December 20th, 2012

holiday shopping

Tis the Season for Christmas Movies

While I'm looking forward to the big movie coming out next week, I'm enjoying a lot of little movies. This is my favorite time of year, the season of the cheesy Christmas TV movies. I think I've figured out why these are my big guilty pleasure. So many of them are paranormal romantic comedies, and that's something the world is sorely lacking. Actually, these days romantic comedies are rare, and those that exist tend to be in the gross-out or overgrown man-child tamed by shrewish harpy vein. Most of these Lifetime/ION/ABC Family movies are actually real romantic comedies, with no bathroom humor and with adult men. Then they're set at Christmas, which adds to the atmosphere. And so many of them have fantasy or paranormal plots.

Of course, there are all the variations on the ever-popular A Christmas Carol theme, with a Scrooge being reformed (and finding love). Then there are the It's a Wonderful Life stories, with someone getting a glimpse at a world that might have been -- generally not the never-born world, but the what ifs of job, family and relationships in which they learn to be careful what they wish for. The Groundhog Day story, with someone living the same day over until they get it right, is becoming popular, with one Family movie last year like that and one ION one this year. And then there are all the movies where Santa plays matchmaker, is looking for a Mrs. Claus or has a son or daughter whose status as a Claus offspring causes problems. Oh, and ghosts, and not just the Christmas Past type, either. Plus magical mailboxes and Christmas ornaments that cause things to happen.

As I've been analyzing these movies (which counts as work, since I plan to one day write one), I've noticed that mostly the formula seems to be to take a popular movie and give it a Christmas twist. I mentioned the Groundhog Day ones, but there's also been a Working Girl variation (but without the fraud) in which the assistant to the credit-stealing boss and the boss's boyfriend fall for each other while working on a project together. There was a Meet the Parents meets Miracle on 34th Street film, in which a non-believing scientist and her non-believing son meet her new fiance's parents and discovers that they're Santa and Mrs. Claus. There was a Mannequin/It's a Wonderful Life twist, where the woman who wished her life were more perfect gets her wish when the store mannequin she identifies as her perfect man comes to life. There was a Sliding Doors, Christmas edition, where there are two realities, one in which the woman catches the plane to the exciting new job assignment and one in which she misses the plane, and her life goes in a different direction. So, to write one of these films, I need to find a favorite romantic comedy and give it a Christmas twist.

The other fun of watching these movies is playing the science fiction version of "Hey, it's that guy!" Perhaps because most of these are Canadian productions and so many of the SyFy Channel series film in Canada, there's a lot of crossover between SyFy series and these movies in casting. But it goes beyond that because there are even people from regular network genre series that don't film in Canada who show up. Most of these are playing very against type, and I play little games in my head in which I try to make these movies fit into the actors' usual roles. There was one in which the bad-girl Blutbad from Grimm ended up with Dr. Daniel Jackson from SG-1. The Mannequin one had the evil witch from Grimm, being disturbingly cute and bubbly, hooking up with Chuck's Captain Awesome. And then if you really want to have your head explode from the disconnect, we had our stoic, extremely reserved police chief from Haven playing Santa Claus's son, a very enthusiastic kindergarten teacher (and Santa and Mrs. Claus were Norm and Diane from Cheers).

In short, even when these movies are bad, they're awesome because the snark from the awfulness balances out the "aww" factor that manages to creep in. And since I finally have a weekend with no plans, guess what I'll be doing. I did have a moment of madness yesterday when I considered starting to work on a script for one right now (or else writing the story as a novel), but then I remembered how much else I have on my plate at the moment.