Movie Review: Christmas and Holiday Flicks (And Whatever Happened to Thanksgiving)

It’s (almost) the most wonderful time of the year — holiday movie time! Poptional Reading ponders why Turkey Day is on the chopping block; plus, reviews of A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, Tower Heist, Puss in Boots, and more

The Jack O’Lanterns are finally finding their ways to the garbage — but that hasn’t stopped Christmas from making its presence known.

Even though I’m not yet ready for it, I understand why CVS would put out all of its holiday decorations now (and why Hershey’s is running the commercials where the kisses look like bells and play “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”). They want to panic you into buying stuff. There are, after all, only 48 shopping days until Christmas.

But I thought pop culture might be a little more nuanced, waiting until just the right moment — when gift-shopping anxiety is low and seasonal nostalgia is high — before unloading all of its Christmas classics.

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I was wrong.

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas came out this weekend. On November 4. It was just four days after Halloween. That’s a Christmas movie being released in theaters a full 20 days before Thanksgiving.

Someone who knows much more about box-office logic told me that there’s a method to this madness. He said that if you wait until after Thanksgiving to release a Christmas movie, you can only squeeze a few weeks out of the movie before the expiration date of December 25. It makes a certain sense to release it earlier than that; get the Harold and Kumar fans to shell out for tickets in early November, and then pick up the people in the mood for Christmas movies a few weeks later.

I guess that logic worked on me. I saw A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas. I still laughed at the goofy jokes and the silly over-use of 3D. Neil Patrick Harris humor knows no season. And, yes, it did make me want to get a jump on my Christmas shopping and buy red-and-green Hershey’s Kisses.

But something felt off about the whole thing. I can’t put my finger on it — the air wasn’t cold enough going in, the halls weren’t decked enough, I haven’t yet complained to anyone about how gross eggnog is. I just wasn’t 100 percent in the mood for a Christmas movie.

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Apparently, America wasn’t, either: The opening weekend of A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas only made a little more than $13 million, which is less than the nearly $15 million that 2D Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay made in its opening weekend in 2008. (Then again, it was kind of a soft weekend at the box office in general: Tower Heist, starring possible-Westchester-resident Ben Stiller, also opened to a disappointing $25 million. Both movies were beat out for the No. 1 spot by the second weekend of Puss in Boots.)

The problem, as I see it: Thanksgiving needs to raise its pop-cultural profile. (You’d think it’d have a leg up because everybody celebrates it, but no.) People want warm and fuzzy seasonal entertainment and businesses want to get people in a spendy mood. Thanksgiving movies can do those things, right?

Yet I challenge you to name your favorite Thanksgiving movie. Whatever happens in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is overshadowed by both the Great Pumpkin and Charlie Brown’s pathetic little Christmas tree. And, though Rankin/Bass made countless Christmas movies and even one about Easter, there are no Thanksgiving specials with their trademark claymation.

When it comes to Thanksgiving vacation, big family films usually dominate. This year, families have a choice between Hugo, Arthur Christmas, and — the one I’m most excited about — The Muppets. None of those are about the holiday taking place (though I’m sure you noticed a Christmas movie slipped in there).

Filmmakers and other pop-cultural gatekeepers: I challenge you to make Thanksgiving something that’s more than just a parade. Give us a Thanksgiving movie that we can watch from the day after Halloween until we head off into tryptophan-induced slumbers. Something good enough to stave off those classic Christmas movies for a few weeks.

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…Or we could just continue to go straight from Halloween to Christmas and keep watching The Nightmare Before Christmas every year. Either way.

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