Festive Roundup - 'tis The Season

Part 2 of 2

SCROOGED  (1988)


Speaking of unsettling daytime movies, what time do they usually broadcast this one? The first ghost visit which replaces the classic Robert Marley scene is kinda disturbing, with full on zombie effects even if they're played for laughs. The poor frozen guy who gets found in the sewers towards the end is also pretty grim in a scene that can't really be a joke. But it gets the message across effectively I suppose. Scrooge is replaced by Cross but the material is all pretty much still here besides the modern day take and the TV production meta story.

It's a film which has a far stronger opening half when Bill Murray gets to be a total jerk to everyone. He's a cartoonish but believably scummy executive. It slowly becomes less effective when the Ghost of Christmas Present shows up, but there's still a lot of fun stuff. It's just that the opening gag of a movie in the movie (who doesn't want to see The Day The Reindeer Died) is impossible to beat, they put themselves at a disadvantage. I like the past flashback scenes which all work well, and it's always good to see Karen Allen outside of Raiders. But the best take on this story is still the one with Kermit the Frog.

Movie Rating: 3/5
Christmas Rating: Richard Donner (3/5)
Festive Moment: 'Charles Dickens would have wanted to see her nipples!' 


TRADING PLACES (1983)


I guess we're starting to move into all the familiar festive viewings as things go on here. But at least that means we can cover a decent John Landis comedy, and one with a pre let's-play-everyone Eddie Murphy. There's a lot of simple but effective class comedy with the prince and pauper style swap going on, and some of the visual gags like the judgemental portrait gallery is wonderful. Elsewhere it's what you'd expect from a film where the two leads are being directed effectively, and throwing in Denholm Elliot is just an extra treat. The first act has a lot of the best dialogue as Murphy as Billy-Ray Valentine finds himself caught out and thrown behind bars, before the scheme of two rich old jerks starts to unfold.

It starts to fall a part a bit once the big Wall Street plan at the end comes along, and the New Years Eve train party with its caged gorilla subplot really outstays its welcome. The whole stock exchange plot pushes it away from being essential Xmas viewing, and there's too much information crammed into the finale few scenes. But what the heck it still mostly fits the bill and has plenty of laughs from people at their peak performance. As they say 'Merry New Year! Ah-ha-hah-ahhaa!'.

Movie Rating: 4/5
Christmas Rating: Clarence Beakes (2/5)
Festive Moment: Salmon and the worst ever Santa beard


BLACKADDER'S CHRISTMAS CAROL (1988)


In a rare break from the usual format I will cheat a but here and include this Christmas TV special. The seasonal episode of Rowan Atkinson's acidic anti-character stands alone from the other episodes, but still includes sequences taken from earlier seasons in the Elizabethan and Georgian eras. It's never quite as good as these two seasons of the show which get included as dream / spirit visions but it has a lot of good moments because the writing is still great.

Plus the idea of the original Charles Dickens story being done in reverse is a master-stroke. The kind, generous man realising he could benefit from being cruel is pretty good spin on things. All of the usual suspects return as characters they've played or in new roles such as Queen Victoria (Miriam Margolyes) which keeps the variety act tone going. In general it's uneven but includes just enough acerbic quips and mean spirited retorts to make it annual viewing.

Episode Rating:
3/5
Christmas Rating:
Robbie Coltrane (3/5)
Festive Moment: 'Ill-conceived love I should warn you, is like a Christmas cracker. One massively disappointing bang and the novelty soon wears off'   




TOKYO GODFATHERS (2003)


While I was never a big fan of the likes of Paprika or Perfect Blue this is by far the best of Satoshi Kon's movies - for any time of year. Those others of course showed his great skill and imagination as a storyteller, but this is the one that manages to cram in the charm, tragedy and character depth I was craving and it pushes the whole thing to new levels. All those weird cuts and odd narrative moments he enjoys including are still present and correct of course, and it builds into a magical experience in spite of the darker, melancholy and more down to earth story setup.

A band of mismatched homeless people struggling with their demons might not seem like the obvious choice for Yuletide viewing, but the themes of family ties, charity and making up for bad past decisions all firmly fall in line with many other seasonal classics. The idea of coincidences driving the plot forward instead of just being contrived or awkward makes for interesting viewing. Since they're central to the story it never becomes over done. The bleaker elements provide some sombre moments that flesh things out but never become too morbid, and overall it's a rounded story full of oddball humour, character drama and genuine humanity. A real animated gem. 

Movie Rating: 4/5
Christmas Rating: Uncle Bag (3/5)
Festive Moment: Saved by an angel