I love Christmas movies. Every December, I take off my film-snob helmet, hit the “search” button on my TV, and brace for the onslaught of canned acting, corny dialogue, and tinsel-thin plots that dog most holiday films, old and new. But the years — and the industry’s penchant for theme recycling — have taken their toll.
I’ve detected 13 basic storylines. Most of them start on a low note: thieves in hijacked Santa suits go on a crime spree; successful big-city women face crises that can only be dealt within their hometowns, or tri-state areas forget Christmas altogether. (Who knew we had places with no retail stores of any kind?) So many of these movies are set in the Great Depression that running them back-to-back would take longer than the actual Depression.
Catastrophes snowball down these slippery slopes, ultimately propelling the protagonists into crescendos of the human spirit in which everyone involved — including the bell-ringers whose Santa suits were stolen — discovers the true meaning of Christmas.
Here’s a summary of what you can expect to see:
1) Stranger stranded over holidays by automotive breakdown and/or blizzard is taken in by dysfunctional family just in time to rekindle their Christmas spirit.
2) Siblings get their divorced parents back together in time for Christmas Eve.
3) Woman makes holiday wish; perfect man shows up; snow falls; woman lowers hair.
4) Angels lend a wing and a prayer to: a.) unbelievers b.) bankruptcy c.) jaded physicians d.) troubled families e.) unbelieving bankrupt physicians from troubled families.
5) Reindeer and/or snowmen become spontaneously self-aware.
6) Every kind of jerk — including Scrooge McDuck — gets visited by a trio of time-warping ghosts.
7) Neighbors deplete their retirement accounts trying to best each other’s escalating outdoor holiday displays.
8) Man dons Santa suit; immediately gains weight and/or breaks and enters.
9) Santa retires; hilarious search for replacement ensues.
10) Mistletoe actually works; heterosexual attorneys fall in love.
11) Family members visit the grandmother they ignore most of the year; find she has been run over by a reindeer.
12) Dogs, cats, squirrels, donkeys, hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs, orphans, Hercules and Charlie Brown save Christmas from various existential threats.
13) Cartoon Grinch and/or high-powered career woman — apparently interchangeable archetypes — steals Christmas.
Please, Christmas, don’t be late! If you are, we’ll be stuck with these movies until they’re pre-empted by Valentine’s Day.
I’m not saying Christmas magic has gone stale; I’m saying we’ve matured to the point where these annual morality tales might benefit by tweaking the fiction/reality ratio to better reflect 21st century culture. Come on, Hollywood! Pull out of the rut your plywood sleighs have cut into the styrofoam snow!
I’ll even start you off with 13 replacement story ideas:
1) Frosty T. Snowman faces an identity crisis upon learning he’s one-quarter Abominable on his mother’s side.
2) Siblings are excited about parents’ pre-Christmas breakup, knowing they will score big in compensatory gifts from whoever wasn’t awarded primary custody.
3) Woman makes holiday wish; imperfect man shows up; rain falls; woman lowers expectations.
4) Child of one or more pragmatic parents doesn’t believe in Santa; Santa shows up; child is happy but can never again trust parental judgment.
5) Reindeer/snowmen lack insight into complex problem-solving, to the disappointment of genetic biologists and the Pentagon.
6) Mistletoe actually works; law office’s Christmas party spirals out of control; entire staff must resign to avoid crossfire of sexual harassment charges.
7) Aging Santa forgets his delivery route in mid-flight; sentient reindeer turn to Google Maps for help, but Santa also forgot to charge his phone; genetic biologists and commandos in black helicopters capture the disoriented team and whisk them away to secret labs.
8) …where Rudolf meets his long-lost Uncle Tripp, whose 60’s drug experiments resulted in a black-light nose.
9) Chipmunk receives hula hoop (unfortunately for him, it is regulation size).
10) Santa has coronary due to “bowlful of jelly” being too close to heart.
11) Family secrets are revealed at Christmas gathering, causing all to question their previous support for WikiLeaks.
12) Global warming decimates Vermont’s ski season; banker forced out of “It’s a Wonderful Life” forecloses on WWII general’s resort.
13) Grinch/high-powered career woman returns Christmas for refund but is refused because the 60-day return limit has expired. Enraged Grinch then steals Easter and runs out of store with security at his/her heels.
Cindy Hoyt is a show host on KVSH, a writer/performer for Church of Great Rain and is writing her first novel, “Lucid.”