Posted by David Kalat on December 17, 2011
This week I’m asking my son Max to join me in talking about a peculiar genre of movies I was unfamiliar with until he became obsessed with them last year. I wanted him to have the chance to share his passion with you, to help you find the joy he finds in these movies–consider it a Christmas gift from him to you.
The genre? Why, Hallmark original holiday movies, that’s what!
Every year, from late November on, the Hallmark channel indulges in a marathon of Christmas movies. Not the mainstay classics of It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street, mind you, but newly made things created for this venue alone.
Max has already gone through the cycle of SyFy original movies and their direct to video brethren. He’s savored the psychotronic joy of Sharktopus and Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus. That brand of cult movie is well trodden territory–search for “cult movies” in any retail or online store and you’ll find a slew of cheapskate monster movies—but who says the only poorly made movies that can be enjoyed for their incompetence have to be monster movies?
When Max stumbled across the Hallmark Christmas movies, it was like discovering a new color. Here were movies of painfully schmaltzy sentiment, awkward narrative structure, dialogue that was probably written by cutting up snippets from Hallmark cards and randomly glueing them together, and acting that appeared unrehearsed. Score!
Max first started watching these things last year around Thanksgiving time, and he spent nearly all of his leisure time throughout November and December obsessively rewatching these movies–especially any screening of The Town Christmas Forgot.
One night Max watched a bunch of these back-to-back, and we actually had a roiling debate about whether Hallmark was showing the same film twice in a row or if the second one was a different movie. It was hard to tell, because the premise and cast were identical. In the end, we decided they were two different movies, but it’s entirely possible the second one was compiled out of outtakes from the first.
I’m handing the keyboard over to my 11year old son Max now (by the way–don’t blame Max for the digital artifacts in the screengrabs and clips–this is the first time I’ve tried to pull clips off a HD broadcast, and let’s just say the technology was acting Grinchy):
I love these types of movies on the Hallmark channel because it gets you in the Christmas spirit.
Some of my favorites are Debbie Macomber’s Trading Christmas, Call Me Mrs. Miracle, A Dog Named Christmas, and Silver Bells. They have weird plots which make me laugh, while also getting into the Christmas spirit.
I love that these movies are only available once a year, on only one channel–it makes them feel special.
My absolute favorite of these is The Town Christmas Forgot. I find it so great because of the “so bad it’s good” characteristics. It is so cheesy, it is funny.
A family from the big city is on a vacation to Colorado but has car trouble and they get picked up by Colman, the local mechanic and barber. He gives them a ride to a town called Nowhere. This town isn’t even on any map.
The residents here can’t afford Christmas. The mayor Jeremiah says they can’t afford hope!
And of course you must have the evil Christmas hater such as Mayor Jeremaiah. You also can’t have a Christmas movie without fur hats.
The city family has to wait two days for their car to be fixed. The little town grows on the family and they decide to stay to help get the Christmas pageant made, against the mayor’s word. The dad of the family is a bank manager and gives them $400,000 to build a ski lift and the town and all its shops are happy because they now have a ski resort.
It is so cheesy because of the no name actors that they hire, the really bad acting, and the production and editing.
It is full of silly lines that I love to quote: “If we keep our shoes on and don’t go to the bathroom, we will have a good time.”
“This is a toy store! Toys are for kids!”
“The men folk don’t want it either.”
(This is David intruding on Max’s post–I just have to interrupt to say something here. “Men folk?” “Men folk?” Who talks like that? Anywhere? I have spent a lot of time in small towns, towns too small too show up on a lot of maps, towns smaller in population than my daughter’s soon-to-be-high school. And so I can say the portrayal of smalltown yokels in this thing is unhinged. But what makes it work is that the big city folks are equally caricatured–worrying about their Blackberries and soy milk lattes. This is about how the spirit of Christmas can bring out the best in all kinds of ridiculous stereotypes and poorly written characters. Back to Max now–)
During this movie they say “look at these ladies they are dancers!!!!!!!!!!!” they also do a scene where they act like they are singing while playing the song itself but the lip movements don’t match up to the words that are being sung.
David here again–I asked Max to proofread this and approve my edits to his text and he complained I hadn’t posted the above clip of the pageant finale. He said I had to include that clip to “show how bad it is.” (If you click on the clip, make sure you watch it to the end)
What Max has fallen for, is a genre very similar to the boom in low-budget sci-fi and horror in the middle 20th century. Just as the likes of Roger Corman and Bill Castle could crank out cheaply made programming for a ready-made teenage audience hungry for a particular formula, whatever audience Hallmark thinks it’s targeting must have a similar appetite for a particular kind of fare and similarly low standards (to judge from the commercials, I’d say that audience is mostly elderly shut-ins and unhappily married housewives).
But the thing is–all these criticisms he makes are said with love. This movie and its ilk have brought him countless hours of genuine (if ironic) joy.
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