anything look so wonderful in my whole life." It really is... lovely. There's no other word for it. Lovely. The show goes off without a hitch, it finally snows, the two couples declare their love for each other, we get one more rendition on "White Christmas," and that's all she wrote.

As musicals go, this was a very good one. Not the best I've ever seen, but it has alot going for it.Most of the performances are quality, the script is loaded full of great lines, it's beautifully shot and most of the songs are at the very least hummable. It has flaws though, two in particular that stand out above the rest. Firstly, it's a bit too long, five minutes under two hours, and this was from a time when films didn't really have closing credits, so this is 115 minutes of almost wall-to-wall story. I don't really know if that was the normal running time for musicals of that era, but I can't help but think it must have been something of an epic for it's time. And when I say it's too long, I don't mean they should be hacking out whole chunks of narrative. 15 minutes would have been fine, and honestly there were a few things here that sem a little indulgant and could have been cut. Towards the end there are a couple of numbers that just don't advance the plot in any way shape or form, particulary the "Choreography," number. It's actually a vert clever piece, in that's it's Irving Berlin's pointed critique of modern dance, and his fear that it would lead to the death of the old-time song-and-dance performer. I can see the point he's trying to get across (even if I'm not sure I agree with it), and everybody involved seems to be having a blast, especially Danny Kaye. But it just feels so tacked on, and at odds with the message of the rest of the movie. It's like the people involved in making this had a message they wanted to articulate, and the almost didn't care what movie they said it in.

The second complaint is bigger. Infact, it could make or break what I do with this film. Some of you may have noticed it already reading this review. If you have, well done, I didn't until I was about an hour into my first viewing. The fact is, this movie doesn't really have much to do with, you know...

... Christmas.

I mean, yes, it starts on Christmas Eve, it ends there, and it's bookended by performances of the title song, but that doesn't really make it a Christmas movie. Most of the way through, it's just your typical musical love story. Christmas is barely even mentioned. Infact, I'm convinced you could have eliminated the all references to this holiday altogether, and it would have had no effect at all on the quality of the end product. It's very misleading, to the point where I'm convinced it wasn't originally going to be a Christmas film at all, but was made so just for marketing reasons.

I would bin a comedy for not being funny. I have binned a horror movie for not being scary (amongst other things...). By that logic, I should bin a Christmas movie for having almost nothing to do with Christmas. Can I? Can I actually do that?



No, I can't. Because this movie works on two levels- as a Christmas film, it's pretty much an utter failure. However, as a musical, it's nothing but a complete success. And it's that superiority in one area that allows it to rise above it's faults in the other, in my opinion. so there was have it. My little Christmas present to myself.

Until next week, I'm The Cheap-Arse Film Critic, and Mery Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

The Cheap-Arse Film Review #11- "SANTA WHO?" (4 WEEKS OF CHRISTMAS: WEEK 3)









PRICE: £1.00

I'm quite OCD. I used to say I was very OCD, until I met people who were very OCD. Mine manifests itself in my desire to have everything ordered and listed, in a way only I understand if at all possible. That's part of the reason I decided to cover only Christmas movies for the month of December, and also the reason I've somehow managed to convince myself that all the movies I've covered so aren't just the first Christmas movies I found at a bootsale and thought to myself, "These'll do." I've talked myself into believing they're connected, beyond the fact that they all take place over this particular holiday. It goes like this- "Home Alone 4," was the latest in a line of increasingly dminishing sequels to a film originally directed by Chris Columbus, who adapted John Grisham's novel, "Skipping Christmas," into "Christmas with the Kranks," that starred Tim Allen, the undisputed King of the Chrismas movie, having also starred in the three "Santa Clause," movies, thus bringing us round to this week's movie, which also features the jolly fat bastard as a main character.

All very tenuous, I'm sure you'll agree. Even the way I am, I can admit that last one is really reaching. However, in researching this movie, I discovered it shares a more direct connection with one of the other movies I've covered over these last three weeks. Something eagle-eyed readers may have already noticed (I've always wanted to type that...). For the rest...

... the screenplay for this movie was written by the same two people responsible for "Home Alone 4." My first response to discovering this was, "Oh merciful Jesus please say it isn't so." But then I talked myself back from the edge with the knowledge that, unlike with that movie, on this one they're not really alone, instead working from a story provided by two other people, one apparently working from an unpublished prose story written by the other. So hopefully this has provided them with a little bit less rope for them to hang themselves with this time. I suppose there's really only one way to find out.

The film opens in an orphanage, with a little boy with the thousand-yard stare of a heroin addict writing a letter to Santa. "Dear Santa," his letter begins, "you are the greatest. All I want is a happy Christmas with a family who loves me. Love, Peter Albright." No sooner has Young Peter written this than he's informed that his father will not be picking him up from the school over Christmas this year. Wow, that "No," was delivered in record time, wasn't it? Before he runs off to his room, he sees one of the Nuns, Sister Greta, take his letter and burn it on an open fire. At this point it's hilarious to me just how many Christmas movies are based around tragedy and heartbreak, even the ones aimed at children. But then, I suppose it's better than having to sit through some day-glow, happy-happy-joy-joy nightmare that has a perma-grin like The Joker just disfigured it all the way through. And brief respite from the misery is given when we see a familiar, white-gloved, red-sleeved hands scoop up what I presume is the burning remnants of Peter's letter as it floats out of the chimney. So Santa did get Peter's letter? So he will get a family that loves him for Christmas?

Well, no. The next time we see Peter, 25 years have passed, he's now played by the fully-grown Steven Eckholdt, and he's working as a reporter for a local TV network news show, his job at the moment seemingly to pester people attempting to walk down the street with questions like, "What's the best thing you've got today?" and "Did you spend much money today?" (answered with, "A migrane," and, "No, I stole this!" respectively). While this is going on, we're treated to cliched visual representations of the nastier side of Christmas- kids arguing over toys so violently that they get destroyed (the toys, not the children), people loaded down with bags walking into each other, people stealing other people's cabs. The point of all this seems to be to show us that Peter has a very low opinion of Christmas, which would be fine were it not for the fact that, after showing us, the movie then feels the need to tell us that Peter doesn't like Christmas, many, many times over, first with him asking is he could cover a different kind of holiday story this year, such as taking a look at the suicide rate for December (lovely in a U-rated movie. "Daddy, what's suicide?"), then just by having people outright state that he doesn't like it. I believe at one point he's even refurred to as a Grinch. Is all that really nessessary? This movie is aimed at children, not people with Alzheimer's.

Peter's complaining about wanting to cover serious news gets him sent to a toy store dressed like Santa with a fantastically un-hidden hidden camera in his hat in order to find out what Christmas is like, "through the eyes of Santa." Whilst there he spies a pretty woman with a clipboard loitering around the toy store Santa set, and after a couple of predictable come-ons involving Christmas lists and wrapping paper, we find out that he and this woman, named Claire (Robyn Lively), are already dating, or at the very least have something causal going on, as they're supposed to be meeting up for dinner later. He's then assaulted by an odious child, which somehow leads to the real toy store Santa getting injured and taken out on a stretcher, leaving the position empty and Peter having to be the emergency sub until a new one can be found. The best bit of this is when Claire's boss comes up to her, and I'm sure she calls him, "Mr. Lesbian." She probably doesn't, but I'm going to pretend that she does.

Following this, we finally get to The North Pole and see Santa's elves, lead by head elf Max (Tommy Davidson), preparing for the big day in three days time. This is also where the first disappointment of the movie happens, brought on by the elves themselves. They're too tall. As far as I can tell not a single one of them is played by a midget or a dwarf (and no, I'm not going to use the term "little person," because I actually think there's some truth in the notion put forward on the "This Is Spinal Tap," DVD in-character commentary that calling someone with these afflitions a "little person," is actually a really nasty thing to do). They're all just regular sized people in garishly-coloured trousers with funny pointy hats. Infact, in the next scene, where Max finds Santa (Leslie Nielsen) in order to get him prepared for Christmas, I believe he may actually be a little bit taller than him. That's just wrong. Couldn't he just... stoop a little bit? Or couldn't Nielsen stand on a box?

At least this scene is a nice one, with Santa wearing a suit that he hasn't worn for a while ("Judging by the flared cuffs I'd say the early seventies," Max says, in what is without question the movie's funniest line), and, having found some letters in it's pockets that he'd forgot about, wonders how many more children's wishes had gone unanswered on his watch, and wonders if it's time to pack it in. Facially speaking, Nielsen is a great Santa. He's got the smile, the youthful twinkle in his eyes and looks awesome in the beard. He's also got a great voice for the part, warm and friendly, and great at throwing a "HO! HO! HO!" when allowed to do it properly. From the neck down, though, is where things start to go wrong. Putting it bluntly, he's not fat enough. I wouldn't call him thin, because he's not, he's clearly got a bit of middle-age spread going on, but it's not enough. In my opinion, Santa should be practically spherical, a great big ball of a man with a belly that children could bounce up and down on giggling (Lord, this got Freudian quickly...). If I could put his head on John Goodman's body, it would be perfect. As it stands right now, I've seen worse, but I've definitely seen better too.

Back with Peter and Claire, we see that he's now in her house and is spending spending some time wit her young son, Zack (Max Morrow, which sounds more like the name of a super hero than an actor, lucky kid). It soon becomes obvious that these two don't really get along. Actually, it's more that Peter just really doesn't like kids and Zack, being a smart kid, has picked up on it. "Is this gonna be about you again?" Zack asks him when he starts to tell a story about the show that's on the TV. "Another story where all you do is talk about yourself?" I like this kid, he's already more like the Kevin from the original "Home Alone," movies than these two writers could recreate in, "Home Alone 4." Peter's dislike of children is one of his most unpleasent character traits, incidently. Later in the film, Santa ends up spending the night at Peter's place after he and Claire have a bit of a fight over his commitment issues, and when Santa asks him why he's reluctant to be with Claire, he says it's because he doesn't want an "instant family." "Wow," Santa says, "you're a massive cock, aren't you? No wonder Daddy didn't love you." Actually he doesn't say that at all, but he should have.

The kid goes up to bed, Peter and Claire have their meal (Chinese takeout, which she comments is "very... easy to clean"), and then he starts pestering her for sex. Claire's reluctant, saying she wouldn't want her son to wake up in the morning and find him still there, to which Peter's answer is he doesn't have to be there when he wakes up in the morning. And get this- she goes along with that! So not only has he convinced a woman to sleep with him, but he's also convinced her that him sneaking off not long after they've done the dirty deed is a good thing! For all the negative things I've said about Peter, I will give him this- he's obviously a Playa. Of course he doesn't sneak off afterwards, as he fell asleep not long after they were done, and the next sequence is full of (supposedly) hilarious hijinx as he tries to sneak out of Clair's house without Zach seeing him, and failing. What does it say about a children's film when the zaniest moment up to this point is built around a botched bunk-up?

Claire and Peter later have a conversation about their relationship, during which we find out that they've been going out for a year. God, I hope the previous night wasn't just the first time they'd had sex round her place, but rather the first time they'd have sex period. That would be gloriously pathetic. She complains that he's not connected to Zack in all that time, he makes a joke about sending him to boarding school (see what they did there?), and then slinks away without comitting to anything either way. One thing that always bothers me about movies like this is that the fictional women put up with far more shit from their boyfriends than most real ones would. If a guy acted like this around any of the women I know in reality, they'd be kicked to the curb so fast they'd think they were in "American History X."

Peter's day then gets worse when Santa falls on his car whilst he's on the phone. Seriously. Santa had decided to go for a ride in his sleigh in order to clear his head and do away with any doubts he was feeling, only to then get caught up in some snow clouds, with the resulting turbulance causing him to fall out and onto Peter's car. Having not been paying attention, Peter just assumes he hit him, which is strange, because I don't think the car was moving at the time. I'm not even sure the engine was going, but hey-ho, I shall perservere. Peter gets out to check on the person he "hit," and as we fade out, Peter practically chants to himself, "I hate Christmas, I hae Christmas, I hate it..." Alright. We get it.

When we come back, Peter has seemingly dragged this corpse back to Claire's place, where a wet towel has been placed on his head. Yeah, that's an awesome way to treat what we can only assume is massive head trauma. Whilst giving him the once over (why is nobody calling the hospital?), they discover that his beard is real and he has candy canes and cookies in his pockets. There's a joke in there, but I'm not going to make it, because it's wrong. Yes, too wrong even for me. So Santa comes to and, as the title of the movie has probably already given away, he's got amnesia. He's a total blank slate. So again, instead of seeking out medical attention for this obviously badly injured man, Peter sets about trying to "refresh," his memory, theorising that because he's in a Santa suit, he must be there to apply for the job of toy store Santa by going the extra mile and turning up at Claire's house instead of waiting at her office with everybody else. Yes, that makes total sense. He then goes about pressuring his girlfriend, or whatever she is, into hiring him for the job. Then he runs off to cover a story, leaving her to deal with this mess. This man needs to be kicked hard in the face. Oh, and somehow Zack knows this Santa is the real Santa, and tells him so. "Santa who?" Santa asks. Oh look, they got the title of the film in the dialogue. How fiendishly clever.

After the reveal that the story Peter had been called to cover was the appearence of a hurd of reindeer and a sleigh seemingly from nowhere, Claire escorts Santa to her office so he can try out for the toy store job. There's a slight sinister undertone to these scenes if I'm a little bit honest, as Nielsen seems to be playing Santa in this part of the movie less like someone with no memory and more like a man with genuine mental illness. He walks down the street with Claire, his arm in hers, not really understanding what's being said to him, and clearly being made nervous by the things around him. You actually lose a bit of sympathy for Claire for subjecting this poor man to this. I think the problem might be that Nielsen is actually too good an actor for these sorts of scenes. Yes he made his name in screwball spofs like "Police Squad," and the "Naked Gun," movies, but it's easy to forget that he's a classically-trained actor with real pedigree.

So anyway she takes him to try out for the part of toy store Santa, and he's horrible. His amnesia is so severe that he can't even remember how to go "HO! HO! HO!" Instead of bellowing it in a voice filled with joy and love for the season, he says it in a low, husky tone that makes it sound like he enquiring about multiple prostitutes for the evening. In most movies he'd instantly get the job anyway because, well, that's what needs to happen for the plot to advance, so I'm reasoably surprised to see that he's originally turned away because he's so fucking creepy. Of course this is just a momentary setback, as he ends up in the position when yet another Mall Santa is carted off on a stretcher. This film has a real Yuletide bodycount going on as well, I've noticed. I'm almost tempted to call it subversive.

Peter decides to run a story on Santa, saying that he's selflessly dedicating his life to making children happy at Christmas whilst having no memory of his own past, and hoping that he'll find somebody who knows who he is, which of course brings out all the crazies and people desperae to be on television. And a man who claims to be the Easter Bunny. Claire accuses Peter of exploiting him, and I'm really in two minds about that. Yes, there is a self-serving nature to Peter using this guy for a story, but at the same time there's a chance some good could come out of it, so in the end, does it really matter? I mean it's not like they know he's the real Santa, do they? And it's really not his fault that half the city seems to be insane. The only thing I can't help but think is, were I a parent, there's no way I would allow my children to sit on the knee of a man who claims to have no memory of his past.

While all this is going on, we finally get to see what's going on at the North Pole with the elves, and predictably, it's total chaos. They've managed to pinpoint his rough location, and Max decideds to lead, for want of a better word, an elf task force in order to bring him back, because if they can't find him, Christmas would have to be cancelled, and as Max says, "That's not an option." So, how do they get to the city Santa's stuck in (which inciddently I don't think has been named yet. I think we're just supposed to assume it's New York)? Do they magically fly like the big man himself? No, they catch a plane. From The North Pole. And when they touchdown on American soil they find themselves hassled by customs security over the contents of one of their bags. At first I thought this might be a sly dig at the difficulty of flight travel in a post 9-11 world, but then I remembered this movie was first broadcast in the year 2000. Plus one of the security guys in an Indian dude with a thick accent who people have a hard to understanding. Haha, casual racism. They find the tracer they gave Santa in his sleigh, and decide the only thing they have left to do is search the city. "This city, Max?" one of the elves asks. "But it's so... tall!" Well... so are you. Okay, you're not giants, but it's been established that you're not tiny, either. I'm probably shorter than these guys. Am I a dwarf?

While this is going on, Peter is discovering that sharing an apartment with Santa may not be the best thing for him, what with his psycholgical hatred of all things Christmas. The old man drives him insane asking him to teach him Christmas carols, waking him up in the morning singing them at the top of hil lungs, seemingly driven by sub-concious desire to reconnect with him inner Christmasosity (Yes, I just made that word up). The police are also now involved with trying to find out Santa's true identity, and after a hypnosis session where he reveals that his wife is called "Mrs. Nick," the place he lives is "dark and cold," and he's surrounded by children, "or maybe little people..." (this movie seems fairly determained that these regular-sized human beings are especially short), Zack, sick of being the only person in the room that really knows what's going on (and again, it's not explained how he's figured this out, we're just supposed to believe that all children have some in-built Santa-Sense), makes a run for it with Santa and tries to make him remember who he is by taking him on a one-stop tour of all thing's Christmas related, including watching Christmas movies ("What's this one called again?" ""It's a Wonderful Life."" "So why's he trying to take his own life?")(Second reference to suicide within 49 minutes, for anybody keeping score out there), and taking him to see his reindeer and sleigh. Eventually Peter catches up with them, and after telling Zack of for running off, pretty much tells him that he's nuts and that "there's no... proof he's Santa." Zack then points over to a large group of children sitting round Santa and say, "What more proof do you need?" Like that's the ultimate proof or something.

The non-elves, as I've taken to calling them, are continuing their highly ineffectual search for Santa, and finally spot him on a giant TV screen. Only now they have competition, as a couple see a "Santa Who?" ad on TV and are convinced that he's their Grandfather who's been missing for 10 years and was last seen around this time of year wearing a Santa suit. I hope these two are brother and sister and not husband and wife, because if they are and the missing man is randfather to oth f them, then that's just... disgustng, really. Peter, who has now sudenly become unsure about whether he believes Santa is real or not after seeing the spontanious act of love showered on him by the children earlier, is actually reluctant to believe their story. "You're telling me that Nick has been running around in the same Santa suit for 10 years?" he asks. Wow, the writers actually had the sense to realise that some people might find that a little hard to swallow and had one of the main characters express this. Well done. However he soon becomes swayed when the information passed on about him by his married grandchildren conveniently matches up with what they got out of him when they hypnotised him, so he reluctantly goes along with it. He tells Santa about this, and after yelling at Zack again, is told by Claire that they clearly don't have a future together because he's still traumatised by his childhood and won't let them in. She seriously got all that from a grown man refusing to believe that a man with no memory might be Santa and telling her increasingly annoying son so in a semi-forceful manner.

Santa and Peter both have bad dreams, and end up in Peter's kitchen discussing them. Peter talks about seeing his letter be burned, and Santa says with a name like that she must be Polish or Scandanavian or something, and people from that part of the world have a custom of burning letters to Santa believing they get to The North Pole faster that way. "Maybe we both need to remember who we used to be," Santa says. I have to give it to Leslie Nielsen, he's one of those actors who can take a prety corny line and make it sound like Shakspeare. So Santa is reuntited with his "family," gives away his costume and says goodbye to Peter, Claire and Zack. He even shaves his beard, which is weird to see, as he goes from being Santa to Frank Drebin in the blink of an eye. Not long after this though, Peter finds the letter he wrote to Santa all those years ago, and suddenly, HE BELIEVES! I means it's not like anybody else could have written a letter like that, could they? Like Santa himself said, it's a pretty standard thing for an orphan to want. But anyway he calls Santa on his cell phone (Santa has a cell phone?), and convinces him to meet him at the toy store in 15 minutes. He also calls Claire and Zack, who undistandibly don't want to see him, but all is forgiven when he tels Claire to tell Zach that he believes him. Santa saves Zack when the Sleigh he's sitting on nearly falls from where it's situated, Santa's reunited with his non-elves and has a renewed sense of purpose, gets his sleigh and reindeer back, and Peter gets what he's always wanted- a family that loves him to spend Christmas with.


Much like "Christmas with the Kranks," I can't sit here and say it's the worst Christmas movie I've ever seen. It's better than "Home Alone 4," that's for fucking sure. I suppose if you have young kids, it's a decent enough destraction, as they won't notice just how unlikable the main character is, or how rushed the ending feels. And in a strange way it's nice to see Leslie Nielsen get to play something a little bit out of the box he's been placed in. There are a couple of scenes here where he gets to stretch his dramatic muscles, and those scenes make me want to see him do more work like that. But with all that said, were this on television on Christmas Day, and it were a choice between this and any other film currently playing at that time, I wouldn't chose to watch it. Not unless it was already on and I was too fucked to reach for the remote, anyway.



I was going to give this to my sister, but I decided she made out pretty well from me this year as it is and thought sod it. Also, I just noticed that Boulivard Entertainment have misspelt "Leslie Nielson," name on the front of the box. Good to see them keeping up their usual level of consistancy.

Until next week, I'm The Cheap-Arse Film Critic, and you ain't gonna shit right for a month.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008










PRICE: £1.00

Tim Allen. He's never been, in my opinion, a particularly funny stand-up, I can think of few other actors who have made a career of cynically turning out Christmas movies the way he has, what with this and all three "The Santa Clauses" (which I can't review because, sadly, I've seen them all. Don't judge me, I have alot of young relative who inexplicably like me and want me to watch movies with them. I think I might have even seen the third one in cinemas), and quite alot of his non-holiday movies have been, putting it kindly, not very good ("Jungle 2 Jungle," "The Shaggy Dog," "Joe Somebody"). He's not a trendy man to like.

But I do anyway. Pop culturally speaking, he's played a part in alot of things that have made me the man I am today, for better or worse. For a start, there's "Home Improvement," which was one of the few
shows my entire family would sit down and enjoy together. I loved that show growing up, and whilst I can admit that it doesn't hold up today, like alot of the shows I loved as a kid (although I still think "Boy Meets World" was a work of underappreciated comedy genius), when it's on, I'll still sit down and watch a bit of it with my Dad, who still really likes it. He's also been a big part of three films I absolutely love, that being the two "Toy Stories" and "Galaxy Quest." I know this is the second time in as many reviews that I've mentioned that movie, but my love for it truly knows no bounds, and if you're a sci-fi geek and you've not seen it, you should be ashamed of yourself, because it's wonderful. And I know there will be some people out there who'll sniff at me mentioning, "Toy Story," where he of course voiced what would become one of Disney's most beloved characters, Buzz, Lightyear, because there are still some people out there who don't consider voice acting to be proper acting, which is ignorance in the extreme. Let me put it to you this way- remember when they turned "Aladdin" into a TV show? They couldn't get Robin Williams to provide the voice for Genie on a weekly basis obviously, so they replaced him. They picked a great replacement, that being Dan Castellaneta, the immortal voice of Homer Simpson himself. And he fucking worked it, man, he poured his heart and soul into that role. He did a brilliant job. And yet every time Genie opened his mouth, you found yourself hit by crushing disappointment when you realised you weren't really hearing Genie's voice, you were hearing somebody trying hard to sound like him. Now close your eyes and imagine another voice coming out of Buzz Lightyear's mouth when he says, "TO INFINITY... AND BEYOND!"

I rest my case. Tim Allen, little bit of a legend.

The first thing I notice about this movie whilst scanning the box is that it's written by Chris Columbus. Again, much like Allen, mentioning Columbus' name can inspire more hardcore cinephiles to foam-mouthed fits of rage. And I'm up there with them to a agree, because as a director he's mostly known for sentimental dross like "Stepmom," and "Bicentennial Man." He didn't ruin the first two "Harry Potter," movies, I'll allow him that, but he did ruin, "Rent." Yes, he also directed "Home Alone," a movie I spent the
entire of my last review gazing fondly back at like I lost my virginity to it, but I get the feeling my postman could have directed that script and it'd still have made $200,000,000 (he did however direct "Adventures in Babysitting," which, to give The Devil his due, is a great movie. See, I'm fair)(I meant Chris Columbus and not my postman, just so that's clear). As a writer though, I think he's sometimes unfairly judged. So caught up in the venom of hating his directorial efforts are some people, that they've forgotten he's responsible for the scripts to "The Goonies," "Gremlins," and, "Young Sherlock Holmes." Hell, I bet some of them didn't even know to begin with. So I didn't instantly see his name in the credits here as an indicator of the movie's quality. I also noted that the script was based on the novel, "Skipping Christmas," written by John Grisham. I've heard of this book, but I can't say I've read it, so unfortunately I'm not going to know if the movie deviates from the source material at any point. Hopefully somebody'll yell, "OBJECTION!" That would help me out a bit.

The film opens with Luther Krank (Allen), and his wife Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) sitting up in bed, looking upset and disappointed. And no, I'm not going to make any of the more obvious jokes here, because you've probably already made them, at least in your heads. As it turns out, they're depressed because their daughter, Blair (Julie Gonzalo) is going to Peru as part of the Peace Corps and will miss her first ever Christmas with the family. Now, maybe I'm just a
cold-hearted bastard, but whilst I can understand them being upset, the level of their unhappiness is just alien to me. Seriously, from the way her mother is acting, you would thing that someone has died, especially after Luther returns to the car after being drenched in the rain and conversing with an umbrella-selling Santa to find his wife in tears after Blair called her from the plane, which felt to me like a real dick move on the daughter's part, as she must have realised how destroyed her mother was watching her go. And all she apparently wanted to say was she missed them. However, it's during this scene that Luther notices a window advertising Caribbean cruises, and after cruching some numbers at work (we never find out really what he does for a living, incidently), he discovers that said cruise costs over $3000 less than they spend celebrating Christmas.

Following this, he decides to inform Nora of his plan. Strangely, he leads up to telling her by looking at her like, well, like he wants to have sex with her. Then, upon leaving the room after cryptically informing her that he has an idea, Nora takes this to mean that he, well, wants to have sex with her, and starts excitedly unbuttoning clothing. This is really the only scene in this movie where Curtis gets to shine. I don't know why she doesn't get cast in more comedies, because she's a really gifted comedic actress. Take the
2003 remake of, "Freaky Friday," for example. It's... okay. It's not horrible, but it's not particularly great, either. But Curtis was, franky, a revelation in that movie. She's so fucking funny, and she's clearly having so much fun playing a young girl trapped in an older woman's body. She completely stole the show from Lindsey Lohan, whom Disney were clearly hoping this movie would do for her career what the first one did for Jodie Foster's, and she managed to convince alot of people, including quite a few critics, that they were watching a better movie than they actually were. That folks, is talent. She also seems to be getting more attractive the older she gets, which must confound the age-obsessed decision makers in Hollywood (seriously, if that place were a person, it would probably have been arresed by now after questionable images were found in it's hard drive). But here neither of these pluses are exploited to their full potential. Yeah she gets to mug and react, and there are pratfalls and the like, but you get the impression that she's not bringing much of herself to the role. She's just playing a part and turning in a performance that any vaguely talented funny lady could have done just as well. You could swap her for, say, Goldie Hawn, and there'd be no noticable difference in the end result. Plus she's cursed with dowdy clothes and bob haircut that makes her look alot older than she is. We do get to see her in a bikini at one point though, and all I have to say is, she still has very good... genetics.

Incidently, I just realised I don't own, "Trading Places," on DVD. That's going to have to change.

After telling his wife to put her clothes back on, Luther, who has
changed into an absolutely hideous Hawaiian shirt (which I thought were the height of fashion when I was 16... I was strange), suggests that, that instead of spending the money they usually do on the holidays, especially since they're almost certainly going to have a lousy time without their daughter, they take the money and go on a cruise instead. It's a full boycott, no lights, no tree, no decorations of any kind, no presents (bought or excepted, which makes no sense, because how does not excepting a gift from someone save you money?), no Christmas Dinner, no annual Christmas party, even giving money to charity isn't allowed. "We skip Christmas," is the way he puts it to her, and, after being initially cold to the idea, she eventually comes round and decides to go along with it. The next day he writes a letter to everyone he works with, informing them that he's, quote, "skipping Christmas." Okay, so, the original novel this movie is based on is called "Skipping Christmas," and Luther as used that very term, or a slight variation there of, twice in about five minutes, if that. So why isn't this movie called, "Skipping Christmas," again? It's a great title, short, gets the point across without spoiling too much, rolls off the tongue and still has the word, "Christmas," in the title. Whereas, "Christmas with the Kranks," sounds, frankly, slightly unpleasent.

Anyway, it's not long after the office is told of this plan that we discover that the rest of the town is insane. No, really, they're insane, and take the fact that that the Kranks won't be celebrating the season or decorating their house as some kind of personal
afront. The first glimpse of this we get is when a really creepy guy comes up to Nora to ask her if she'll be placing her usual Christmas cards order from his shop. She tells him she won't be needing any this year, and heads off on her way. Is that the end of it? No, of course it's not. The guy then follows her to the restaurant she's having lunch at with her two friends (played by Felicity Huffman from "Desperate Housewives," and one of the aunts from, "Sabrina the Teenage Witch") just to tell them this. He then sits down at a table near them and stares evil daggers at Nora, seemingly along with all the other customers.

Now, granted, I can see their point is some respects, especially with The Kranks not giving any money to charity. They're saving
three grand, that can't stretch to buying a calender from the police or giving some change to some carollers? But where they totally lose me is with their borderline facist attitude towards anybody who doesn't want to make their house look as gaudy as possible (I say that as a man with a light-up snowman just outside his front door as I type this...). I mean, what if someone in this neighborhood is devoutly Jewish, or Muslim, or any faith that doesn't allow the celebration of a Christian holiday? Do they get run out of town for the month of December? The movie actually kind-of addresses this, when the Carollers show up and are informed that The Kranks aren't doing Christmas this year. "Are they Jewish?" one of the Carollers asks, before being told they're not. So, would it be okay if they were? And because thay're not, they're expeced to have to tow the line even though they don't want to? WAT?

The angry mob (and there's really no ther way to describe them) is lead by Vic Frohmeyer, played by Dan Aykroyd, along with his rat-faced son, Spike (Erik Per Sullivan). It's a glorified cameo, like most of the work Aykroyd does these days, but I still relish every chance I get to see him perform, and he does the best he can
with what he's given, which isn't much, his character's a cartoon, rallying crowds of people around the Krank's house and demanding they "bring out Frosty," a large plastic snowman they usually mount on their roof every year, so that he and the other residents can put it up for them. We get to see Frosty a little bit later when Luther and Nora hide in their basement to escape the carollers, and Jesus Christ is he creepy, with a smile that could only say, "When you sleep, I'm going come into your bedroom and force live rats down your throats." I wouldn't put that on my roof. I'd fucking burn it.

As all this is going on, we're treated to evidence that skipping Christmas (see, I'm saying it now!) is turning Luther into a selfish
creep. First he takes the money they'd surely normally give to charity and starts using Sunbeds, then he decides, for no reason I can think of, to have Botox treatment administered to his face, making him look like a Volcan and causing him not be able to eat or drink without either just falling out of his mouth. I'll admit this is a funny bit, and has Allen in his element for the first time in the whole movie, but I didn't laugh that much. And that's because I'd already seen almost this entire scene in the trailer. I can't have a go at the movie for that, because that's not it's fault, but I hate it when the people in charge of putting together trailers spoil things like that. Okay, I get it, you want to show the funniest bits to get people to want to see the movie. I get that. But don't give away nearly the whole thing. It's like foreplay. Tease me a little bit. Make me want to come back for more. Then give me the gratification.

The Kranks somehow whether the storm, which has now grown to include nuisance phone callers with children chanting, "WE WANT FROSTY!" on the other end of the line, and make it to Christmas Eve, the day before the cruise... and Christmas Day, obviously. They're finishing
off their packing, when they recieve another call, this time from Blair. And guess what? She's not in Peru! She'll be back at home by nightfall, and is looking forward to spending a good, old-fashioned Christmas with her family and enjoy their annual party! And she's bring her new fiance who her parents have never met before with her! AND IT'S HIS FIRST CHRISTMAS IN AMERICA!

Oh bugger.

So of course now the movie turns into a race against time, with Luther and Nora running around trying to get things they way they should be for Blair's arrival, with the vindictive townspeople hampering their every attempt, such as the local Christmas Tree
salesman charging Luther $75 dollars for what is esentially a twig, and Nora being run down in the supermarket so she's prevented from getting the last ham. Seriously, what is with these people? First they're offended that this family chooses not to partake in Christmas, then when they decide they do want to, their lives are still made a living Hell. It's like these people think they own Christmas. The only person who's nice to either of them during this time is a creepy man with silver hair (and that's all this town seems to be made up of, creepies and crazies) who knows everybody in town, even though nobody knows him. We later find out his name is Marty. Nora invites him to the party out of sheer desperation, and he accepts.

The town finally bands together around the family when Luther nearly kills himself attempting to put up Frosty (whose smile changed from sinister to cheerful once the Kranks announced they were having Christmas after all), and Frohmeyer gives them all a speech about how they should do it for Blair, who they all love. Never mind that
this man nearly died because for all you know he was caving into peer pressure, he's still a jerk, so do it for his daughter. Everybody lumps in, getting the party together, the cops go to the airport to pick up Blair and Husband-To-Be (I forgot to mention, one of the cops is played by Cheech Martin. This movie actually has a really good cast), and before you know it, the perfect crime has taken place. It even turns out that Marty can fluently speak the native tongue of Blair's Fiance's homeland, and helps him feel at home by performing a song with him, along with everybody else. But even after all that, Luther can't bring himself to propery thank anybody, and still tries to talk Nora into going on the cruise tomorrow. "Luther, everyone out there sacrificed their Christmas Eve to help us," she tells him. "I thought maybe that might effect you, maybe have you start thinking about putting others first, instead of yourself... but I really don't think that's possible."

Okay, I've not done this for a while (well, four reviews), but... THREE THINGS! 1) Yes, they may have helped him out on this night, but I don't think Luther's in the wrong about still being angry at
the entire town for they way they've acted towards him over the last month, 2) I'd be annoyed if I'd spent alot of money on something I now couldn't do too, and 3) Why does Nora think Luther is incapable of being a selfless human being? If this film's to be believed, this family have spent 22 previous Christmases together, and they were perfectly normal, loving gatherings. Infact, they were so good, the very thought of one not happening that way was enough to reduce Nora to floods of tears. So he's clearly not been selfish around this time of year before. It's just this one year. That's this film's major problem, there's no character development, just character happenings. We're not told why everbody in the town is so into Christmas, they just are, we're not told what's turned Luther into a selfish prick, he just now is. And then when he's not again, he's just, well, not.

And all it takes for him to prove he's not is to do one thing, which is to give the cruise tickets to the elderly couple next door. It's established at the start at the movie that Luther and the old man don't get on, for whatever reason, and that he also hates their cat. Very strangely, the old man asks Luther early on in the movie if he's still working for, "The Man," and he even calls him "Old Man," despite the fact that he must be a good ten years older than him. He's written to sound almost like a hippy, and, I'm sorry, but I'm not buying it. I've known a few older hippies in my time, and this
guy's not one of them. But anyway, they're hostile towards each other, but all that changes when Luther sees the man and his wife celebrating Christmas Eve alone together through their dining room window. The selflessness of this act is compounded by the fact that the man's wife is gravely ill with cancer, so they can spend maybe their last Christmas together doing something they'd never be able to do normally, and even offers to look after their cat whilst they're away. Following some hijinx with a burglar being thwarted by Marty (who turns out to be the Umbrella-selling Santa from the beginning of the film in a clever twist I didn't see coming. Bravo), Luther is hugged by his wife, who's just been called by the people next door and told what he's done for them, and they discuss the possibility of skipping Christmas (THERE IT IS AGAIN!) next year.

To be fair, this wasn't a horrible Christmas movie. I've seen far worse over the years, and will probably see alot more in the years to come. And were this actually Christmas Day, and I was sitting on my sofa following dinner, totally over-fed and more than a little bit tipsy, I might even find this to be acceptable. But it's just, and this is me trying to verbalise an abstract concept, so this might not make that much sense, but...

... you know when a movie feels... flat? Like there's no... bounce to it? Let me try to explain, and I really do mean try because I'm not 100% sure what I'm getting at here- movies that have bounce to them usually do so because at least a few of the people involved in making them believed in them. You can sense the creativity and ambition that went into them. You can see it up on the screen. And they don't have to be good movies either, bad films can have bounce, too. All of Ed Wood's movies have bounce. "Going Overboard," has bounce and little else. This movie, however, has no bounce. It feels flat. It's just a product, just another Christmas movie churned out around this time of the year every year, and almost everybody involved put in the bare minimum of effort they could get away with, from the cast to the director, right down to, yes, the writer (and after I said all those nice things about your past scripts, Mr. Columbus...). It feels cold, because it has no soul. And as such, It has no place in my collection. I'll put up with alot if you haven't noticed already, but I won't put up with a lack of bounce.


I think he'll appreciate this, because unlike me, he has read the book, so if nothing else we'll have something to talk about on Boxing Day.

Until next week, I'm The Cheap-Arse Film Critic, and you're looking at a guy who told someone today to staple antlers to a mouse's head to further my career. How many of you would try something like that?