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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Ruining Christmas

Please welcome Unaccompanied Minors to the ballooning genre of modern, holiday-themed comedy. If I’m counting correctly, that makes it the 34th or 35th to open this season. You’d think that the glut would mean diminishing dollar returns for studios, but you’d be wrong. It will be on TV for-friggin’-ever starting in 2007; it will make all of its low budget back and keep its creators in those fancy yule log cakes and tropical vacations for at least a decade or so.

Good for it. But let’s talk about you, the movie-going person who doesn’t want his or her time wasted. Just because you walk around in a daze for most of December doesn’t mean you deserve the misery of watching any of the contemporary holiday-themed films.

Like Deck the Halls. That’s my job. I’m kind of a human shield. And for every awesome film like Elf there’s one like Noel, where Robin Williams plays a dead guy/angel who teaches Susan Sarandon about Christmas. This is not to be confused with the movie where Susan Sarandon dies from cancer at Christmas. That’s Stepmom.

It’s dizzying sometimes, I know. So here’s how to know which one you’re viewing. If you get good at spotting the signs, you can escape with your merriness intact;

If it stars Tim Allen and he’s (A) not in a Santa suit, (B) orange and face-lifted and (C) doing wacky stuff with ham while Jamie Lee Curtis grimaces and thinks about her paycheck, then you’re watching Christmas With the Kranks.

If it stars Nicolas Cage as a rich, happy phony who doesn’t seem to need to be taught much of a lesson; at least by Hollywood standards of acceptable behavior; but who wakes up one day in a cluttered suburban home, working at a low-paying job and surrounded by messy diapers, and then those messy diapers somehow contain the secret baby-poop message of “It’s more fun to be poor and humble, don’t you think?” then you’re watching The Family Man.

If Ben Affleck is the catalyst for a dysfunctional family’s sudden decision to learn how to love and laugh again, you’re watching Surviving Christmas. Don’t be tricked into thinking it’s The Sopranos just because James Gandolfini is walking around all angry.

If it stars Sarah Jessica Parker and a bunch of other stiff white people and one of them is Diane Keaton (also dying of cancer, but with less maternal warmth than Sarandon did it in Stepmom) and another one is Rachel McAdams in a Dinosaur Jr. t-shirt; then SJP has sex with Luke Wilson, and you aren’t laughing about any of it, then you’re watching The Family Stone.

If Adam Sandler just made one flatulence joke for every candle on the Menorah then you’re watching Eight Crazy Nights.

If Jim Carrey’s running around in a big green suit, Faith Hill sings over the closing credits and you feel an overwhelming impulse to go on one of those tragic holiday shooting rampages, then you’re watching Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

No need to thank me with lavish gifts. I mean, you can if you want.