As we trek through the December of a dark and dreary year, we’re all trying to look forward to the bright and happy day that is the 25th. Christmas is a special time, whether it’s a religious tradition or just an excuse to hang out with the friends and family you love (or at least tolerate). And with Christmas comes mountains of fun customs and practices like decorating the tree, singing carols and watching a butt-load of Christmas movies and specials from times gone by. Christmas Movies are a mainstay of the holiday season and there are some true classics out there. But what about modern Christmas movies?
One might say that holiday films have gone by the wayside in recent years, that the ones produced now are lacking the magic found in some of our tried and true favourites. Most of the time, that’s a point that’s hard to argue. Many Christmas films released today usually seem insincere and immediately dated with characters that feel more like plot devices than actual characters. This cannot be said of Christmas Eve, now available on DVD. Directed by Mitch Davis, the film showcases the true meaning of the season: connecting with the people around you.
As the title suggests, the movie takes place on the evening of December 24th in Manhattan, where an unforeseen accident causes a power outage in a four block radius, affecting a series of office and residential buildings. Each of these buildings features a group or pairing of folks trapped on an elevator for the duration of the outage. Not the most ideal way to spend Christmas Eve. This is especially true for Jon Heder’s character who plays a man who’s just been fired and is stuck with the very man who fired him (played by Max Casella). Patrick Stuart plays an Ebeneezer Scrooge-type real estate tycoon who’s stranded alone on an unstable service elevator of a building that’s under construction. Julianna Guill and James Roday are two strangers stuck on a residential elevator. Gary Cole is a surgeon who’s trapped with a sleeping patient he decided not to remove a tumour from as the surgery might kill her instantly. There’s also a group of musicians stuck on a freight elevator in a music hall and a hodge podge of unlikely friends trapped in the elevator of an ad agency. All of these groupings must welcome Christmas in together and maybe find out things about themselves and each other that will change their lives forever.
While the plot may sound a tad disingenuous, the concept of Christmas Eve is quite novel. The framework of the movie brings the viewer a series of short plays that are revisited throughout the story and are somehow tied together in an unpredictable way. This separation of character groupings allows Davis to have different tones and themes in his piece without it ever feeling jarring or incorrect. Each story has its own feel and presents us with a unique set of characters who are making very different discoveries while trapped in their tiny little boxes. The idea of someone being forced to share a moment with someone they don’t really know is effectively explored and provides a number of actors a platform to shine.
There are many who will see this film and be blown away by Patrick Stewart’s performance, who is alone for most of his time in the movie. He has to do all the heavy lifting of his story and he succeeds in providing a strong showing as he deals with his own relevance in the greater scheme of things. While his performance is quite good, it’s not the only one that stands out in this picture.
Jon Heder, an actor who’s been plagued by his notoriety as Napoleon Dynamite for over a decade, gets to bring forth an honest, realistic character who you can instantly relate to. His chemistry with Max Casella is unmistakable and the two deliver a satisfying vignette. James Roday and Julianna Guill are also very enjoyable as the wannabe photographer and quiet introvert respectively. What could’ve been a very cliche scene turned into something much more true to life, leaving the characters with more questions about self than with a standard ending. Gary Cole also brings forth a strong performance as anyone familiar with his work would expect. It’s a very strong ensemble cast that presents layered and complex characters which enriched the film overall.
The DVD offering of Christmas Eve has a small collection of special features to check out, including a commentary track from writer/director Mitch Davis as well as a number of cast interviews. With the exception of the commentary track, all the featurettes are short clips that can be digested in under a half hour. While not the most in depth for you cinephiles out there, the quick interviews do give a glimpse into the performances. There’s even a quick interview with the film’s producers Shawn and Larry King (yes, that Larry King) where the couple reveal their own memory of being trapped in an Elevator over a decade ago. There’s nothing mind blowing here, but the special features are a nice bonus to an already enjoyable film.
If you’re looking for a contemporary Christmas film that’s got interesting characters as well as some heart, you can’t go wrong with Christmas Eve. The movie is available now from Anchor Bay Entertainment wherever DVDs are sold.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!