Ah, the holiday season is upon us. The snow (yuck), the decorations (pretty), the operative-like skills it takes to procure and hide the perfect present (stressful), and of course, the movies. Generally, I like the movies. Or, at least, I get sucked into watching a lot of movies (darn Hallmark channel and ABC Family with their countdowns to Christmas). Since I’ve seen so-very-many movies of the genre, I am a self-proclaimed expert on the subject. A miracle is a must in any self-respecting Christmas movie. It is my thesis that there are generally three Christmas miracles.
Category 1) Redemption
“Hello Scrooge? This is Christmas calling. Yeah, get over yourself and be nice.” So I’m not the writer Charles Dickens’ was but that’s the nuts and bolts of A Christmas Carol. A guy has a genius of a story and it gets diluted until it loses its powerful moral. Now it’s just a guy who gets spooked by three ghosts during one long night. It is an excellent story but it has been reiterated in too many varieties.
There are direct, unapologetic copies. I’m pretty sure that giant thunk I heard years ago was Mr. Dickens rolling over in his grave. Coincidentally, it was the same year Tori Spelling helmed the story and played the Ebenezer role. I didn’t see it. I didn’t have to see it for it to make me shudder.
Even Dr. Seuss ripped off the story. Take Scrooge, make him green and give him a dog. Make the story kid friendly by replacing the apparitions with the little Whos from Who-ville and turn Marley into Cindy Lou Who and what do you have? Another isolated miser who learns a heartwarming Christmas lesson. His heart grew three sizes that day! If that’s not a Christmas miracle, I don’t know what is.
Category 2) What if?
“What if I’d never been born?” “What if I wasn’t such a loser?” In essence, both are questions answered in the second variety of Christmas movie- miracle. This is another formulaic plot line and an angel is usually thrown in there somewhere. My favorite Christmas movie falls into this category. It’s a Wonderful Life follows poor George Bailey who just can’t catch a break until he realizes no man is a failure who has friends. Even though this is a must see for me every year I have to say it is one long movie. It’s almost like two movies stuffed into one setting. I have to watch it early in the day so that I don’t fall asleep. But how can anyone resist the charm of the Buffalo Gal scene? Or the dialogue (“I can see it still smells like pine needles in here.” “Thank you.”) My only complaint to Mr. Capra and company is – the worst fate Mary could have is becoming an old maid? Really? There are more direr things than being single. For example, marrying a womanizing husband such as Sam Wainwright would be a horrible fate (as evidenced by the scene when he is talking to her on the phone while a leggy blond is in his office with him). Much worse than, say, being single and working in the library and having to wear glasses. But that could just be me. Other than that, this is a classic movie.
The dilution of this formula is “What if I had made a different choice in life?” Again, an angel or sometimes it’s the Christmas star, grants this wish. After a fish-outta-water experience, the character usually gets a happy ending by choosing the alternate reality. If only this were true! I have a few choices I’d like to re-choose. Where’s my angel for my do-over? I am still waiting (not so patiently) for my Christmas miracle in regards to this.
Category 3) L (is for the way you look at me) O (is for the only one I see) V (is very, very extraordinary) E (is even more than anyone you adore)
This is by far the biggest and broadest category of the three. It can even combine one of the other two categories. I think this is the biggest miracle story of all three because two characters meet and within a week, they know they’ve met their soul mate. Within a week – sometimes it’s a shorter time than that. Sometimes it’s a matter of 24 hours. Wow! I’d like to try this miracle on for size.
One of my favorite Christmas movies falls into this category – White Christmas. However, I have a few minor criticisms about this movie. First of all, it’s a musical. In the beginning, the songs flowed with the plot. Sisters, Snow, and Count Your Blessings are all fun songs and fit with the storyline (as well as any sudden outburst of song fits with dialogue). But the problem with musicals is sometimes they throw in music for music’s sake and not to advance the story. When I hear Phil lament about what has happened to the theater, that’s when my focus starts to drift to other endeavors.
I could live with the music, after all, it is a musical. But the plot also takes a nosedive. First, there is the very charming scene with Betty and Bob discussing the relation between food and dreams. The next thing we know, Betty is listening to the nosey maid – who gives faulty information and really should be fired – and becomes upset. Poor Bob, he has no idea what he did wrong because, in fact, he did nothing wrong. Instead of communicating, Betty assumes the worst and takes off like an immature school girl. Meanwhile, the maid seems to forget her role in Betty’s moodiness. At first, I sympathized with men after watching this. If this is how women act, no wonder we drive them crazy. Luckily, before I apologized for my gender, I looked at who wrote the script. All men. I am sorry the writers obviously had a run in with a very silly female but I promise not all of us are like that.
There is a fourth category that I’ll uncreatively call other. The Polar Express, The Santa Clause, and A Miracle on 34th Street are all exceptions to the general rule of miracles. None of them fall into the overused three categories. They breathe a little originality into the Christmas season. But not too much, I’d miss It’s a Wonderful Life and even White Christmas, after all.
What are your favorite Christmas miracles in the movies?