Christmas Eve

Posted on December 4, 2015 at 12:00 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some peril, thematic elements and language
Profanity: Some strong and crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Sad terminal diagnosis, gun, some tense confrontations
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: December 4, 2015

It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but the Christmas season is also the most hectic and the most fraught. Our to-do lists are overwhelming. Our expectations are even more so. And then there are the expectations of others. Everyone who celebrates Christmas expects at least a little magic around December 25th. Everyone, even the most cynical among us, wants to believe. Like Scrooge, we want to wake up as merry as a schoolboy and like the Grinch, we want our heart to grow.

In the gentle dramedy “Christmas Eve,” six very different groups of people get that chance. They deal in the most literal terms with life and death. There is love and loss and reconciliation. And it all happens because a guy runs his repair truck (labeled “Deus ex Machina”) into a power station and knocked out the electricity, so that six elevators get stuck and the people in them are trapped.

Patrick Stewart plays a wealthy man used to barking orders at cowering underlings. He is trapped by himself in a precarious construction elevator. The others are in groups. One is in a hospital elevator with orderlies, a nurse (played by Shawn King, the wife of producer Larry King — yes, that Larry King), a doctor (Gary Cole),a and an unconscious post-surgery patient.

In an apartment building, an outgoing photographer and a shy young woman are stuck together. A classical music ensemble is trapped together on the way to a performance. There is a lot of artistic temperament in a crowded space and one of them (Cheryl Hines) has a gun.

In another elevator, an IT guy who has just been laid off (Jon Heder) is trapped in an elevator with the boss who just gave him the bad news — on Christmas Eve. And in a shopping mall, two silly girls are trapped between brains and brawn. Their elevator includes a guy with a lot of muscles and tattoos who does not say much, a guy with some OCD issues and a lot of hand sanitizer, and a guy who could do very well on Jeopardy.

Before the power station can go back on line, the repair truck guy has to be rescued in a very complicated maneuver. So that gives us time to go back and forth as the temporary (but not as temporary as they intended to be) inhabitants of the elevators worry about everything from bodily functions to existential issues (I suppose bodily functions are a kind of existential issue).

As one might expect from the unwieldy construct, the movie is very uneven, careening back and forth between “Love Boat” level corny situations to a few moments of surprising insight. We are not surprised when the photographer gives the shy young woman a makeover and takes her picture. But we are at what happens next. The doctor was hoping he would be far from the hospital by the time his patient woke up and had to hear some bad news. But they are in the elevator so long that he ends up having to tell her himself, and the moment is sensitively handled. The weakest elements are the slapstick-ish rescue of the man who hit the power station and the interaction between the laid-off employee and his now-former boss, which requires a suspension of disbelief even Christmas cannot excuse. At its worst, it feels like a late-season “Love Boat” episode crossed with a late-night Hallmark Christmas movie, but at its best it reminds us that even in this busy season, we need to stop to smell the pine needles.

Parents should know that this film includes crude bathroom humor, some strong language, peril, gunshots, a sad terminal diagnosis, and tense confrontations.

Family discussion: Which of these people would you most like to be stuck with? What was the most important lesson learned by the characters? Which one surprised you the most?

If you like this, try: “New Year’s Eve” and “Valentine’s Day”

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Holidays Movies -- format Spiritual films

Trailer: “Christmas Eve” with Patrick Stewart, Gary Cole, and Jon Heder

Posted on November 12, 2015 at 8:00 am

When a power outage traps six different groups of New Yorkers inside elevators on Christmas Eve, they find that laughter, romance, and a little holiday magic will get them through – and change their lives in unexpected ways.

Sometimes life has to stop for us to pay attention.

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Trailers, Previews, and Clips

Monstrous Holiday: New Halloween Movie For Kids

Posted on October 27, 2013 at 3:24 pm

In Monsterous Holiday a young inventor named Andy reaches out to his neighbor Doctor Frankenstein to help him win the upcoming science fair. But, finding the Doctor not to be at home, he meets the next best thing, Frankenstein’s monster; who turns out to be a teenager like himself. While Frankenstein takes Andy’s place on the football team, Andy uses Frankenstein’s knowledge and lab to find an invention for the fair. But when he inadvertently creates a monster of his own, they must work together to save the town and Halloween.

I have a copy to give away! Send me an email at with “Monstrous” in the subject line and tell me what you’re wearing this Halloween. Don’t forget your address! I’ll pick a winner on November 2. Good luck! (US addresses only)

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Animation Holidays

When in Rome

Posted on June 15, 2010 at 8:00 am

An exceptionally strong cast makes this fantasy romantic comedy trifle pleasantly watchable despite its chick-lit conventions. Kristen Bell is Beth, the (of course) supremely competent museum “curator,” who is so devoted to her work that she has never figured out the love thing. She is (of course) not just humiliatingly re-dumped by her ex (the always-engaging Lee Pace) in the middle of a big art gala but — just to make this a major chick-flick tragedy — she also breaks the heel of her boot at the same time. And she has a mean boss (Anjelica Houston). This officially makes her the Cinderella of the movie.

Enter Prince Charming, late and with a loud and inappropriate ringtone. That’s Josh Duhamel as Nick, who is some sort of sportswriter. And they meet at a ball, or close enough, the grand wedding of Beth’s sister to a gorgeous Italian she just met. No evil stepsisters here.) Maid of honor, meet best man. But Beth, all too ready to assume the worst about love, runs away from Nick as fast as her Louboutins can go, stopping to grab four coins from the Fountain of Love to show her defiance of all things romantic.

Enter the complication: it seems that if you remove a coin thrown by a man into the Fountain of Love, you become the object of his desire. So, back in New York and with the Big Gala coming up at the museum, Beth finds herself being something between stalked and chased by: Danny DeVito as the sausage king who sends her a basket of “encased meats,” Will Arnett as an artist who paints an enormous nude portrait of Beth on the side of a building, Jon (“Napoleon Dynamite”) Heder as a street magician who can make the audience’s patience and good will disappear, and Dax Shepherd as a guy who is unabashedly way too into himself.

There’s a lot wrong with this movie. Just for the record, I do not know what the people who made this film think curators do, but in this world party-planning for cultivation of donors seems to be Beth’s primary obligation. Anyone who works in any capacity at an art museum will have more edge and style to her clothes than Beth does, with a particularly unfortunate dress in the big denouement that looks like collision of two of the biggest fashion catastrophes of all time: the 1970’s and bridesmaid’s gowns. The movie promises much more humor from a tiny little car, some pratfalls, a confused priest, a museum exhibit about pain(!), a restaurant in the dark, the characteristics of the four suitors, and the entire premise than it delivers. But the deftness of Bell and especially Duhamel manages to make clumsiness seem a little romantic and rather sweet.

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Comedy Fantasy Romance
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