Year 8, Day 358 - 12/23/16 - Movie #2,500
BEFORE: It's Christmas Eve Eve (is that a thing?) and Jeffrey Tambor carries over from "The D Train" to link to my 2nd Christmas movie, and the last movie of Year 8. I admit that I spent most of Thursday night wrapping gifts (hey, at least I didn't wait until the last minute, just the next-to-last) so Friday night's got to be the big night for watching big movie #2,500. (Just think, I'm 1/4 of the way to 10,000...) My goal for next year is the same as it was for this year - try to clear the watchlist and be done with this.
But before that can happen, we've got to drive up to Massachusetts on Saturday, probably with a stop at a certain Connecticut casino and buffet. Then Sunday my mom and I will cook a big meal, the family will open presents, and then I can sleep for a few days. I love that church is out of the picture for me, so the holiday now just comes down to eating and exchanging gifts. What more do we need?
I was going to write a whole thing about my holiday mix CD, and the process of making it, but I don't know if I have the time or space for that. Suffice to say I wasn't really in the mood at first this year, but I also didn't want to break with tradition, so I slammed something together - but then after listening to it a few times, I realized how dark and depressing it was, so I had to scratch a number of the worst offenders, like LCD Soundsystem's "Christmas Will Break Your Heart" and a song by Set It Off titled "This Christmas (I'll Burn It All to the Ground)". While the intention would have been sincere, these songs didn't reflect the message I wanted to send out to friends and family, so they were jettisoned in favor of more uplifting tracks. In the end, tone is very important.
THE PLOT: Boyd Mitchler and his family must spend Christmas with his estranged family of misfits. Upon realizing that he left all his son's gifts at home, he hits the road with his dad in an attempt to make the 8-hour round trip before sunrise.
AFTER: And this is how my year comes full circle - I started Year 8 with "Knock Knock, It's Tig Notaro" and made a dedication to all the comedians, especially the ones who are no longer with us, and I end the year with a Robin Williams film. Guess I had that in mind all along - umm, yeah, let's go with that. That first film of the year was about two comedians on a road trip, and in a way, this one is too.
Here, the father of a young boy realizes after driving to his parents' house, the boy's gifts were left back in Chicago, so he decides to drive all the way there and back again overnight. The plot contrivances dictate that the trip be made with his own father, so a host of family issues surface during the drive. Sure, why not emphasize the "FUN" in "dysFUNctional"? Meanwhile, the rest of this family of misfits spends Christmas eve digging through the family's attic and drinking, or for the kids, avoiding sleep, discussing the existence of Santa, and speed-eating pickles. I wish my parents had encouraged my competitive eating skills, I could have been a lot further along with those skills by now. It's not their fault, I don't think competitive eating was as big back then, especially not for kids.
This film is a fine combination of two common themes seen earlier this week - bad behavior ("The D Train", "The Night Before") and events going wrong, but working out in the end ("Rogue One", "The Walk", "The Night Before"). That being said, I wish the movie had been funnier - a lot of the comedy is sort of slice-of-life comedy, rather than laugh out loud comedy, and I wish they'd gone for the latter more often. Instead it just felt like every character was some kind of quirk personified, from PTSD to alcoholic to just plain dumb.
But we do learn a number of lessons along the way, from why everyone should obey the speed limit (even on Christmas Eve), that some people enjoy mixing beer and tomato juice, and the pros and cons of various ways of getting rid of a corpse. Oh, and the debate rages over when kids should be told the truth about Santa Claus - being a kid who figured it out around the age of 5 or 6, I think 10 is a little too old to keep the charade going. But since I don't have kids, I don't really have to worry about it - but I wonder when my niece and nephew are going to wise up.
NITPICK POINT: Given the sheer size of the wrapped gifts that were forgotten here, it's kind of hard to see how Boyd and his family drove away from home without realizing that these huge boxes weren't in the car. But hey, in another Christmas movie, the McCallisters forgot a KID ("Kevin!") and got all the way to the airport and on the plane before they realized they were one child short - I never understood how that was possible, either.
NITPICK POINT #2: Given that Boyd did not have fond memories of Christmas, because it was often spoiled by his father, it's odd that he's SO into Christmas, and demands that it be perfect for his kids. "The Night Before" made a similar mistake with a character. If someone's past Christmases were unhappy, it makes more sense that they'd want to AVOID Christmas, not double-down on all of its traditions.
NITPICK POINT #3: What tween girl uses "the Nixon administration" as a cultural yardstick? Is she some kind of politically inclined child prodigy? Quite far-fetched.
In the end, the film does really nail the way that family members are able to get under each other's skin. Even though it's a time that everyone has to endure their annoying families, I hope everyone out there has a merry friggin' Christmas (except for you Jewish people and pagans) and that Hobo Santa brings you what you want, and that you don't forget too many things when you travel. I'll be back with the year-end wrap-up in a few days.
Also starring Joel McHale (last seen in "The Big Year"), Robin Williams (last seen in "Man of the Year"), Lauren Graham (last seen in "It's Kind of a Funny Story"), Clark Duke (last heard in "The Croods"), Wendi McLendon-Covey (last seen in "Bewitched"), Tim Heidecker (last seen in "Vacation"), Candice Bergen (last seen in "Stick"), Oliver Platt (last seen in "Don't Say a Word"), Pierce Gagnon (last seen in "Tomorrowland"), Bebe Wood, Ryan Lee, Mark Proksch.
RATING: 4 out of 10 portraits of Bea Arthur