Back in December of 1914, while World War I raged on in a mass of violence and casualties, something some may consider a miracle happened. On Christmas Eve, an unauthorized, informal ceasefire occurred between the warring nations. This particular film highlights the events surrounding three particular groups during this occasion; France, Scotland and Germany.
This happens to end up being one of those admirable war films, in that it generously shows us varying sides of the conflict. It's NOT your ever-so typical American pride film so much as an unveiling of such a special event from other sides of the battle.
The film is essentially centered on six main characters. From the Scotland side, Leutenant Gordon (Alex Ferns) and Father Palmer (Gary Lewis). The French side mainly focuses on Audebert (Guillaume Canet). Finally, from the German side, Horstmayer, Sprink (Benno Fürmann), and his Danish fiancee, Anna (Diane Kruger). There's plenty of detail on each character, but we could also be here all day. Each has their own development, and each story is well done.
The real magic of this film happens when the Scots begin to sing from their trenches on Christmas Eve, songs from their homeland as well as festive songs for the holiday. Soon, each nation joins in the "festivities" as they manage to find a common ground between them. Their wills are strong enough that they agree on a ceasefire, come out of the trenches and meet and greet each other in person. It's really something to behold, if only for the reminder that, as different nations, we can manage to find peace somewhere if we try.
Much like with 'White Christmas', this is another Christmas film that doesn't exactly find itself in my all-time favorites list, but I have to recommend seeing it at least once for yourself. It's quite a beautiful and haunting movie to behold, especially in knowing that this unofficial Christmas Eve ceasefire was a real and miraculous event.
It gets even more crazy when we're shown how these soldiers deal with things after the ceasefire, when they're meant to kill other people they've just befriended. No spoilers, but things get pretty emotional, and the big takeaway from it all (at least for me) is the showing of just how powerful the Christmas spirit can actually be - even amongst those we consider "the enemy".
Being that this title has evidently been a strong Christmas title for decades now, I finally decided to check it out this year. The main reason I've kept away from it, is because an old school Christmas musical just isn't exactly my cup of tea. Musicals are extremely hit or miss with me; not among my favourite genres, but every now and then, one comes along that will sweep me off my feet (for example, I loved 'La La Land').
So, exactly how well did this special do with me? Admittedly, I just kinda meet it in the middle. It's perfectly fine for what it is, I can recommend it to people, but I might end up being the odd man out in my overall appreciation for it.
Two soldiers, Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) leave the army after World War II to become a hit song and dance act. The pair end up following a sister act, featuring two lovely young women named Betty and Judy Haynes (Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, respectively) to Vermont. The group finds themselves at an inn, owned by their old General, Waverly (Dean Jagger), trying to save it from failing with various song and dance numbers put on for the inn's audiences.
In the end, at least for yours truly, it ended up being perfctly enjoyable. However, its probably not a title on the ever-growing Christmas movie list that I will end up revisiting time and time again, making it a sort of tradition. For me, there are several other Christmas movies that FAR surpass this - and classics, too. The 1951 'Scrooge' film, featuring Alastaire Sim, or even 'It's A Wonderful Life' are just so much better for getting a grasp on the spirit of things, in my opinion.
With that said though, again, I'm not here to tell you this movie is no good. It's perfectly fine for what it is, and I honestly have no real criticism about it as a whole. I liked it more than I disliked it, appreciated the song and dance numbers, acting and the fact that it's not what you'd call an all-out musical, so much as a bunch of stage performances thrown together (in other words, no random breaking out into song). I tend to like random breaking out into song, but things for this film just flowed nicely with the idea of stage performances. Perhaps this is due to who is acting in this, and it makes it feel more classic.
For some, THIS will be their Christmas classic tradition, and I can agree with anyone who loves it that it's well worth checking out, to see where you stand on it. Personally though, it just doesn't strike the right chords with me, and its a title that may just kinda linger with other Christmas titles I don't tend to check out for years at a time.
Somehow I get the feeling that everyone has at least one big Christmas movie that everyone seems to talk about that they managed to miss. I suppose in the grand scheme of things, 'Jingle All the Way' is the one people seem the most shocked by. I would have to say that's mostly because it's about Schwarzenegger taking on the holiday rush. It ought to be good fun, just like 'Kindergarten Cop'. But is it? I mean, reviews are pretty terrible on this thing. But don't worry, I found myself giving it some lenience in the end. But more on that in a bit.
Our basic story involves matress salesman, Howard Langston (Schwarzenegger), your far too typical, too-busy-for-the-kid father figure. He manages to miss his son Anaki-- sorry, Jamie's (Jake Lloyd) karate graduation, but promises to make it up to him by doing something nice. Jamie asks for a 'Turbo Man' doll for Christmas. Howard forgets all about it until the last minute, and soon finds himself hitting up anywhere he can in order to get his hands on this Turbo Man doll - essentially the "Tickle-Me Elmo" of this movie.
Throughout the rush, Howard ends up rivaling with two people, consistently adding to his stress. The first, a post office worker named Myron (Sinbad), who is also after a Turbo Man doll for his own son. These two get into scuffles, and most of the comedy comes from Arnold's reactions as opposed to Sinbad's humor. Although I have to admit that he managed to get a few good lines in there, I kinda just found him obnoxious and annoying. But then we have the real villain of the film.
So help me God, I loved to hate this dink of a neighbor Howard has named Ted (Phil Hartman). He is your divorce, neighborhood handyman, who all the single ladies seem to love for... God knows what reason. I guess because he's helpful, but he's such a wiener at the same time. It doesn't help that he's rich, spoils his family, brags about it, and worst of all, has feelings towards Howard's wife, Liz (Rita Wilson), that he acts on. He's just one of those interfering assholes you wanna pop in the face - and for that, I completely commend Hartman on his performance. He pulls off "slimeball" incredibly well. And nothing in this movie is quite as good as the now famous "cookie" scene. So, honestly, I'd be lying if I said the movie didn't make me laugh at how ridiculous it all got.
The funniest thing about that is, for as ridiculous as things got, so much of what went on throughout the movie is all too real. For example, a scene depicting a cheaply made Spanish Turbo Man doll, being sold on the black market - totally a real deal when it comes to the toy of the year. I think nowadays we call it Kijiji, but this was 1996. Then, of course, the madness and even violence of the rush, which we've seen in all too many YouTube videos about Black Friday sales. It might sound weird to say about a movie that's so recognizably bad, but that kinda makes it timeless. That mad Christmas rush will always be a thing, as long as Malls and chains remain open and don't go the way of the Internet (which may actually be an inevitability).
So, the movie is a bit dated by today's standards, sure, but there's a certain something about this movie that I can't quite put my finger on. It's not quite in the realm of "so bad it's good", but it's still pretty ridiculous in parts, with so much of it actually giving me a genuine chuckle. Arnold getting sprayed in the eyes and reacting is one of the funniest Arnold moments I never knew about. So, it's strange, but I have no idea how I feel about this movie. A part of me hates it for how bad it is, overall. But a part of me loves it for how it portrayed things, and of course, Arnoldisms. I'll just have to chalk it up to "guilty pleasure".