Wednesday, December 23, 2020

As Cuddly as a Cactus

How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Jim Carrey, Taylor Momsen, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin, Molly Shannon, Anthony Hopkins
Released: November 17, 2000

Oscar nominations:
Best Makeup (won)
Best Costume Design (lost to Gladiator)
Best Art Direction - Set Decoration  (lost to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)

For some reason, I always want to call this movie "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas", but I know that doesn't sound right. In fact, I even started writing that when I was typing the title, but caught myself after I had written "The Grinch Who"... 

So yeah, most people seem to hate this particular version of this story...and I can't blame them. This is not a very good adaptation. Look, I can understand why Ron Howard (or whoever's idea it was to make this story into a live-version adaption) thought this was a good idea: you take a beloved Christmas TV animated special from the '60s that's based on the beloved Dr. Seuss book. (See, I don't remember the book, although my family must have owned it...I do remember owning other Dr. Seuss books. I do remember watching the animated show, though). You have Jim Carrey play the Grinch which seems like the perfect match. It seems like a win/win situation. I mean, it wasn't a total disaster as I was surprised to learn that this was the highest-grossing movie of 2000. I would have guessed it to in the top ten, but not number 1! But I guess people were curious to see Jim Carrey portray the Grinch in a story that everybody is familiar with. 

This is one of the problems with the movie: the animated special is only 25 minutes long. The movie is about an hour and forty minutes. As you can obviously see, they add a lot of things to the movie. The animated movie is short and sweet and gets to the point: we know that the Grinch hates Christmas, the Grinch does his thing where he steals Christmas, the Whos are sad, the Grinch feels bad and learns the true meaning of Christmas, everyone sings. Okay, it's been awhile since I've seen the TV special from 1966, but I feel fairly confident that was the gist of it. Obviously, I understand that they need to have a feature film be longer than half an hour, so they added a lot of extra scenes such as a backstory to why the Grinch hates Christas so much and we learn more about Cindy Lou Who, who they upgrade to a more important character. The part that we're all familiar with, the part where he steals Christmas, doesn't show up until the very end of the movie. 

Cindy Lou Who is played by Taylor Momsen (probably best known as Jenny from Gossip Girl). She was only seven and this was her first role. I think for the most part, she did a good job, considering everything, but there is one scene I question, but I'll get to that later. Cindy Lou's dad, Lou Lou Who (Bill Irwin), works at the post office and her mom, Betty Lou Who (Molly Shannon), has an ongoing competition with their neighbor, Martha May Whovier (Christine Baranski) on who can decorate their house the most festive for Christmas. Martha May has her own machine that shoots lights onto her house, which I admit, seems pretty handy when you need to put lights up on your roofline. 

While the Grinch from the book and TV special seems to prefer to stay in his home up in the mountains and keep to himself, this Grinch seems to like to mess with the Whos. He prank calls them, he goes into town (wearing a mask that seems like it belong in a horror movie) and just messes with them. I suppose this is so he can have interaction with the Whos. Okay, it's totally confusing that the townspeople in Whoville are called Whos, but also that's the surname of the main family. We get our first interaction between the Grinch and Cindy Lou when he's sneaked into the sorting room at the post office and has messed up all the mail.  Cindy Lou''s dad has asked her to get something from the sorting room, so when she goes in there, the Grinch is hiding with his dog, Max (also probably the MVP of the movie...bless the real life dog for what he had to put up with and bless the character for what he had to put up with!) However, Cindy Lou encounters him and he scares her and knocks her into the sorting machine where all the Whoville gifts are sorted. He's about to leave, but Max won't let him and he fishes her out of the machine before she can get crushed. She thanks him for saving her life, but he tells her he did it because she was "improperly packaged" and wraps her up in red wrapping paper and a gold bow. When her dad comes in, the Grinch has left by then. Her dad is proud of her because he thinks Cindy has been practicing her wrapping which makes no sense because how can you wrap yourself and put a bow on top if you're already covered...oh, never mind! 

Personally, I think the best thing to come out of this movie is the song "Where Are You, Christmas?". The version sung by Faith Hill during the end credits. I love that song. Now this song is sung by Cindy Lou in her room not long after she's met the Grinch for the first time. This is the weakest scene for Taylor Momsen. For one thing, her singing voice (I mean, I assume it's actually her singing) is pretty weak. I know seven-year-olds aren't going to be great singers, but if you're going to cast a part of a young girl who is going to sing a song, then maybe cast somebody with a stronger voice. She's also by herself in this scene and doesn't seem to know what to do, while at least she's acting against Jim Carrey or some other actor in her other scenes. No shade at all to her because she was only seven. I think they should have just taken this scene out. It really didn't add anything and doesn't make sense. Why is she singing "Where are you, Christmas?" when the Grinch hasn't even stolen Christmas at this point? As far as she and I and everyone else is concerned, Christmas hasn't disappeared yet. This would make more sense if she sang it after the Grinch did his thing, but by that time the movie is almost over and you're going to hear the Faith Hill version anyway. You know something I learned that I never knew before while going through the IMDb trivia for this movie that completely floored me? I read that Mariah Carey wrote this song and I was like, What? She wrote "All I Want For Christmas Is You" AND "Where Are You, Christmas?", two songs that get so much much air time during the Christmas season on the radio? How could I not know about this? Wow, she really is the Queen of Christmas songs. Also, why doesn't she sing that song for the movie soundtrack? Look, I love Faith Hill and I think she does a great job with the song, but aren't you going to go for the bigger name? So I did some more research and found more information. So the song Cindy Lou sings is just a little bit different than the Faith Hill power ballad. (You know, kind of like Elton John's version of "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" is different than the movie's version). From what I gather, the song Cindy Lou sings is "Christmas, Why Can't I Find You?" and that version was written by James Horner. It sounds like Mariah was a co-writer on the radio version, along with Will Jennings. The song is pretty similar to the one in the movie, but has more lyrics and some of them have been changed. Mariah was supposed to sing it, but couldn't because of some legal thing with her ex-husband at the time. Oh, man, now I want to hear her version! But I really do like the Faith Hill version!

To get to Whoville from his mountaintop home, the Grinch uses a chute system. This makes sense when he's going down, but when he's going UP? How is that possible? I guess they just needed a quick way to get the Grinch (and later, Cindy Lou) up and down the hill. I want to say he visits Whoville three different times. 

Cindy Lou has been doing some research to try to find out why the Grinch hates Christmas so much. She interviews these two old ladies who adopted him. We find out that Who children are brought to their parents in flying bassinets.We get two adult jokes within the span of sixty seconds when we see a father receive his new baby and tell his wife that their new kid looks a lot like her boss, then we see a bunch of Whos at the annual Christmas party and they're throwing keys in a bowl and I don't think it's because they don't want anyone driving home drunk...the two ladies tell Cindy Lou that Baby Grinch was still outside when the party was over, so they took him home. I guess he was never claimed by a parent. Baby Grinch reminded me of the baby from that '90s TGIF show, Dinosaurs. You know, "Not the mama!" or whatever it was he said. The two ladies (not sure if they were lesbians or sisters who never married and lived together or what their deal was) tell Cindy Lou they raised him like any other child, "with a deep love for Christmas." Well, there's your problem right there. His expectations on Christmas were probably way too high! 

She also interviews Martha May and the Mayor (Jeffrey Tambor) who were both in the Grinch's class in grade school. Even though Martha was the girlfriend of Augustus (the kid who would become the Mayor), she has a crush on the Grinch. Mind you, they're all eight, so that's kind of weird. I did laugh when Martha, talking to Cindy Lou, says, "Did I have a crush on the Grinch? Well, of course not" and Cindy Lou replies, "I didn't ask you that." Young Augustus tells young Grinch concerning young Martha: "You don't have a chance with her. You're eight years old and have a beard." I mean, good for him for not mentioning he stands out because he's green, I guess. The class is having a Christmas exchange where they're suppose to give a gift to someone special. The Grinch (does he even have a first name or does he just go by that "The Grinch" moniker?) makes an ornament thingofabob for Martha. He also decides to shave that day and it didn't go so well, so he's wearing a paper bag over his head. His teacher makes his remove it and everyone in the class -including the teacher - laughs at him. Everyone, but Martha. The Grinch has a few pieces of tissues to cover his scabs. It's understandable his fellow classmates are laughing at him because kids suck, but the teacher? Yeah, she sucks the most. This whole event is the catalyst for making the Grinch hate Christmas. He becomes super angry and he smashes the ornament he made and he throws the class Christmas tree out the window and basically becomes a mini Hulk (you know, since he's green and all). 

This Christmas in Whoville marks the 1,000th Whobilation where they will nominate someone to be the Holiday Cheermeister at a town Christmas party. To be honest, I wasn't clear if the Whobilation was when they nominated somebody or when they had the party where they announced the Holiday Cheermeister. On their way to hear the nominations, Cindy Lou tells her dad she might do something drastic and she does when the Mayor announces it's time to hear the nominations "for that Who among us who best typifies the qualities of Who-dom and Who-dery, the Whoville Holiday Cheermeister." Cindy Lou is the first one to speak and comes of out nowhere saying, "I nominate the Grinch." It gave me a "I volunteer as tribute" vibe from The Hunger Games. The Mayor is trying to tell Cindy Lou that the Grinch can't be nominated per The Book of Who, but Cindy isn't having any of it. She tells him, "The book says the Cheermeister is the one who deserves a backslap or a toast. And it goes to the soul at Christmas who needs it the most." She believes that would be the Grinch and everyone in attendance claps along in agreement and the Mayor has to go along with the nomination. So I guess only one nomination can be given? 

So interesting fashion tidbit I want to point out in this scene: both Cindy Lou and her mother are adorning a glass of egg nog on their head with a ( fake) candy cane. The eggnog is quite real because it's sloshing around. 

Cindy Lou pays the Grinch a visit and convinces him to come to the celebration where he'll win an award. He's late getting there, but just when they're about to give the award to someone else, he show up claiming he was promised he would get an award and a check, but Cindy denies that last part. He's reunited with his "two old biddies" and it's pretty funny, despite a little cold when he asks them, "Are you two still living?" (I guess it's a legitimate question since they were both pretty old when he was a baby!) After being dressed in a sweater with the words "I [heart] Xmas" on top of a Christmas tree, he is put in the Chair of Cheer and is the judge of a pudding contest, the Fudge Judge, judge of Fruitcake La La La (God, I would throw up having to eat all that food and I think pudding would be the worst!), he leads the Christmas conga and wins the Santa sack race. By the end, he seems to actually be having a good time and the Whos have seemed to accept him. But of course we know we're still waiting for the big scene where he's going to steal Christmas, so something's gotta happen here to ruin everything. It does when the Mayor is about to give the award he was promised. Instead of receiving a plaque or a trophy, the Mayor presents him with "the gift of a Christmas shave" and gives him a razor. This makes everyone (except Cindy Lou and her family and Martha, of course) laugh at him. To make matters worse, the Mayor decides to choose this moment to propose to Martha. He makes this like a game show, telling her if she accepts being his wife, she'll also win a brand new car and she has "twenty second on the clock" to make her decision. Before Martha can give him an answer, the Grinch scrapes the car with his fingernail and tells the Whos the only thing they care about are material possessions and that it all ends up in his garbage anyway. (All the town's garbage ends up near his home). 

He causes havoc in Whoville by shaving the Mayor's hair right in the center of his head and sets the town Christmas tree on fire. All the other Whos are going crazy trying to run away and crashing their cars into each other. The Grinch says, "Oh, the Whomanity", which, honestly, I didn't get the joke util I watched it with the subtitles on. He tries to hail a taxi that won't stop and calls after it, "It's because I'm green, isn't it?" Yeah, the movie went there. He does end up stealing a small car that is being driven by smaller Whos. They run away when they see he's about to sit on them. 

I think this would be a good time to stop and talk about the Whos and how....weird they look. We know from the book and the animated TV special the Whos have a distinct look; they have that Dr. Seuss character look. The actors in the movie are wearing prosthetic chins or noses to give them that particular look and it just looks weird. I do think they did a good job with giving them crazy hair styles. Like I mentioned before, they wear glasses of eggnog as hair ornaments and later, we will see Betty Lou wearing peppermint candies in her hair like hair rollers. The only people who don't wear prosthetics are the young kids (because, as we learn later, they "grow into their noses") or Martha May, who is supposed to be the Beautiful One. (I guess the Grinch can't have a crush on her if she doesn't look like the other Whos?) Also, in the book and animated special, we know that Whos come in all shapes and sizes. The way they did it in the movie is really creepy and unsettling. Instead of casting little people to play the smaller-size Whos (and maybe they did and I didn't notice), they take regular size people and use that trick photography to make them smaller than the other Whos. I don't know, the end product just looks really weird and creepy. It would be like walking around with people who are the size of Barbie dolls; that's what they looked like. 

So now we get to the part that's actually from the TV special and the only scene I remember from this movie (well, I do remember the flashback to when he was a kid): when he hatches his plan to dress up as Santa and sneak into Whoville and steal all their presents and stockings and food. A turkey he takes from a fridge looks so fake; it has that plastic sheen on it like that fake plastic food kids play with. When he's at Cindy Lou's house, she comes down and sees "Santa" stealing the tree and he makes up a lie that he's taking it to fix a light and he'll bring it right back. This tree is super ugly with what appears to be globs of cotton balls place sporadically around it. As Cindy Lou is going back to bed, she tells him, "Santa, don't forget the grinch. I know he's mean and hairy and smelly....but I think he's actually kind of sweet." So....surely she knows that's the Grinch right? He didn't exactly disguise his green body. She's just saying that to soften the Grinch's heart (which it does, if only for a few seconds). When she goes back to bed, the Grinch says, "Nice kid, bad sense of character."

So the next morning the Whos wake up to their Christmas being gone (now would have been a good time for Cindy Lou to sing "Where Are You, Christmas?") and they're all sad that all their presents are gone. They immediately know that the Grinch is the culprit. The Mayor is furious when he tells the crowd, "You chose to listen to a little not-to-be-taken-seriously girl", referring to Cindy Lou, then shames the young girl when he tells her, "I hope you're very proud of what you've done." Geeze, what a jerk. However, Cindy Lou's father comes to her defense and tells everyone that he's proud of his daughter and that he's glad the Grinch took their gifts, which causes everyone to gasp. He tells them, "You can't hurt Christmas because it isn't about the gifts or the contests or the fancy lights. That's what Cindy's been trying to tell everyone." He says as long as he has his family, he has everything he needs. Soon, everyone is nodding in agreement and they start singing and they're all happy and have forgotten their troubles. While all of this is going on, Cindy Lou decides to visit the Grinch who is planning to push the sleigh with a huge bag full of all the stuff he stole all the down the mountain to crash into the Whos. He hears them singing and sees them being happy without their gifts. The singing causes his heart to grow three times bigger, yada, yada, yada, you know the rest. 

When he returns to Whoville with Cindy and all the presents he stole, he does apologize for what he did. However, when Martha chooses that moment to break up with the Mayor and confess her love to the Grinch, he pretty much rubs it in the Mayor's face, though I guess he did deserve that. I did laugh when the Grinch joins hands with the rest of the Whos as they're singing and he doesn't know the words, so he's just making them up. 

A few other thing before I wrap (huh, is that a Christmas pun?) up: Anthony Hopkins narrates the story. I believe every word he says is taken straight from the book. 

While I think most movies that take place during Christmas are quite beautiful, this movie is just really asthetically ugly to look at. Yes, there's a lot of red and greens, but there's also other colors mixed in there and there's something hazy about the screen. It just doesn't look right. Skip this movie and watch the 1966 version instead. Show your kids that version instead; you know they'll like it better. The three words that best describe this movie are, and I quote, "Stink, stank, stunk!" (Yeah, that jab was too easy!) 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

A Heartfelt Christmas

Last Christmas
Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson, Michelle Yeoh
Released: November 8, 2019

If I were to describe this movie to someone, I would be tempted to say "It's The Blank Blank of Christmas movies", but if I said that, I would totally give away a certain plot line. (Hence why I'm not revealing which movie I would compare it to! If you've already seen the movie, you probably know which movie I'm talking about!) In fact, I plan to have a spoiler section since this movie only came out last year (Hey! Last Christmas came out last Christmas!) and people may not even realize that there are things that could be spoiled, but there are! 

This movie has a whimsical element to it and it made me think of something Cecelia Ahern would write, but the script was written by Emma Thompson and her husband. The gist of this movie is about a twenty-six-year-old girl named Kate (Emilia Clark) who lives in London and her life is a bit of a mess, but she meets a guy named Tom (Henry Golding) and they start up a sweet relationship and he helps her become better person. Oh, and it takes place during Christmas, obviously, so it's a feel-good movie. It's not without its angsty parts, of course. 

Now I'll talk about the movie in a little more depth WITHOUT going into any spoiler territory. Don't worry, I will give ample warning when I get to spoilers!

So I knew the movie got its title from the George Michael Christmas song, but I didn't realize his other songs would also be featured predominantly in this. Off the top of my head, I remember "Faith", "Freedom '90", "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go", and "One More Try" are part of the movie's soundtrack. Kate is an inspiring singer and she is a fan of George Michael's. She says they're "kindred spirits" because they're both singers and they're both "famously misunderstood and under appreciated in our time." She lives out of a suitcase that has a heart sticker that says "George Michael forever" on it. Okay, when I hear the name "George Michael", my mind immediately goes to Michael Cera's character in Arrested Development, George Michael Bluth.

Kate's full name is Katarina and she's originally from Yugoslavia, but her family moved to London because of the war. She seems to get along well with her dad, but not so much with her mom (Emma Thompson) or her sister, Marta, who has her life together, unlike Kate. Kate doesn't have her own place (hence why she lives out of her suitcase), so she just lodges with friends until she overstays her welcome (which usually happens pretty quickly!) or she goes to a bar and finds some guy to take her back to his place. 

Since wanting to be an aspiring singer doesn't pay the bills, Kate works at a Christmas store called Yuletide that is opened all year round. It is run by a Chinese woman (Michelle Yeoh) who calls herself "Santa". She loves Christas a lot. (A LOT!) This store is huge! It's two stories! And it sells a lot of crap. A couple pieces I remember are a gibbon who screeches "Last Christmas" and a hippopotamus cheerleader ornament that's holding pom-poms. Yeah, there's some weird stuff in this store. It's usually quite busy when we see Kate working, but that's probably because it's so close to Christmas. I have to wonder how busy this shop is during the other seasons. It seems like Santa and Kate are the only people who work there. Kate wears a green elf costume and Santa refers to her as "Elf". She tells Kate she should be named "Lazy the Elf" because she "never appears to work." 

One night, Kate has an audition and is running late for it. She's the last one to leave the store and is supposed to lock up, but forgets because she is in a hurry to get to the audition she's late for and is going to tank anyway. When she returns to work the next day, she sees that glass from the window has been knocked out with a brick and the place inside has been trashed with a bunch of broken ornaments and knocked over trees. Two policewoman are there taking a statement from Santa and they surmise that it must have been done by a couple of kids. After the policewoman leave, Santa is angry at at Kate and knows she forgot to lock up because she tells her she had to break the glass to make it look like a break-in so she could get the insurance money. She tells her, "You turned me into someone who broke the law." Santa is going to give her one more chance, but if anything else happens she's fired. We find out that at one time Kate was great at her job and had a way with people and that's why Santa took her on full-time, but "since [she] came back [she] started losing [her] sh*t." Come back from what, you ask? Well, that's a good question. Throughout the movie, we get clues that Kate has been sick, but you don't find out right away exactly what happened or why she was sick. We just know she's been sick and "needs to take care of herself better." She's also missed five doctor's appointments, so whatever it is, it seems serious and she's been slacking off. 

While her life is in shambles, she meets Tom who she first sees outside the shop window while she's dusting a display case. She finds him quite peculiar because he's looking up at something and is so curious as to what he's looking at, that she goes outside and asks him. He points to a bird who is nesting above them and it chooses that moment to poo in Kate's eye. He tells her it's good luck (I actually looked it up and it seems to be a thing!) and asks her if she'd like to go for a stroll later. Kate is not impressed. She asks, "Oh, that's my luck, going for a stroll with you?" 

After she goes to her audition (the one she was in a hurry to get to that she forgot to lock up), she bumps into Tom outside and accuses him of following her. He suggests they go for that stroll and she agrees. He's very whimsical, always dancing and skipping around light posts and benches like he's Fred Astaire from Singin' in the Rain. His mantra is "Look up." She does and gets super pissed she falls into a heap of trash bags. It's pretty funny, but I would be pretty furious too, so I don't blame her! However, her irritations soon passes and she's delighted when she sees things she's never noticed before on a street she's been down so many times like a sculpture of a cricket and artwork of two mice playing. He also introduces her to a small "secret garden" kind of hidden in the middle of the city that she never knew existed. There's only a few people there and Tom tells Kate about all of them. He tells Kate "You're one of us now" and that she can't share anyone's secret because it's an unspoken rule.

When they're ready to part, Tom asks Kate if she would like to "repeat the experience" again. When she asks for his number, he tells her doesn't have a phone. This (naturally) shocks her, so he corrects himself and says he DOES have a phone, but it's "locked in a cupboard" because he "got so tired of staring at [his] hand all day" and tells her she should try it and she just scoffs at him and replies, "That's like saying you should try death." He tells her if she ditches her phone, then "All of your stresses will just melt away." Luckily he knows where she works, so that's usually where they run into each other. 

On one of their other "dates", Tom sneaks them both into an ice-skating rink. She had told him she had an upcoming audition for Frozen and it's being performed on ice (makes sense to me!). She has never even skated before and had planned to just wing it, so he decides to help her learn to ice skate until they get busted and have to run away. Tom doesn't even know what Frozen is and Kate laughs in his face and just assumes he's joking (like anyone would), then realizes he's serious. I found this to be the least believable thing about this movie; even people who live under a rock have heard of Frozen! It's a very cute scene, the two of them skating together and we get a lot of close up shots of Emilia Clark's face making awed expressions and she is very adorable. Kate calls it a successful date as it checked off the following boxes: "fun, free, illegal, romantic" Tom also points out it was practical because it will hep her with her audition. 

Kate sees Tom again right after she's been kicked out of the house where she was crashing with her pregnant friend and her husband (the pregnant friend's husband) and I don't blame them for kicking her out: she goes out and brings a guy back, then the next morning she (accidentally) ruins this art project the husband was working (I think it was something for the baby's room?) and we know the husband already isn't a fan of hers because she had previously accidentally set his model matchstick galleon on fire when she was lighting a candle nearby. 

Kate sees Tom and tells him she's homeless again and he takes her to a homeless shelter. She is not impressed and says, "Thanks Bono or Mother Teresa or whoever wins the moral superiority prize." When he tells her he volunteers there, she replies, "Christ, why don't you just get "saint" tattooed on your forehead?" Kate is obviously not "homeless" because she does have her parents' house if she needs a place to sleep and we see her go there when she doesn't have any other options. When she's trying to find Tom, who she hasn't heard from or seen in a couple of days, she goes to the homeless shelter looking for him. He's not there, but she ends up helping serve tea and biscuits.  

Kate's mom has a family dinner planned to celebrate Marta's promotion and nothing goes right. Kate's mom tells her she's "wasting her life" and "only a miracle saved her." Marta accuses her of being ashamed of herself because she doesn't care about anything and Kate retorts that she isn't the one who's ashamed of who she is and lets it slip that the woman who lives with her just isn't her flatmate like her parents think, but her girlfriend. Marta is furious at Kate and leaves. Kate also leaves where she has a drink at a bar, then goes to the homeless shelter. It looks like she's about to enter, but ends up walking away and sees Tom come up to her on his bike. On top of being upset about the evening's events, she's also upset with Tom because she hasn't seen him in two days and has been wondering where he's been and that he's "been disappearing for days on end." 

Kate finally gets to see where Tom lives when he takes her back to his flat, which is very small and tidy. He even opens his kitchen cupboard to show her his phone is indeed inside it. They have a nice heart to heart and Kate tells him what was wrong with her. Now up to this point, we've been getting some clues, but this is the scene where we actually learned what happened. Now even though this doesn't reveal anything too spoiler-y, I'm not going to disclose this information until I get to spoilers because as soon as I saw this scene, I immediately guessed where this movie was going and I was right. I will tell you that she doesn't like telling other people about what happened and she tells Tom about it because she trusts him and that he's "the one person that makes me feel solid. Like I exist." Tom comforts her by stroking her hair when she's laying her head in his lap and, ahem, looks up at him. That tied nicely back to his mantra. 

After this scene, she starts feeling better, being comforted by Tom and all. She starts doing nice things, like buying a latte for Santa just because it's Monday. She surprises her boss even more when she tells her she's thinking about giving auditioning a break because she's not sure if it's good for her. (She didn't get the Frozen part...I wonder who she was auditioning for, anyway?) Santa commends her, telling her that sounds like a healthy choice and that she hasn't made one of those in a very long time. She also starts singing Christmas songs outside the homeless shelter for donations and is super proud of herself when she receives her first offering. It's not much, but she donates her proceeds to the shelter and continues to sing where she makes more money. She gets the idea to have a Christmas fund-raising benefit on Christmas Eve for the shelter. We even see her right her wrongs, such as apologize to her sister, give a goldfish to a friend when she accidentally killed his super expensive saltwater tropical fish when she absent-mindedly dropped her hairdryer in the fish tank, and gives her married friends who are expecting a baby a big baby basket (and a new model galleon for the husband). Obviously Tom is having a good effect on her and she is wanting to be a better person. 

However, once again we find out that Kate hasn't heard from Tom in days and that "he's disappeared again." One of the volunteers who she met at the homeless shelter the first time she went there looking for Tom, tells her, "He seems to be disappearing a lot. Is he a magician?" Yes, Tom is mysterious. What is going on with him? The same volunteer tries to put Kate at ease telling her, "He's probably just scared of what he feels for you."

Luckily Kate finds Tom in the hidden garden, sitting on their bench and they share a kiss and she's happy again and tells him it feels like they're in a relationship. Tom has a serious look on his face and tells her there's something he needs to tell her and of course this concerns Kate and she goes through all the possibilities of what it could be: he's gay, he's married, he needs space, he can't commit. Tom tells her she can't depend on him (although he doesn't say why) and Kate insists that she doesn't depend on him. She tells him if this is about commitment, then to just say so. Tearfully, she tells him, "I look for you everywhere and you're never there. And it makes me feel really bad about myself. And I'm finally getting better and not feeling bad about myself."

Olay, I think this is a good time to reveal what is going on. I think I've told you everything about what goes on in the movie without giving anything away (I certainly hope I didn't unintentionally spoil anything! I was trying hard to be very careful about that!) 

Okay, so I didn't reveal what her illness/medical condition was because while it doesn't give away the big spoiler, it did immediately give away the "twist" to me when it was revealed. Like I said, before she tells Tom what happened, we are given little clues. We know she's had an operation. When Kate and her mom go to her doctor's appointment, she is told she needs to take better care of her heart: "You need to rest more, eat better, drink less, and stop being so angry." Okay, so now we know it's something to do with her heart. Then we get that scene where she tells Tom what happened because she trusts him. Believe me, when I wrote "They have a nice heart to heart...", I was so tempted to write "(pun intended)" but I couldn't because that would have given it away! So Kate tells him she had a heart transplant and shows him her scar. She tells him she doesn't tell people "because they get weird", but she trusts Tom to tell him because she doesn't think he'll be weird about it. She tells him, "They took out my heart....I don't know what they put back, but it felt weird and different and strange and like I'd lost my most special part." She told him she knew she was lucky to be alive, but didn't feel alive. So it was during this moment when I realized the big reveal is in the first line of the song this movie is named after: "Last Christmas I gave you my heart..." Um, hello! SHE HAS HIS HEART! TOM IS A GHOST! He was dead all along! This is The Sixth Sense of Christmas movies!! It certainly explains why he doesn't have a phone and why he's not always there (although if you're a ghost, you'd think you have all the free time in the world...) However, it does not explain why he doesn't know Frozen. If he died before it came out, I could understand that, but no, he died in 2016 and it came out in 2013, so I'm scratching my head over that one. 

Tom being dead the whole time isn't revealed here (remember, she still has to have that talk with him on their bench in the hidden garden...where she kissed him...not sure how that happened! She must have looked pretty silly to the people who were also sitting in the garden that day...hopefully they were all preoccupied with their own things!) When she goes to his apartment, she sees a guy there and is surprised to find out he's there to show the place for prospetive buyers. This confuses Kate and assumes Tom must have moved out, but the guy tells her the place "has been empty for months", so Kate figures Tom must have been squatting there. This makes the guy annoyed that there was the possibility of someone sneaking in and staying in the place and tells her, "It's that probate stuff that stops us from doing our jobs." Kate questions him and he goes, "Yeah, you know, when someone dies." Naturally, Kate starts getting confused and asks who died. He tells her "the previous owner", somebody named Webster and this turns Kate's blood to ice. Did I mention that Tom's last name was Webster? He died in a bike accident, ahem, last Christmas, the same day Kate was taken to the hospital to receive her new heart, Tom's heart. 

Even though Kate now knows the truth, she can still see and hear him because she has one last chat with him in their secret garden. When she asks him why she can feel him, he replies, "Because I'm a part of you." She promises to take care of his heart and he tells her, "It was always going to be yours one way or another", implying that they would have met and dated if he had never died. It's then when we can actually see what is inscribed on the plaque on their bench. It's a dedication to Tom with his name, date of birth, date of death, and the words "Look up".

All of this happens very close to Christmas Eve, which is the day of the Christmas benefit she's putting on for the homeless shelter. Everyone we've met in the movie is in the audience, so you see a lot of familiar faces. Even Tom shows up, being the Ghost of Christmas Present, I suppose. Before the shows starts, Kate gives a heartfelt speech: "We are so lucky to be alive. We are so lucky to be able to help each other in little ways and in big ways. The reason we are lucky is because helping each other is, in fact, what makes us happy." Cue me wiping away tears. Then she sings (what else?) "Last Christmas". The movie ends with her sitting on her special bench and looking up into the sky. 

Monday, December 14, 2020

Here We Come a Netflixin'

The Christmas Chronicles 2
Director: Chris Columbus
Cast: Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn, Darby Camp, Jahzir Bruno Julian Dennison, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Tyrese Gibson, Darlene Love
Released on Netflix: November 25, 2020

It's December! That means it's time for reviews of Christmas movies, yay! Two years ago I reviewed The Christmas Chronicles and today I will be reviewing its sequel. If you had asked me, I would have told you the first one came out last year, but no, it came out two years ago. Where did the time go? I would have also told you that Chris Columbus directed that movie, but no, he was a producer. He did, however, direct this movie, and I did notice some nods to some of his other holiday fare.

Many of the same characters from the first movie come back for this one (Kurt Russell as Santa is an obvious one!) and there are also some new characters. We are reacquainted with Kate and Teddy Pierce, who went on the adventure with Santa in the first movie. Don't get too reacquainted with Teddy, though, because he's only in the beginning and the end. He has aged out and has been replaced by a younger, cuter kid. I had no idea how old Kate was in the first movie and still don't know how old she is. They do mention the events of the first movie took place two years ago so this does follow real time. If I had to guess, I would say Kate is in the 11-13 range, but if she's 13, that would mean she would've been 11 in the first movie and I can't see an 11-year-old still believing in Santa. Yes, I realize that in this universe, Santa IS real, but even before they knew that, she still believed in him. Teddy was about to tell her, but decided against it. I looked up to see how old Darby Camp, the actress who plays Kate, is and she is currently 13, so she was probably 11 or 12 when she filmed this. 

Kate and Teddy are in Cancun with their mother, Claire (played by Kimberly Williams-Paisley). They were all brought there on a holiday vacation by Claire's boyfriend, Bob (played by Tyrese Gibson...the name "Bob" does not suit him at all) and his son, Jack, who is the younger, cuter kid who will be joining Kate on the new adventure. I would estimate Jack's age to be between 7 and 9. Kate is not happy at all. She hates being on a sunny beach so close to Christmas and would rather be ice-skating or drinking cocoa or Christmas shopping. I'm with Kate. Christmases in warm weather climates just seem strange to me. While it doesn't always snow every Christmas where I live, I can always count on it to be cold. Christmas is the holiday where you sit around the fire wearing your favorite cozy sweater and sipping a mug of cider or hot cocoa. It just makes more sense in cold weather! Kate is also not happy because she still misses her dad, who had died as a firefighter only a few years ago. She thinks Bob is going to propose to her mom and she's not ready for that. I can kind of see where she's coming from because if your mom's boyfriend invited her, both her children, and his kid on a trip to Mexico during Christmas vacation, that does seem like he's in it for the long haul. We know Claire and Bob have been dating for ten months and have known each other before they started dating, but we don't know where they met. Work? A support group for widowers? As it turns out, Bob's wife also died. You'd think Kate and Jack would bond over having a dead parent, but no, doesn't really ever come up. 

Kate is so upset she makes a Christmas Wish to Santa. She decides she doesn't want the electric scooter (from going over my review of the first movie, I was reminded that in this universe, kids only get ONE present from Santa, so you better choose wisely!), but would rather "get out of this place." She's worried "It's gonna feel like Dad never existed" if her mom and Bob get married. She even threatens (to literally nobody) that she'll run away. The next day she'll get her opportunity to do so when Bob discovers some tickets "complimentary from the hotel". Teddy and some girl go snorkeling. I wasn't sure if this was his girlfriend he brought along on the trip or a girl he met there (I have reason to believe it's the latter), but all he talks about in this movie is going snorkeling with this girl. Claire and Bob get to spend the night at Tulum with a private tour of the Mayan ruins. Meanwhile, the two youngest kids will get to go to a "kids' club slumber party" complete with all the ice cream they can eat. As a kid, that would have been my worst nightmare. Not the all the ice cream you can eat part (though I'd probably eat too much and get super sick), but being in a foreign (quite literally in this case!) place with a bunch of hyper kids (you know they'd be all buzzed on sugar!) I don't even know where I'm expected to spend the night. Honestly, Claire and Bob, if you wanted to have your own romantic trip to Tulum, why didn't you just go on this trip without your kids? 

I need to interject with a weird fashion choice that I believe that was missed by the wardrobe department. There's no way this could have been intentional. So when the group is all gathered saying their good-byes before they go their separate ways, I notice that Claire and Teddy are wearing VERY similar shirts. They're both blue and peach buttons-ups. The designs are different, but both have some kind of pattern, kind of like a Hawaiian shirt. I have a hard time believing a teen boy would wear a shirt so similar to his mother's. 

Kate sees this as a great opportunity to run away since the adults have conveniently been painted out of the picture for the time being. I love that Claire and Bob just leave Kate and Jack in the lobby of the hotel; they don't even go to the kids' club with them. You'd think they'd want to check out where they'll be leaving their children overnight. Also, what about Teddy? They're leaving him alone overnight with no supervision with some girl he met? Like I said, Claire and Bob, why didn't you just go on this trip alone? But I digress...Kate tells Jack to head to the room where the slumber party is being held (seriously, what are they doing at this "kids' club" besides eating ice cream? Well, I guess we're told there's a slime-making station) and tells him she needs to go to the bathroom and she'll meet him later. Earlier she had called the airport who had told her she could book a flight home there (um, she has a phone...couldn't she just do it on there? Not that it's an important part of the story), so she heads outside and hitches a ride on a golf cart that will take her to a shuttle to the airport. Sensing that she's up to something, Jack sees this and hops on the back of the tram. He makes himself known a little while later and while he and Kate are arguing, they get flung through a portal that leads them to the North Pole. 

Confused? Let me explain.

The Pierce kids aren't the first characters we see, no, the first scene is of a character we've never met before. In the South Pole we see some kind of cave/hideout with lots of "Get Out!" and "No Trespassing!" signs. (Dude, who's going to be trespassing in your South Pole hideaway?) We see a young man with an Australian accent (I guess technically it's a New Zealand accent because I looked up the actor and that's where he's from, but honestly, I can't tell the difference) who is glowering as he looks at a picture of Santa and Mrs. Claus, stating that they "ruined everything" and that they "were the first humans I ever trusted and the last." My goodness, laying it on a little thick there, aren't we? So I didn't catch this the first time, but he's in the picture with the Clauses' in elf form. Yes, this human person used to be an elf and is now a human and has somehow been wronged by Santa and the Mrs. (By the way what is Mrs. Claus's first name?) We don't know the story, but don't worry, we will. 

He needs a "ticket" to get to the North Pole and he believes the answer is Kate. An elf that switched allegiances (either that or maybe there are also elves in the South Pole) has brought him the knowledge of Kate, a friend of Santa's. Somehow, he finds out that Kate is in Cancun (must still have some of that elf magic) and he happens to overhear Kate on the beach when she's making her Christmas wish. He's the one who leaves the "complimentary tickets" and he's the one who's driving the golf cart, thus the reason they go through a portal because he has a device that he throws that opens the portal. I honestly don't understand why Kate and Jack just don't jump off the cart that's only going about ten mph. They see the portal way before they enter it, so just jump off! I know, I know, they need the to go through so there can be a movie. But they could have easily escaped, that's all I'm saying.

Once they're in the North Pole, Kate figures Santa must have heard her wish about wanting to escape and granted it. Since she and Jack came from Cancun, they are wearing t-shirts and shorts and soon find themselves victim to the cold. Luckily, Santa spots them and puts them in his sleigh. By this time they are both pretty blue and unconscious. All they need is a little hot chocolate to warm them up! That's exactly what Mrs. Claus (Goldie Hawn) gives them and they wake up and are back to their normal selves. 

Kate thanks Santa for granting her Christmas wish, but Santa tells her he hasn't given her the scooter yet, so

she knows that she didn't get to the North Pole via Saint Nick. When Jack figures out where they are, he is in awe. He exclaims, "I must be dreaming!" Santa tells him, "You're not dreaming, Jack. You're in Santa's Village: the real one!" The Clauses give the kids a tour of Santa's Village and boy oh boy, it is a more magical place than Disney World. (They use REAL magic at Santa's Village!) It's too bad this place isn't open to the public because Santa would make a fortune! We learn that the village houses over a million elves and Santa tells the kids this fun fact: "If you combine Amazon, FedEx, the postal service, and UPS with every manufacturing company in the world, and they quadrupled their output for an entire year, you just might be getting close to what we can accomplish here in Santa's village in a single day." Ha. Okay, yeah, I'm impressed! 

If you add up all the shops on Fifth Avenue, Rodeo Drive, the Magnificent Mile, and the Champs-Elysées, you're still going to get a better shopping experience at the North Pole. There are over 300,000 shops! We get to see a few of them, including a candy cane factory, a toy shop, and the place where they make video games (Santa knows how to code games...of course he does!) When the kids learn that Mrs. Claus designed all the shops, they point out the center should be called Mrs. Claus's village. Again, does Mrs. Claus have a first name? Santa agrees that it might be time for a change since it's been called Santa's Village for over a thousand years, but he's pretty reluctant about changing it. 

One of my favorite aspects of the village was the Polaris Cinema where Elf was playing and the admission was free. They also see the Hall of Letters, which is the place where Kate found herself in the previous movie. Kate mentions she's been there and Jack wants to know why she never told him. Good question, Jack. Kate replies, "There's a lot of things I haven't told you." Um, if you had met Santa and been to the North Pole, wouldn't that be something you'd want to tell everyone you met, especially a fellow kid?

Mrs. Claus prepare "dinner" which is a tableful of sugary desserts. Despite there being cookies, candies, pie, cakes, and brownies on the table, she tells the kids that all the food is actually "super healthy", but it tastes and look like desserts. Look, I am all for that. I would love if you could eat a cheesecake that was healthy for you AND tasted like real cheesecake. However, even if all these desserts were good for you, ugh, I could not eat all that sugar for every meal. No, thank you. That's why they call it a treat. If kids could have dessert anytime they wanted, I don't think they would be as coveted as much as they are now. I was very confused as to why Kate was eating Halloween brownies - they had orange frosting on them; they totally screamed "Halloween", but Santa told her it was lime beans and carrots and that's when I noticed it had green specks too. Jack eats "broccoli" which was a white and green layer cake. That did look pretty good. 

Jack and Kate want to stay overnight because their parents won't return to the hotel until the next afternoon anyway. Mrs. Claus says how wonderful it will be to have children, if only for one night and she and Santa look wistfully at each other. This makes me wonder: did they want children, but could never have any? They did this as a plot in the second or third The Santa Clause movie and Santa having a kid always felt weird to me. First of all, he's super old (in this one, we learn he's 1700 years old, so if he did have children, they'd all be very old too (assuming they're still alive with Christas magic). Well, we do learn that time stands still in the North Pole, so nobody ages, so I suppose if they did have a baby, the baby would remain a baby forever? That's super...weird. Also, Santa having a kid just seems...unfair to both the kid and Santa. The kid would resent Santa for paying more attention to all the other kids in the world (remember this...this theme will pop up later) and all the kids in the world would be jealous of Santa's kid because they would pretty much get everything for Christmas. 

Now would be a good time to explain why the human-who-used-to-be-an-elf needed Kate to help him with his plan. Where Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the elves live, it is protected under the shield of the Veil of Borealis, which keeps them hidden and protected from the outside world. The veil is created by light from the star of Bethlehem which is also connected to the Christmas star tree topper that sits atop the massive Christmas tree in the center of the Village. (I think I got that right?) Santa is the only one who knows how to get in and out of the veil safely; remember that scene in Finding Nemo where Nemo and Dory go through the jellyfish waters (when they should have been staying above them) and they're dodging all the jellyfish? Well, in this case, when Santa goes through the veil he has to dodge a lot of electrical currents or something. He's the only one who knows how to weave in and out of them and when he gets the kids in his sled, the human/elf hitches a ride on the back and that's how he finds his way there. 

When the kids are getting ready for bed in their adorable matching red and green plaid pajamas, Jack discovers a set of books titled "The Christmas Chronicles." Mrs. Claus offers to read them a bedtime story. She starts with the first one which is called "The Origin of Santa Claus." Even Santa Claus has an origin story! Here we get a lot of exposition that will tell us that back in the day, WAY back in the day of 312 AD, he was "a local hero and his legend spread" to the Forest Elves. We learn that elves are "an ancient species of very magical and wild creatures." It gets super dark, but never really explored when we are told that they "were hunted for their magical powers" and were "captured by humans to the brink of extinction." Yikes! Anyway, the story goes on to say that the elves knew about a man who would be "King of the Elves" and "lead them to safety." This, of course, was Santa Claus. As we are told by Mrs Claus, "He led the elves on a mystical journey to an unknown land, where Christmas would truly endure." In the story, there is one particular elf who comments how much he hates humans. His name is Belsnickel and he is the elf who turned into a human; yes, the very same one who needed Kate (and Jack) as bait to get to Santa. Why is an elf who hates human now a human, you ask? Well, luckily, we're about to get some backstory on Belsnickel! He was "a precocious and brilliant elf"  who was taught the "art of magical potion-making" by Mrs. Claus and "the art of invention" by Santa. Mrs. Claus makes a comment how she and Santa loved him "very, very much", but don't they love all their elves the same? I would assume the elves are almost like children to them. Why does Belsnick get special treatment? As we're going to soon find out, Belsnickers was a little sh*t.  By the time he became a teen, (elves can become teens? I kinda assumed they were all kind of one age), things started to change: "The spirit of Christmas had grown around the world. Santa had less time for Belsnickel. He became resentful of Santa and more rebellious." Yep, see, there's no way Santa could have ever had children - if an ELF, who WORKS for Santa becomes resentful of him, can you imagine how his own child would feel?

The Elves live by the Elves' Code which stands for Ego, Lying, Viciousness, Envy, Selfishness. I'm guessing this is a list of things that elves strive NOT to be! As Mrs. Claus tells the kids, "If an elf commits every single one of those, they become cursed." Well, guess who broke all five? I'll give you zero guesses because you don't need any. 

We get a few examples of what a little sh*t weasel Belsnot has turned into. He places a whoppee cushion on a chair in a room with a handful of other elves and when one unexpected elf sits on it, he makes a big scene, pointing and laughing at the elf, who is clearly embarrassed and humiliated. And it's not like a, "Haha, Flouflou farted" ribbing in a friendly kind of way, no, he is maliciously laughing and mocking at him. F**k you, Belsneeze. We see him tip over a gum ball machine outside one of the 300,000 stores, so when one elf comes out of that store, he slips on the gum balls and drops his packages. While elves seem to have a high threshold for physical pain (they go through a lot in this movie, but always seem to be fine in the end), this elf could have seriously injured himself. Again, f**k you, Belsnoopy. The only actually funny prank he pulls is when he puts his image on cans of "Rik Cola", when they are usually reserved for images of Santa. (Much like the holiday Coke cans...hey, remember those commercials? 

When Santa asks him what he's doing, he replies, "I build all the best toys around here. It's about time I get some of the credit." Now he says this in English, and not in Elvish. While we sometimes hear the elves maybe say a few words in English, mostly they are talking in their native language, so is speaking quite fluently in English a sign of his intelligence? Also, if he hates humans so much, why is he speaking one of their languages? The last thing he does that sends him over the edge is when he commits vandalism by spray painting his name on the side of Santa's sleigh. When Santa asks him why he would do that, he replies, "Because you care more about children all over the world than you care about me." I mean, Santa can easily just get rid of the paint with a little bit of magic, so Belsnivel's acting out here is pretty weak and lame. Also, shut the f*ck up, Belsnoodle, like seriously. In case you can't tell, I really don't feel sorry for Belsnitch. He's a whiny-ass elf who needs constant attention and praise and can't stand not getting any of the glory when I'm sure the other 999,999 elves (remember, one million elves live in Santa's Village!) are just as accomplished at making toys as he is and they're actually decent elves who don't cause mischief and mayhem. I'd be like, "Bye, Belsnipper, don't let the door hit you on the way out".  Well, after breaking the Elves' Code, "he transformed into the thing he despised the most, a human." To quote Nelson from The Simpsons, "HA, HA!" Belsnoozy is so ashamed of his new form that he runs away and never returns...until now. While Mrs. Claus is reading the kids a bedtime story, we see Belsnorkel looking things over in a sly way and says, "In a few hours, this entire village will be nothing but a distance memory." Geeze, he really hates Santa, doesn't he?

I did laugh when Mrs. Claus is done reading the book and claps her hand to turn out the lights. It's done with magic as you can tell from the sound and visual effects, but I love the nod to the Clap On/Clap Off lights. (I feel like my grandma had one of those, but I could be remembering that wrong. Maybe I'm thinking of the was always an elderly woman who used those things). 

Once everyone is asleep, Belscooter can now hatch his plan. He has a pet yule cat named Jola who he tells to "take care of the reindeer" so they won't bother him while he gets the star. Oh, yeah, did I tell you that's his plan? To get the star tree topper since it powers the entire village. But first, I must interject with something that doesn't make sense. When Belsnap became a human, he went to live in the South Pole. I'm not sure how long he's been living there...maybe a couple years? Who knows. When we are first introduced to Jola (we meet him before we know he and Belsnail are chummy), Santa is chasing him because he keeps trying to take one of his reindeer as a snack. Obviously Jola lives in the North Pole. So why is he Belsnout's pet? I'm so confused. But Jola goes to the stable where Dasher seems to be the head reindeer and is the one who stands up to Jola, protecting the seven other reindeer, but also gets attacked by Jola. Because this is a children's movie, we only see shadows of Jola about to attack Dasher and when the humans find Dasher lying down in the stable (brought to their attention by an elf), there is no blood anywhere. I did like that when the Claus's (is it Claus's or Clauses'; now I'm confusing myself even more!) are told, they are watching It's a Wonderful Life in Elvish. I'm not really sure why they would have that in that language, unless they have a magic TV that can dub movies in non-human languages. 

To cause havoc, Belsnipper drugs the elves with Elf Bane which turns them from sweet and friendly elves into mean and mischievous elves. It's very similar to when Mogwais (don't ask me what the plural of Mogwai is...) turn into Gremlins. And I'm sure that wasn't accidental since Chris Columbus wrote that movie. One elf is ever tied up in lights before it breaks free, much like that poor dog. Also, there's a scene that is VERY similar to the one where the gremlins are in a bar just going crazy. In the movie, the scene involves elves dancing to "Who Let the Dogs Out?" 

So while Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the kids are fretting over Dasher, who is apparently dying (this movie goes to some dark places!), Belscooby nabs the star, but Santa catches him before he can make his getaway. When he finds out what happened to Dasher, he does look remorseful (I guess a sign that he can be redeemable). He says that Jola was only supposed to scare the reindeer so they would run off into the forest. The kids out the human elf as the guy that drove the shuttle that took them through the portal and Belsnow thanks Kate for helping him get back to Santa's Village, making though as this is all her fault. Belsnub's plan is to take the star back to the South Pole and start his own village, aptly named "Belsnickel's Village" (doesn't roll off the tongue like "Santa's Village") where he's going to gather his own elves and invent "really cool stuff" that "will make everyone forget that the North Pole and Santa Claus ever existed." But that's not the only reason he's taking the star. It will stop him from aging so he can have time to figure out a way to "break this awful curse." When Kate asks him what's so bad abut being human, he responds in a very teen human whiny way: "Humans suck! Elves rule! And I am tired of being a human." Yeah, that's some weak sauce. And YOU suck, Belsuckle. 

So he just wants to become an elf again and as Mrs. Claus tells him (and the audience), the only way for him to break the curse is to come home and embrace his family. Dude, you're right there. Just say you're sorry and I don't know if that means to literally hug his family or accept them the way they are, but just do whatever you need to do and you'll be a stupid elf again. This movie could end now, but we still have an hour and eight minutes to go! Belsnuff's response is "Bah humbug!" and Santa scolds him, "You watch your mouth, young elf! I admit that got a chuckle out of me. 

Santa and Belsnickerdoodle get into a brouhaha over the star and end up breaking the veil, which makes everything go dark. Belsneedle ends up with the star and flies off with it in his homemade flying contraption. Santa exclaims, "Without the star, the North Pole, the village, Christmas itself, is doomed!" Kate asks, "Like, for this year?" and Mrs. Claus replies, "Like, forever." Gulp! 

It is decided that Santa and Kate will go to Turkey to get a new star, which can only be made by the Forest Elves while Mrs. Claus and Jack will stay behind to take care of Dasher and find a cure for the elves. The excuse they give for Kate joining Santa is that he doesn't think he'll be able to get his sleigh off the ground with only seven reindeer. So a pre-teen girl can hep with that? Really, Santa? It's a very contrived way to get Kate to go with him. When they do start flying away, there's an empty spot in the front where Dasher would have been. Wouldn't it be better to move one of the reindeer from the middle to the front so the missing spot is in the middle so at least the front and back are both loaded with reindeer? I'm no expert in physics, but this just makes more sense to me. 

So Santa and Kate get to Turkey, but they don't know that Belsnood has also hitched a ride on the bottom of the sleigh. They talk to the Forest Elves, a new star is made, Belsnapper tries to stop them, yada, yada, yada, they fly back to Santa's Village.

Meanwhile, back at the Village, Mrs. Claus has given Jack the task of finding an arctic flower that "only grows in one place" (which isn't exactly close to where they are). It is the only thing that will cure the elf bane and she needs to stay with Dasher. She gives him a map and some cookies that will help him: a gingerbread man cookie will explode when he throws it and a snowman cookie will give him courage if he eats it. There are two of each cookie on the platter, but he only takes one of each. I mean, why not stock up on more ammunition? There's also two Christmas tree cookies on the plate, but we don't find out if they have any special powers. Naturally, Jack is worried about frost bite, but Mrs. Claus tells him not to worry because she's "an expert at reattaching fingers and toes." You'd think a place brimming with magic, they'd have some kind of heating installation in their winter clothes (btw, Mrs. Claus "magically" changed the kids' resort clothes into winter garb). 

Jack has to climb a mountain to get to the antidote so he takes a bite of the snowman cookie to give him courage. Luckily he didn't bite the exploding cookie. He almost did, but then realized that was the wrong one. He does use the exploding gingerbread man cookie when he gets attacked by Jola and they both fall off the mountain. He throws the cookie at the yule cat who runs off and Jack has to climb the mountain again, but finally reaches the flower which he brings back to the stables. 

In order to distribute the antidote to the elves, he has to go to a certain spot in the village. The scene where he's fighting through the slew of elves who is making this very difficult for him is quite funny Mrs, Claus has armed himmwith a Nerf crossbow and we see slow motion scenes of him shooting at the elves and running and taking cover, like this is a war movie. At one point, when the elves are closing in on him, he grab a large lollipop and just smacks the crap out of them. Talk about elf abuse! I love that while the elves turn "bad", the movie at the Polaris theater has turned from Elf to Bad Santa. Personally, I think they should have gone with Gremlins as an inside joke, but they probably wanted to go for a joke that kids would have gotten since it literally says "Bad Santa". 

So Santa has dropped Kate off (literally) at the tree so she can reconnect the star to it, but that won't be without any problems. In the air, Santa and his reindeer are about to have a standoff with Belsniffles whose flying contraption is being pulled by a jackal and coyote hybrid called jackalotes. Santa tells him that it "doesn't exactly scream aerodynamic." We see them charging at each and Mrs. Claus throws a gingrbread man cookie that explodes, causing Santa, Belskittles, and all the animals to come crashing down to the ground. The gingerbread man's mouth turns into an "O" expression which got a laugh out of me. 

Kate has managed to restore the power of the star and the elves have turned back to their happy, helping, healthy elves selves. The movie is almost over, but we just need to close up Belstar's story. He and Santa share a moment when Santa shows him the first toy they built together. When Belstickle tells the Claus's he's always loved them, he turns back into an elf. All the other elves cheer and are happy, but I'm not sure why. When he WAS an elf, Belsnag was a massive jerk douche to them. I certainly wouldn't be welcoming him back with welcome arms. But, whatever.

There's a nice moment when the kids are saying good-bye to Mrs. Claus as they get in the sled with Santa so he can take them back to their resort in Cancun and she reveals to Jack that the snowman cookie he ate that supposedly had magical powers to give him courage was actually just a regular old cookie and that "the hero was always inside you." Aww. 

I did have to laugh when Belsnare jumped into Mrs. Claus's arm and you can tell Goldie Hawn was probably holding a cookie jar or something before they replaced it with the CGI elf. 

Kate and Jack are returned to the beach where they meet up with Teddy and he's like, "Oh, cool, you got to see Santa again" and they fill him in on what they did with one sentence each. The adults have returned from their getaway and they are hugged by their kids as though they've been gone for a thousand years and Kate surprises Bob when she seems to have accept his and her mother's relationship. The movie ends with the five of them outside on the beach singing "O Christmas Tree." (This is why I don't think the girl who was always going scuba diving with Teddy was his girlfriend; she wasn't a part of this singalong). While the mere mortals are singing on the beach, we see Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the elves are also singing the same song in Santa's Village. Of course Belsnagglepuss has to be the center of attention. I'm sorry, what did he do again to deserve the Best Elf of the Village title and Santa's and Mrs. Claus's favorite elf? Oh, right, he was a total asshat who whined about being a human when he was one so was rewarded by turning back into a whiny bratty elf. While they are singing this song, it struck me that I never knew the words to it. I could hum it, but I couldn't tell you the words besides the obvious "O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree..." I think there are different variations of it. I feel like this is a song you don't hear a lot on Christmas albums. I honestly couldn't tell you any artist who has covered it. They get a surprise from Santa when he magically makes the words "Merry Christmas" appear in the sky formed by the stars. I'm sure Claire and Bob though it was some sort of special effect the resort put on, but the kids know better. 

This was a cute movie and I can see it and its predecesser being holiday staples in peoples' homes. After all, they're both on Netflix, so it's pretty easy to come upon. 

HOWEVER, that being said, they could have gone a completely different route with this movie and I, personally, think it would have been more interesting. So there was a part I literally yada-yadaed over earlier in my review and I want to go back to that. It's when Santa and Kate now have their newly minted star and Belsnarl is ready to snatch it from them. He rams into their sleigh which makes the star fall and he throws a device at them which makes them enter a vortex and they find themselves flying above Logan International airport in Boston in the year 1990. Kate is from Boston, but she definitely wasn't around in 1990. I was confused by the year, but it soon becomes clear why it's that particular year. 

Their sled loses power and Santa tells Kate that is due to "the lowest Christmas spirit" that people have at airports during the holidays. Their plan is to make people happy at the airport which will power up their sled again and Kate needs to find batteries for the time twister device that made them enter the vortex. I would think this thing would be powered by magic that they would get from lifting peoples' Christmas spirits rather than batteries, but we do get an amusing scene of Kate buying batteries at a newsstand and the woman thinks she's using counterfeit money and notices the bill is from 2020 (I NEVER notice the year on paper money!) and says people "probably won't be using paper money in thirty years." I mean, she isn't totally wrong. 

All the flights have been cancelled due to bad weather so that's why everyone is in a bad mood. A woman goes to the ticket counter and demands, "I want a flight to Chicago right now." She totally reminded me of Kate McCallister from Home Alone when she's begging to get on a flight to Chicago to get to her son. It can't be coincidental the same city was used! 

Santa uses his magic to have the woman who's working the ticket counter to belt out, "Now wait a minute...!" When she sang those notes, I was like, is that holiday song legend Darlene Love who sang "All Alone on Christmas" from the Home Alone 2 soundtrack and "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)", the opening song from Gremlins, coincidently, both movies Columbus worked on as a director and writer, respectively? Obviously he loves Darlene Love. Oh, by the way, just this year, I learned that she was the original singer of "Baby Please Come Home". I honestly had no idea and never really gave it any thought. There are so many artists who have covered this song (it IS a great song) that I just figured the original just got lost in the shuffle. I was always aware of her version and knew it was one of the best versions of that song and now I know why! It's so good; no wonder so many artists cover it. It also makes SO much sense when she sings the line, "Do you remember sleigh riding in the snow; dancing all night to 'Baby Please Come Home'?" in "All Alone on Christmas?" (Another great song that sadly gets overlooked).

Anyway, Darlene Love can add another Christas song to her repertoire: "The Spirit of Christmas" which she sings with Kurt Russel. It's a catchy little ditty, but it doesn't hold a candle to her other Christmas songs. The song gets everybody in the airport dancing and singing and their Christmas spirits are lifted so much that all the flights are able to be boarded and everyone will be able to be home for Christmas. (I guess Christmas spirit also helps clear up bad weather!) 

So while all that is going on, Kate strikes up a conversation with a boy about her age who tells her he's flying to Miami to spend Christmas with his grandparents. Immediately I knew that was her dad; immediately. Later it is confirmed that her dad was 13 when she met him in 1990, so I wonder if she is supposed to be 13 too? :::shrug:: Because the kid doesn't give his name until she and Santa are about ready to leave, she doesn't realize who it is at first. Young Doug is absolutely adorable and if I were a pre-teen girl, I would have a crush on him and I was a little worried that Kate would get a crush on him and this would be a reverse Back to the Future, but this is a family movie, so I figured they wouldn't go there. When she does figure out it's her dad as a thirteen-year-old, she gives him a tearful hug goodby and thanks him. I do have to laugh because they want to make sure the young kids who are watching it know that he is her father as a kid. You would think when he tells her his name is Doug, that would be the obvious clue. But then Santa clarifies that his name is Doug Pierce and when Kate hugs him goodbye, she calls him "Dad" but quickly corrects herself. It just made me laugh that they wanted to make it very clear that this is her dad! 

But I think it would have been a more interesting movie if she had spent Christmas with her dad in 1990. Maybe his flight to Miami was cancelled (despite all that Christmas spirit), so she was invited to his house and also got to see her grandparents when they were around her mom's age. Maybe, just maybe, Kate could inspire young Doug to go into a different profession other than a firefighter. Not that I think 13-year-old Doug knew he wanted to be a firefighter, but maybe he and Kate make Christmas cookies and she inspires him to be a pastry chef (do pasty chefs even make cookies? IDK) or maybe they play with Legos and she's impressed with his designs and tells him he should be an architect. I don't know, just something that inspires him so he has a profession that is't so dangerous, so when Kate returns to present her dad is still alive! (Poor Bob). I think they could have had a really cool idea for a movie, but instead they went with the Belsnuffleupagus plot line. Oh, well, at least I had fun making up different names for him and I hope you all got a kick out of that too.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Wedding Crasher

My Best Friend's Wedding
Director: P.J. Hogan
Cast: Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz, Dermot Mulroney, Rupert Everett, Rachel Griffiths, Carrie Preston
Released: June 20, 1997

Oscar nominations:
Best Musical or Comedy Score - James Newton Howard (lost to Anne Dudley for The Full Monty)

I saw this movie when it came out in the theater and saw it on video a couple times, but it had been a really long time since I'd seen it, so I had forgotten a lot of things (although I did remember who ended up getting married at the titular wedding). I also forgot how everyone sucks except for Rupert Everett's character. His name is George and he is Jule's (Julia Roberts) editor and (at the time) closest friend. He is also gay. They seem to remind us of this every half hour in case we forgot. Jules has an editor because she is working on a book. She is a twenty-seven-year-old food critic who apparently sends fear into every chef. The very first scene we see her, she's at a restaurant with everyone in the kitchen looking on in anticipation as she tastes the dish and gives her critique right there to the waiter and tells him, "I'm writing it up as inventive and confident." First of all, pretty sure you have to be much older than 27 to be considered an established food critic. Second of all, why is she giving her critique to the waiter? Third of all, why is she telling anyone her review at all? I assume she writes it for the paper and that's when everybody reads it. There is absolutely no reason for her to be a food critic; it doesn't even come up again in the film. (You'd think they'd want her input for the food at the wedding!) They just do it to give her a glamorous job that won't interfere with the plot of the movie. Speaking of which, we will get into when she gets a phone call from her best friend, Michael (Dermot Mulroney) who writes for Sport magazine. They've only been best friends for a few years and I'm scratching my head as to why they're best friends because she and George seem to have more of a connection than she does with Michael. We find out about Michael through exposition when Jules tells George about him. She met him when they were sophomores at Brown and were hot and heavy for a month when they dated, then she broke up with him because she got "restless". Apparently Michael told her, "The thing that makes me want to cry is I'm losing the best friend I ever had" and she felt the same. Uh, what? They've only known each other for a month and they're calling each other their best friend? Give me a break, we know it wasn't her "friendship" he was going to miss if you know what I mean and I think you do! The closest thing we get to them being best friends is when Jules tells George that they've been there for each other though losing jobs, losing parents, losing loved ones (they're only 28 years old...they're not old at many peoples are dropping dead in their lives? Good lord!), traveling together (that's a little weird...). They made a pact six years ago that if they're 28 and haven't married yet, they will marry each other. Well, guess who's turning 28 in 3 weeks? This is the stupidest thing ever. Why 28? Why not just round it up to 30? And even that is still pretty young. Obviously if they wanted to get married, they would have gotten married instead of leaving it up to some stupid pact. Michael has called her and left her a message to call back so she thinks it's about that and is extremely nervous to call him back. I should mention that there are many scenes when Jules is calling people in public with her big-ass '90s cell phone and I am so, so, so embarrassed for her.

Yes, she uses that thing
in public! 
Since she's been on her book tour, she hasn't had time to talk to Michael in months, but apparently they used to talk every day? Like I said, they just never seemed like best friends, or even regular friends, for that matter. He tells her he has to ask her something "incredibly important" and if she turns him down, he doesn't know what he's going to do. Before Michael even tells her what he's talking about, Jules starts blabbing about the pact which makes me cringe and I am so, so, so embarrassed for her. Luckily, he tells her he also thinks about that night all the time, so at least he knows what she's talking about, but then he tells her, "That's not why I called". Ouch. He is getting married, just not to Jules. No, he's met somebody named Kimmy (Cameron Diaz) who happens to be the twenty-year-old daughter of a BILLIONAIRE. Me thinks Michael may be a bit of a gold digger. I'm going to say it right now: for a billionaire family, they have a pretty mediocre wedding. I mean, it would be nice if you weren't a millionaire, but I was quite disappointed for what a billionaire's wedding looks like. Kimmy's dad owns the White Sox (which I guess is how Michael met Kimmy, being a sportswriter and all) and a cable company. He tells Jules that even though they're billionaires, they're "down to earth people" and that some would refer to them as "salt of the earth." Give me a break. There is no way on Earth you could refer to any billionaire as "salt of the earth." That is the most laughable thing I've ever heard. Like making Jules a food critic, it absolutely makes no sense that they make the family Michael is marrying into billionaires. It is absolutely ridiculous. We will find out they have to be better off than him for a certain storyline to work, but they were reaching quite hard with billionaires. It's not like this is Crazy Rich Asians where being extremely wealthy is part of the plot. 

Not only is Michael getting married, but he's getting married on Sunday, which is four days from now (!!!) He calls it "one of those four day weddings with all the traditional events." What the hell? I have never heard of a "four day wedding." I've heard of "Four Weddings and a Funeral"; but never a "four day wedding." This must be some billionaire thing. Of course he wants Jules to fly out to Chicago to attend the wedding. She's pretending to be all happy for him, but of course she's not because she's jealous.The next day when George drives her to the airport to fly to Chicago (did I mention she lives in New York?), she tells George she has four days to break up a wedding and steal the groom and she doesn't have any idea how to do it. She gets all freaked out and hysterical as she exclaims, "He adored me for nine years! Me!" We get why George is the best character in the movie when he tells her, "I can see why" in a deadpan voice. 

It's a little weird that an almost thirty-year-old is marrying a twenty-year-old who is a junior at the University of Chicago. I get that her being a college student plays an important role in the story, but there's something creepy about a thirty-year-old being engaged to someone who wasn't a teen not that long ago. Of course, I doubt anybody would mistake Kimmy for being twenty. For one thing, Cameron Diaz was 26 when she filmed this. For another, her character has the hairstyle and wardrobe of a forty-year-old suburban soccer mom. Sure, a well-to-do suburban soccer mom, but, sheesh, they sure make her look much older than she actually is

Jules reconnects with Michael at the airport and also meets Kimmy for the first time. I know we are supposed to be rooting for Kimmy because Jules is the villain for trying to break up our happy couple, but good God, I found Kimmy to be absolutely irritating. I guess in a nicer way, you could call her personality, "bubbly". She's all excited and giddy (WHY?) and jumping around when she meets Jules, telling her, "I've never had a sister". Uh, what? She does know Jules isn't Michael's sister so she's not gaining a sister-in-law, right? 

While they're driving, Kimmy asks Jules if she'll be her Maid of Honor because her best friend, the previous MOH, broke her pelvis. Jules is pretty much pressured into it and accepts. Personally, I would never take the job. I would feel very self conscious about being the freakin' Maid of Honor for some billionaire's daughter I've never met before.  They show Kimmy zipping her convertible in and out of traffic and driving like a maniac and just bering oblivious to, you know, safety.  I guess it's supposed to be funny? Oh she could easily kill them all or someone else, oh yeah, haha, that's really funny. I really thought her atrocious driving was going to come back when she and Michael get into a big fight (spoiler alert!) and she leaves in her car. I thought she was going to get into an accident. Not a big one to kill herself or anyone else (it's not that type of movie), but a serious enough one. But no...she's just a terrible drive for comedy's sake, I guess. It  makes no sense why they make her a careless driver. I personally think it doesn't help her case for being someone we should root for. 

They all (including Michael, for some weird reason) go to a boutique for Jules to try on her dress for the wedding. Her dress is totally different from the other bridesmaids and Kimmy tells her, "You wouldn't be comfortable unless you were distinctive", which is something Michael told her about Jules. Good God, she has to stand out so much that her dress has to be different (I mean, it is a different color, different cut, different style, different texture, different length...) from the others? Christ, Kimmy, this is YOUR wedding. Make her wear the same damn dress as the other bridesmaids! I know Jules (rightly) get a lot of blame for trying to ruin the wedding, but Michael doesn't really help matters, either. If anything, he's almost enabling Jules. When Jules is in the changing room, getting her clothes back on, he walks in on her when she's in her underwear (I guess that's why he was there? To have this scene?). She tries to cover herself up by holding her clothes over over and he tells her, "I've seen you a lot more naked than that" and "You look really good without your clothes on." That's kind of a jerky thing to say to your fiancee's maid of honor! Come on, dude. And there will be other scenes where it looks like he's leading her on. In fact, Jules feels like her plan to rip apart the happy couple is already starting to work. 

We will get a scene of Kimmy admitting to Jules that she feels inferior to her because she is "the perfect creature that [Michael] loved for all those years" and that she loves Michael, despite his flaws. Look, no offense to Dermot Mulroney (the poor man's Dylan McDermott?), but he really doesn't have the charisma to make me believe these two women would really be that gaga over him. Plus, his character kinda sucks. But, like I said everyone, except George, sucks. 

When Jules tells Michael he's going to find "that kind of perfection boring day after day, year after year", he tells her Kimmy has a "few good traits"(yeah like being the daughter of a billionaire is a big one, I bet!) and gives the example that when he hugs her in public, he doesn't have to let go right away; she lets him hold her as long as he wants. Cue my eyeroll right here. Apparently Jules isn't big on PDA. She tells Michael, "I've changed. I'm not the girl I once was." 

This movie is probably best known for its musical numbers, including the scene where they go to a karaoke bar. When they enter, Jules tells them she didn't realize it was a karaoke bar which is total bs. Earlier, Kimmy had told her she can't carry a tune (I don't even remember how that subject was brought up), so Jules gets the idea to humiliate her. Now if your fiancee is going to break up with you because you can't sing, I think that says something more about them. This is really just a stupid, mean plot that's going to backfire in front of Jule's face, anyway. Even before she has to sing, I do feel bad for Kimmy because Jules and Michael are talking like old chums, completely leaving Kimmy out and pretty much ignoring her, even when she tries to join in the conversation.  They finally do let her join in and it turns to Kimmy, who is studying to be an architect, tells Jules that she's not coming back her senior year for fall quarter. Since Michael travels all the time for his job, she thinks the most important thing is for them to be together. Another plan starts brewing in Jule's head. This karaoke bar works like no karaoke bar I've ever been to. Usually, you pick out a song from a big book, write it on a slip with your name and give it the announcer and they will put your name on a screen when you're two slots away from going up on stage to sing it. But at this place, a microphone is just randomly passed around and whoever has it can just start singing any song and magically the music will appear even if nobody has no idea what you're about to sing. What the hell? This happens when someone at the next table passes it to them and they tell Kimmy they want her to sing. Jules takes the microphone away from her, telling her she doesn't have to sing and Kimmy looks quite grateful. But then, since she's so petty and vindictive, Jules fools her into singing. Well, maybe that's not fair since Kimmy wasn't required to sing. She could of just passed the microphone on to the next table and everybody else in the room would have forgotten about her. But she takes it and starts singing "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself" by Dusty Springfield. She sounds horrendous, but I was shocked by all the patrons booing her and yelling out she sucks. Um, that kind of behavior would never be tolerated at a karaoke bar. Also, what do they expect? Most people in karaoke bars sound terrible when they sing! The absolute worst is when you have to sing after someone who sounds amazing. But Kimmy continues singing and soon people are applauding her and Michael is looking at her in admiration. Even Jules has give it up for Kimmy as she starts clapping along to the music with the other patrons. 

With the information about Kimmy not continuing college, Jules tells Michael she's surprised that Kimmy hasn't talked to her dad about offering a job to Michael so he's not traveling all the time. If I were him, I would tell her to mind her own business. She later tells Kimmy that Michael would rather "run a piece of the PR at a powerful complex conglomerate like your father's." If I were Kimmy, I would ask Michael about this and tell him it was Jules who told me this. But of course that doesn't happen. Instead, Jules comes up with a plan. She makes it seem like it was all Kimmy's idea, but of course it was Jules. When the three of them are out to dinner, Kimmy tells Michal her father needs a favor. He needs him to help out with public relations for six month because her dad is "reorganizing some of the divisions of the company." I'm not really sure what her dad does, but that's beside the point. Nothing in this movie makes sense. Michael is not happy with this arrangement which makes Kimmy angry because she thought that's what he wanted (since Jules told her) and tells him, "I'm supposed to drop out of school? Forget my family, forget my career, forget about all the things I had planned for my life?" Michael retorts back that even though his job is low paying and gives him no respect, he happens to love it (why?). Well, no wonder poor Kimmy is so confused. During her talk with Jules earlier, Jules had assured Kimmy that he despised his job and would be more than willing to help out his future father-in-law. Kimmy gets upset and starts to cry when Michael accuses her of thinking he's not good enough for her. They've now both ignored Jules who is just sitting back, pretending to look concerned, but is trying to keep a big grin off of her face. However, her fake concern is replaced by real concern when Michael and Kimmy quickly forgive each other (after Kimmy begs him to forgive her even though she did nothing wrong). That's the quickest fight I've ever seen! Once again, her plan has backfired. 

There's an ongoing theme of Jules calling George whenever she needs his help or advice and she does it
quite often, that if I were him, I would just stop talking to her, but George is a loyal friend (and besides, he is her editor, so he can't really ignore her since they have a working relationship). It's amusing because he's hosting a dinner party when she calls and you hear her voice on the answering machine and it gets louder and louder until she's screaming about trying to sabotage a wedding and everyone at the table just stop talking and listen to his machine in surprise, then George asks if anyone wants coffee and everyone continues talking again as though they were never interrupted by a screaming, deranged woman on the other end of the answering machine. George comes to Chicago to visit Jules and asks her the question every viewer already knows the answer to: "Do you really love him or is this about winning?" She admits that it was like that in the beginning, but now when she's with him, "he's just so wonderful." (Is he? Really?) George tells her to tell him that she's loved him for  years, but she's been too afraid. I call bs that she's actually in love with him. She just doesn't like him giving his attention to another woman he's planning to marry. 

During a scene where Michael is getting fitted for his tuxedo, he gives Jules the ring to "guard with her life." Why Jules has to be there for his fitting and why he gives Jules, of all people, the ring (instead of his best man or a family member) is really irrelevant. It's just all part of the plot. It's at this moment, when someone is measuring Michael and when they're in a store with other people (including George, who is also there for plot's sake) roaming around that Jules decides she's going to tell Michael her feelings for him. She never does because she gets distracted when Michael sees George and asks her who he is (he knows he's with Jules). She tells him that he's her "best friend these days", then does something totally insane and tells him they're engaged. To make him jealous, I guess? The audience find out that Jules decided to make George her fiancé the same time as George himself. She just announce it in front of him and makes a facial expression at him, pleading him to go along with her. Michael thinks it's quite peculiar that they're engaged because whenever Jules spoke about him, he sensed that George was gay (I guess she never outright told him he was gay?) Jules tells him that "George likes to pretend he's gay" which is the weirdest (and pretty offensive) thing. Michal asks George the very reasonable question, "Why would you do that?" and George tells him he finds that it attracts women, and it especially worked for for Jules. This is very baffling and makes no sense, but Michael seems satisfied with the answer because it's what the plot of the movie needs him to do. However, you would think that if Jules is his best friend, he would know about this weird fetish of hers. Just saying!

Jules bring George to the church where they're having the rehearsal and he meets a super excited and screeching Kimmy and her family (well, only Kimmy is super excited and screeching; her family is more composed.) I had to laugh when she asks George why they weren't told about the engagement and George, who is having way too much fun with this charade, says, "I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, but Jules said, 'No, this is Kimmi's day, let's not take the attention away from Kimmy.'" This makes Kimmy even more happy and she hugs Jules even more tighter.

Probably the most famous and memorable scene of the movie comes next. It's the "I Say a Little Prayer For You" scene. Do I need to say more? While I remembered that scene, I didn't remember what prompted everyone to break out into the Dionne Warwick song. After the rehearsal, everyone goes out for lunch at Barry the Cuda's, the only restaurant I've ever seen with a piano! Since Jules pulled George into this whole mess, he's making the most of it and is having fun playing along and getting back at Jules. Kimmy tells Jules she's so happy Jules found "the man of her dreams" who was "right in front of her" after she heard stories from Michael of her going through so many boyfriends and never finding anyone. Again, George made me laugh when Jules looks at Michael who's sitting across the table from her and George hisses in her ear, "She's talking about me!" One of the family members asks how they met and Jules says something truthful for once, that George is her editor. It's George who embellishes the story when he says they knew each other even before then and that he first met Jules at a mental institution! At first, I thought he was implying SHE was a patient there, but she was there to see a French chef that she had "sent insane with a bad review" and he was there at the same time visiting someone who thought they were Dionne Warwick. And thus, that's how the singalong came about, complete with the waiters waving their lobster claw mitts. I have to admit that's a pretty specific story to come up on the fly like that! 

When George goes back to New York, Jules tells Michael that George isn't her fiancé so it seems like she's actually doing the right thing, but in the same breath she continues to lie about it and says that they were once engaged: "It's been over for ages, but he can't accept it." Michael admits to her that when she told him she was engaged that he got "this really strange feeling" and was "crazy jealous." So it seems like he doesn't want her to be with anyone either. Christ, these two deserve each other! He wants to spend some alone tine with her that afternoon, so they go on a boat tour of Chicago where they slow dance on the back of the boat while Michael sings "The Way You Look Tonight", which is their song. He mentions that he and Kimmy don't have a song yet. He calls Jules "the woman in my life" and Jules calls him "the man in my life" and they both note that this will be the last time they will have together alone. (Though, it's really not). Jules tells him it feels like he's saying goodbye to her. I never got the feeling that they wouldn't see each other anymore just because he got married. They can still be friends, excuse me, best friends. There is a moment when it seems like Jules is about to tell him her feelings but the moment passes them by. Obviously, they must have never talked about how they felt about each other, but again, I think they only want the other one when they're engaged (or pretend engaged in Jules' case). If they were both single, they would not be interested in each other at all. I'm sure there's a psychological term for this; whatever the big fancy word for "you only want what you can't have" is. The both of them are really quite irritating. 

Does Jules accept that Michael is getting married to Kimmy and that she must move on with her life? Oh, no, she still thinks there is time to sabotage the wedding and make Michael come back running to her. The day before the wedding she goes to Kimmy's father's company, Wallace Companies. Her goal is to sneak onto his computer when he's out to lunch and compose an e-mail to Michael's boss. This whole scene is bananas beserk. Not just because of the fraud she's about to commit, but apparently the people who worked on this movie had no idea how e-mail worked. In the late '90s. I'm sorry, what? By 1997, maybe not everybody used e-mail, but I would think SOMEBODY on the entire cast or crew of this movie would know how to use e-mail or how it worked or at least knew somebody who did. This is what I'm talking about: after she gets into his e-mail (which is an icon on his computer...okay...), she chooses "new letter" from the options and a screen pop ups where you can write your message. At the top, it says "E-mail address" and there's a "To" and "From" line. She physically types out, and I swear I am not joking, "Eric Isaacson, Senior Editor, Sport Magazine" in the "To" column and "Walter Wallace" in the "From" column. I'm sorry, but WHAT THE ACTUAL YOU-KNOW-WHAT?! Like I said before, nobody on this movie's crew had a freakin' teenager who had an AOL account with some stupid e-mail like They couldn't confer with somebody who knew how e-mail worked? Could they not get permission from yahoo or hotmail or aol or whoever else you could get email through back then? Then just make up your own Also, if she's sending it from Wallace's computer, why does she have to physically type it's from him? I don't sign my name every time I send an e-mail; people already know it's from me because my name is already there! Good Lord, this scene is so stupid! There's no excuse for not knowing how e-mail worked in 1997! None! But wait, there's more! So Jules composes a message to Michael's boss (whose e-mail address probably would have been if this movie took place in the real world) telling him, as Walter Wallace, that he's offered Michael "a great opportunity in my company" and that Michael won't accept the offer while he works for him. So I'm not sure if Jules wanted Michael's boss to fire him or give him his permission to quit? 

After she's finished writing the message, she gets a popup box asking, "Do you want to send?" and gives her a yes or no option. In the end, she decides not to send it because she doesn't want Michael to get fired (would he really get fired for that? If anything, I would think his boss would want to talk to him about it). She gets a second option where she can choose either "save for later" or "delete". Again, not how e-mail works. She chooses the former and justifies it as "It's not like I'm sending it...I'm saving it for a few hours 'til we come back and Michael can see it." Alright, so her plan is for Michael to see the e-mail and probably assume this was Kimmy's idea and never want to see or talk to her again. Well, guess what. After Jules saves the letter and leaves, we see Walter tell his secretary that he's "holding four or five e-mails he wrote" and wants her to send them out. Huh? Wha-? So he writes e-mails and doesn't send them out after they're composed? He just saves them and has his secretary click a button to send them out? But why? Oh, right, for the sake of the movie's plot. 

Before Jules can even continue on with her diabolical plan, while they're at her hotel, Michael receives a fax from his boss. Gee, whatever could this be about? Jules just assumes he's telling Michael congratulations because it's the night before the wedding, but instead the note says, "I think you need to know and deserve what you're marrying into." This seems...odd to me. Why didn't his boss just ask him about this supposed job opportunity his future father-in-law offered him. Look, what Jules did was wrong but it's not like she (as Wallace) threatened Michael's boss. While Michel calls Kimmy (because of course he thinks she was up to this) and blows up at her, Jules sits outside the door of her room and we see a cameo from a young Paul Giamatti who plays a bellhop. She's smoking and he tells her it's a nonsmoking floor. She tells him, "I am a dangerous, criminal person. I do bad things to honest people." I don't know, I wouldn't call her "dangerous"; more like "selfish" and "mean-spirited". 

When Michael gets off the phone with Kimmy, he tells Jules that she told Michael it's over because he's "crazy and paranoid". Oh, there was a scene earlier where Jules tried on the wedding ring (I guess the temptation was too much for her) and of course now it won't come off. Michael fixes this by putting her finger in his mouth and sucking it off. I'm pretty sure there's probably a less erotic way to get a stuck ring off a finger. Again, he's sending mixed signals to Jules. 

Because this whole fight took place the day before the wedding, the Sunday wedding brunch is still on because Kimmy hasn't told her parents that the wedding is cancelled (Probably because they would throw a fit if they went through all that prep work and money even if they are billionaires). No, the real reason is that Kimmy is still hoping for a miracle. As she tells Jules (because Michael wanted her to talk to Kimmy), "How could he think that my father and I would do such a thing?" We get another well-known scene where Jules compares Kimmy to creme brûlée and tells her that Michael would rather have Jell-O. I love Kimmy's aghast, "Jell-O? Why would he want Jell-O?" Because, yes why would anyone want Jell-O unless you're younger than six and older than eighty. I did love Jule's face when Kimmy says this, because of course, she is Jell-O in this analogy and is annoyed that Kimmy is looking down at Jell-O. She tells Kimmy that Michael is more comfortable with Jell-O. Kimmy says she could be Jell-O and Jules replies, "Creme brûlée could never be could never be Jell-O." 

Kimmy tells Jules she still loves Michael and while there is truth to her wanting him to work for her father and that she wants to stay in school and have a life of her own, she would never make him do anything he didn't want to do. She asks Jules to tell Michael it's her fault and that she loves him, because she, Jules, "is the only person that I trust." Cut to Jules looking guilty. I find it a little (a lot) problematic that Kimmy wants Jules to tell Michael it's her fault...when its not! It's like when they got into the fight at the restaurant and she begged Michael to forgive her even though she did nothing wrong. I get the impression that he always has to be right and because of Kimmy's age (remember, she's only 20) it feels like she has to always be apologizing to him for her faults even though every time he gets angry with her, it's not her fault. If I were Kimmy, I would dump his ass! 

So Jules has the gall to tell Michael, "She admits that it's her fault. Totally, completely, inexcusably her fault." True, that is what Kimmy said, but Jules knows the truth and she could fix this right now, but no, she is still trying to break up the wedding, which she seems to have already accomplished. However, Michael and Kimmy still seem to want to make it work. Michael asks Jules, "Do you think she still loves me?" It takes her a few moments to answer, but she tells him that Kimmy does still love him. Michael wants Jules to tell Kimmy that he still wants to marry her if she'll have him. Good God, tell her yourself, dude! So everything slowly seems to be getting mended until Jules and Michael have a chat by the gazebo and Jules decides to make this the moment when she's going to confess her feelings for him and tell him that she loves him. She tells him she knows this "comes at a very inopportune time" (yeah, no kidding!) and wants him to "Choose me..marry me." Hmm, is this where Meredith Grey got the inspiration for her "Pick me" speech to Derek? Jules kisses him and of course (OF COURSE!) Kimmy just happens to see them. She runs off, Michael runs after her, and Jules runs after him. Kimmy's mother sees them all running and doesn't seem to be concerned that her daughter is running away in distress. They all get into cars (well, Jules steals a catering van) and continue to chase each other. I thought this was when Kimmy's terrible driving was going to come in play; that she was so upset that she has an accident, but no, nothing like that happens. Again, what was the point of making her an irresponsible driver? Oh, right, because it's so hilarious. 

Once again, Jules calls George for his advice because she can't do anything on her own. This time he's listening to a book reading at a bookstore and when his phone rings, he takes the call when he's still sitting in the audience Dude, if you're going to answer the phone, at least get up and go to a private area. Jules is screaming so loud that everyone in the bookstore can hear her and their attention goes from the author (I assume the person reading the book was the author) to George who then gets up and goes to another part of the store. After Jules gets him up to speed and tells him she and Michael kissed, George asks her, "Was there anything on the other side of that kiss that leads you to believe that this chase will end happily?" After Jules tells him Kimmy interrupted them and what was going on at the moment, he's very blunt but truthful when he says, "Michael's chasing Kimmy and you're chasing Michael? Who's chasing you? Nobody. Get it?There's your answer." Honestly, it's like George is the Voice of Reason in this movie. Why is he friends with Jules? She is a terrible person. Before hanging up, George tells her, "The wedding is at six. You have a small, but distinct window of opportunity to do the right thing."

Jules, for once, does decide to do the right thing. She catches up to Michael at the train station who went there because that's where he proposed to Kimmy, so he thought he might find her there. Jules confesses that the e-mail his boss got was written by her. She tries to rectify it by saying it wasn't supposed to get sent; that she just wanted him to see it and get mad at Kimmy. Either way she spins it, it's not good. She feels terrible about everything and compares herself to "the fungus that feeds on pond scum." Michael tells her she's even lower than that, but then takes her hand and says, "On the other hand, thank you for loving me that much" and tells her he thinks what she did is pretty flattering. Oh my God! Why does he keep sending her mixed signals? Also, why is he forgiving her so soon? If I were him, I would not invite her to the wedding, I would tell her it would be a long time before I would even consider forgiving her. The woman tried to sabotage his wedding, but for some reason, he takes it as a compliment? Huh? Honestly, I'm surprised the movie didn't have them end up together because they really deserve each other and Kimmy could have done a lot better. 

Jules assures Michael they will find Kimmy before the wedding. I forget how, but somehow she gets a tip
she went to the baseball stadium and she finds her in the bathroom stall. If I were upset, the last place I would want to go is the women's bathroom of a baseball stadium. Actually, that's the last place I want to be, regardless of how I'm feeling. There must have been a game playing because all of these women are crowded in the bathroom and are witnessing the fight Kimmy and Jules are having. In these COVID times, it's a very troubling scene. The women are cheering for Kimmy as she lets Jules have it. Jules admits, "I  tried to steal him. I lost. He doesn't love me. He loves you. I'd like to take you to the church so you can walk down the aisle and marry the man of our dreams cuz he sure wants to marry you." This makes Kimmy happy and the two women hug as the other spectators clap. 

Not loving Kimmy's dress
The last scene is the wedding. It's a nice wedding, but honestly, for billionaires, you think it would be beyond lavish and extravagant. And also, I don't like Kimmy's wedding dress. It looks cheap to me. Despite everything she's done, Jules still gets to make a speech: "I had the strangest dream. I dreamt that a psychopath was trying to break the two of you up." Kimmy and Michael just smile like it's so, no. Her speech continues: "Luckily, I woke up and I see that the world is just as it should be. For my best friend has won the best woman." Good God, she's still treating this like it's a competition? Jule's wedding present for the newly weds is to have her the two other bridesmaids (Rachel Griffiths and Carrie Present), sing "The Way You Look Tonight". I guess it's "on loan" until Kimmy and Michael find their own song (they didn't have a song already planned for their first dance?). This feels like a cheap shot from Jules, I must say. It's like she's gotta remind Michael that he had a song from her before he had one with Kimmy. 

Once the wedding is over and Kimmy and Michael are leaving, Jules is trying to say goodbye in the large
crowd of people but can't seem to get to them. But Michael comes back through the throng of people to give her a hug. The movie ends with Jules getting a call (c'mon, did she really need to take her phone (which isn't even a smart phone, so it's not like she can do anything on it) to a wedding? Seems kinda rude). Turns out it's George calling her and turns out he's actually at the wedding! Is he a wedding crasher or did he get an invitation? Hmm, now that I think about it, I don't think Jules ever told Michael the real truth about George and she never apologized to George for pulling him into that stupid lie. George has the band sing "I Say a Little Prayer For You" and he and Jules dance. It is actually pretty cute. 

And Kimmy and Michale break up less than a year later. They don't say that, but, I honestly can't see those two lasting!