Friday, November 20, 2009

Holiday movies should Uplift, not Depress

Christmas-time movies have been rolling out since before Halloween, echoing the tinsel and snowflakes prominent in the malls where multiplexes rule. I've seen two holiday releases; one is worth your investment and will leave you glowing with seasonal spirit; the other is depressing and, should you stupidly go to see it, will undermine any family holiday occasions with suspicion and dissatisfaction.

The one to miss is "Everybody's Fine," starring Robert DeNiro.  I seldom accompany my husband to screenings, since my criteria of no violence, suspense or slapstick only leaves a repertoire of romantic comedies.  But this was billed as a heartwarming story culminating with a happy Christmas scene, so I thought I'd take advantage of spending the evening with my man.

I should have known better.  On the way there, my husband said, "Any movie with Robert DeNiro in it is bound to be depressing."  Unfortunately, we were on the freeway, or I'd have gotten out immediately.

DeNiro plays a recent widower, pathetically lonely in his 1940's-style house; when all his far-flung adult kids cancel a reunion-at-home weekend, he sets off to "surprise" each of them with a visit.  In his travels, complicated by a respiratory problem caused by a career making PVC coating for telephone wires (a sappy theme--wires that communicate, versus his family that didn't), he discovers that for years his wife had conspired with the kids to spare him from family unpleasantries.

"Everybody's fine" was the euphemism that covered myriad long-festering problems.  You come out of the movie wondering who in your circle is hiding something; whether you've missed a deep-seated issue that you should have seen--and whether those you love who you think are doing well really aren't.
What a downer.

But across the hall at the multiplex is bound to be Disney's "A Christmas Carol," the 3-D animated masterpiece wonderfully faithful to Dickens' original story.  Jim Carrey offers all the malevolent timbre you expect from Ebeneezer Scrooge (he plays the three ghosts as well), and the magic of the animation takes you so close to his world that you can see every wrinkle on his miserly countenance was honestly earned.

Little kids might be spooked by the scary Christmas Yet to Come, but for those about age 8 up, the creative vantage-points (sometimes so weird they're a tad distracting) and roller-coaster-like glides (perhaps one too many) will enthrall.  The colors and detail will amaze, as will the exhilarating ending that every viewer knows so well. Finally, you'll leave with a new song in your heart, specially written for the film by Alan Silvestri.

I look forward to the holidays--twinkling lights, beautiful carols, Hanukkah parties...I much prefer to celebrate the closeness of my family, which is real and enduring, than sink in the dysfunction of others.


  1. I would add 'The Blind Side' to the uplifting side of the message or not [although there is a neat Thanksgiving scene and fun with those Christmas family photos].

    This was a super film...took my 78 y.o. sports-loving mom to it and my husband and we all enjoyed it immensely.

    I will probably take the little ones to A Christmas Carol.

  2. Ruth Anne, I missed The Blind Side though I'll be seeing it soon...and A Christmas Carol has some scary scenes; forewarn the kids!