Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Christmas in April

The Christmas movie is a totally unique type of movie. Here are three distinct things you can say about it that you can't say about any other genre:

1) It's the only type of movie you have to wait a whole year to see if you miss it in the theaters. While every other feature film arrives on DVD between three and five months after its theatrical run, the Christmas movie goes into hibernation for 11 to 12 months, since there's zero value in making it available for purchase in March or April.

2) It's the only type of movie you're absolutely guaranteed to find free for rental at any other time of the year, and have a hard time renting at Christmas -- even if it's a terrible movie.

3) It's the only type of movie where watching it outside its designated season of relevance feels bizarre.

This last is what happened with me this past Saturday, when I popped in The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause.

That's right, I decided it was finally time to polish off that egg nog we had squirreled away in the back of the fridge, eat the rest of the holiday fruit cake, and take down the tree. Yes, we moved at the beginning of March, but we didn't take down our tree. We just loaded it on the truck and set it up in our new living room.

Actually, you can probably guess why I saw The Santa Clause 3 -- I was reviewing it. I'd requested it back when it was actually Christmastime, but didn't get a chance to watch it. Who can blame me -- I was also reviewing Deck the Halls, Fred Claus and the 1984 TV version of A Christmas Carol starring George C. Scott. I was too Christmas movie'd out to fit The Santa Clause 3 on my viewing itinerary.

But when I get approved to review a movie, I also don't like to just let it sit there and go stale. If I planned to wait until it was Christmasy again before watching it, I'd have to sit on it for another year. It wouldn't be the first time, but it's something I try to avoid. Besides, my editor at the site has been swamped lately, and was slow to approve my recent request list of fresh titles. If I wanted to keep plugging away at my reviewing, I had to push titles like The Santa Clause 3 to the top of my queue. And, my reasoning went, it'd be easier to get them in April than November/December anyway.

And so it was that I pulled up a section of couch on the morning of April 18th, when my wife was still sleeping, and threw myself into the world Tim Allen's Kris Kringle, now a lot less reluctant to be the Big Fella than he once was, and his attempts to save Christmas from the clutches of the evil Jack Frost (Martin Short).

The experience reminded me of a Christmas episode of The Sopranos I once saw. At least one of my faithful readers may remember the season of The Sopranos that was either delayed, or scheduled all along to finish in early summer, even though the arc of the story was playing out in early winter. I remember watching the finale of that season, a particularly quiet finale with Tony and his brood standing around looking at the Christmas tree. Meanwhile, it was something like 115 degrees outside in the San Fernando Valley.

No one asked me to create that kind of disconnect when I watched The Santa Clause 3, but in the case of The Sopranos, it was a decision made by the writers, or possibly the schedulers at HBO who postponed their season.

But it does raise an interesting point: Is it legit to show a Christmas episode of a TV show in the month of June? It's hard to know how to work around that issue. Your viewers won't be in that frame of mind at all, and it runs the risk of souring a perfectly good episode, even on a subconscious level the viewer may not be in touch with. (And maybe it was the seasonal disconnect that made me remember the end of that season as flat). But what if you're a TV show that only runs in the spring, year in and year out? Does that mean your characters never get to experience Christmas? It's an interesting question, and I don't think I have an answer.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go move Santa Claus: The Movie, the 1985 "classic" starring Dudley Moore and John Lithgow, to the top of my queue.

If you think I'm kidding, just keep your eyes open for it in my "Most Recently Seen" section. Sometime in June sounds about right.

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