Holiday Fun in TV Family Dys-fun-ction

15 12 2009

Favorite Daughter and I have been watching Christmas movies, lots of them. Hilarity ensues. We grade them by a complicated and quirky power of story checklist we’ve developed over years of good, bad and ugly Christmas film fiction fare.

The other night we sat up late to wallow in a recorded made-for-tv movie that promised to be a twist on It’s a Wonderful Life, where a mom sees how differently her life could have turned out if she literally had been someone else by building her life on different values and choices, called Holiday Switch.

But for us, it was a moral morass and no one deserved a visit from Santa, much less a Christmas Angel to magic away their misery and make their dysfunction fun. Unlike the Cratchits or Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, who were just as fun and functional rich or poor, this woman was dysfunctional rich or poor! What a pill she turned out to be. We were so annoyed after sitting all the way through it that we’ve nominated it as top rival to our Worst Christmas Movie Ever:

From FavD’s 2007 review of “One Magic Christmas” —

This movie features Mary Steenburgen as a desperately poor mom at the end of her rope with two guilt-ridden children and an emasculated out-of-work husband. Needless to say, they can’t afford a merry Christmas. Enter Happy Christmas Angel to show them how much they love each other! Right? Well, almost.

The angel, a hangdog Harry Dean Stanton in a trenchcoat and fedora which make him look just like the polygamous cult leader I always think of him as, is not exactly Clarence from It’s a Wonderful Life.

Harry decides that the best way to make Mary appreciate what she’s got is to magically disappear what little money there is in the family bank account. As you may imagine, this turn of events only makes Mary more shrewish, snapping at her kids, screaming at her useless husband, and generally raging at God.

Since she failed to respond to this brilliant tactic, the angel magics a bank heist next to Mary’s work. Mary’s husband gets shot, and the robbers try to run away his car, in which the kids were waiting. The robbers drive the car into a river in their haste, drowning the kids. Yes, you read that right: the Happy Christmas Angel just killed Mary Steenburgen’s entire family in front of her.

Feeling jolly now, Mary? Are ya?

Ho ho ho. . .
Let’s put more bourbon in those bourbon balls next batch, shall we??

But at least that’s all just made-for-tv dysfunction. Real social and economic dysfunction delivers no holiday fun despite its spelled center, and there’s no honest-to-god redemption at the end of a real greed and exploitation story for the rich OR the poor — not even on Christmas Morning.

C.S. Lewis once explained power of story as real, writing about his friend’s Read the rest of this entry »