Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Trading Holidays

Director: Sue Corcoran
Cast: Elliot Gould, David DeLuise, Angela DiMarco, Elijah Nelson, Justin Howell
Released: November 1, 2012

This is another Christmas gem I found on Netflix. It reminded me of a kids' version of The Holiday. Remember that movie where Kate Winslet lives in London and Cameron Diaz lives in L.A. and they decide to switch houses for the holidays? This wasn't a TV movie though, it was a small independent movie. I watched the trailer for it and it was called All I Want is Christmas. I guess that was an earlier name for it. That name is way too generic and Switchmas is much more clever and more memorable. 

In this film, 12 year old Ira Finklestein is a Jewish kid who lives in Hollywood with his movie producer dad and party planner mom. He loves Christmas and wants to do all the traditional things people who celebrate Christmas do around the holidays such as decorate a Christmas tree, sing Christmas carols, and look at Christmas lights. He is looking forward to a trip to Aspen for winter vacation because this will be the first time in his life he will see snow. However his dad gets an opportunity to make his big break as a director as he gets a big "name" to headline his weird sci-fi holiday movie. They have to cancel because Jennifer Cameo can only film during that time. Since both parents will be busy they decide to send Ira to Florida to visit his grandparents who he hasn't seen in a few years. 

Meanwhile, Mikey Amato is a kid the same age as Ira who lives in Chicago. He lives with his single mother and since she has to work over the holiday break, she's sending him to Washington where her sister lives with her family. Mikey hasn't seen his aunt, uncle, or three cousins for 5 years. His dad can't take him because he'll be with his new girlfriend. 

Ira has a stopover in Chicago and he meets Mikey in a room in the airport where both boys are wearing passes so the airline knows they are unaccompanied minors. They start chatting and Mikey says he wishes he could go somewhere warm and Ira gets jealous when Mikey tells him he's going to a town called Christmastown! What could be better for a kid enamoured with Christmas? Since both boys are the same age and both have dark hair, Ira gets the idea for them to switch jackets and passes and gives Mikey his glasses (luckily his mom gave him his extra pair). They also exchange phone numbers. It's off to Florida for Mikey and off to Christmastown for Ira.

Even though Ira's grandparents haven't seen him for a few years and Mikey's aunt, uncle, and cousins haven't seen him in a few years, I found it hard to believe that they didn't immediately know they had the wrong kid because you think they would get school photos each year or have Facebook. But both kids go with each family without question.

Christmastown is the kind of place Ira has dreamed about going to for years. There's snow, everything is decorated with lights, his "family" has a huge Christmas tree, and he gets to go to the Christmas carnival the next afternoon with his "cousins". I thought there was going to be an awkward moment when Ira gets a crush on his "cousin" Claire who's about his age, you know like a George Michael Bluth/Maebe Funke situation. He never gets a crush on her; if anything, Claire seems to have the crush on her "cousin" - and she really thinks he's her cousin! But she does find out his secret a few days before the cat's out of the bag and they're just really good friends.

Ira still celebrates Chanukah every night by creating a makeshift menorah. He bribes his oldest "cousin", Jessica, into taking him, Claire, and Kyle to the Christmas carnival by giving her $50, all of his spending money his parents gave him for the trip. He has a credit card his dad gave him that he's only suppose to use in emergencies and since all his spending money is gone and there are tons of shops to buy Christmas ornaments, trinkets, and goodies, he declares this an emergency. 

At one store that sells all holiday things, he buys a mini menorah. Claire comes into the store when the saleswoman is wising him a happy Chanukah and calling him Ira, the name on the card. Claire questions him about that and be says Ira is his dad's name even though Claire knows him as "Uncle Steve". After a bully, Jack the Jerk, trashes the items Ira bought and has his dog chase him (it was established earlier in the movie that Ira is afraid of dogs), he calls Mikey, telling him he wants to trade back, but Mikey is having a grand old time in sunny Florida with his "grandparents". 

After getting a pep talk and some inspiration from a Jewish Santa, Ira gets the idea to put on a holiday pageant show after Claire shows him her secret spot, an old rundown stage. This is when he reveals to her that he is not actually her cousin and he knows about productions because his dad is in the movie business. They began working on the script (Claire even writes her own song) and casting for the pageant. Everything is ruined, however, when Jack the Jerk and his bully friends have totally trashed the stage and all the props the day of the play. The night before, Ira and Claire were putting up fliers for it and happened to come across Jack's trailer park home where he lives with his mean father. Right away we figure out why Jack's such a bully. His father is threatening to take Killer, Jack's dog, back to the pound because he can't afford to feed another mouth. Feeling sorry for Jack, the two kids take Killer back to Claire's house so he doesn't have to go to the pound (and Ira finds out he's actually a very sweet dog). Jack, not realizing they were only trying to save his dog, thinks they kidnapped him even though he told him to run away. (He saw Killer walk off with Ira and Claire). This is why he trashes their stage play. But after Claire gives him a good lecture, he and his friends help out with the production.

Meanwhile in Florida, Mikey is pretending he knows the words to a Jewish song (he just inserts random words into the medley) and is enjoying his spare time at the pool, the beach, or the tennis courts with his "grandparents". He falls off a fence while climbing it and breaks his arm. His grandparents call the parents and they fly out to Florida where they eventually find out that their son is not there. They find out where Ira is and the parents, the grandparents, and Mikey all fly to Washington just in time for the play. It seems a little implausible that Ira's parents could fly from L.A. to Florida to Washington in one day what with having to go through airport security and driving to their locations and the airports and still making it in time for the play, but whatever. Mikey's mom is also there because her sister thought it would be nice to fly her out so she could spend the holidays with her son. Even though Ira has been found out, the play goes on and it's a big hit and his father is very proud of him.

This was a very cute, charming little Christmas (and Jewish!) film. The only thing I really didn't like was when they spent time with Ira's father and mother on the set of the movie with their difficult star. I found those scenes to be boring and wanted to get back to the kids, especially Ira's story. The tagline of the movie is "Jingle all the oh vey!" which cracks me up

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