Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve

It is only fitting that I watched and blogged about this film today. Each year I try and watch at least a couple of my go to Christmas films each and every year which consists of classics such as National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Merry Christmas Charlie Brown and A Harold & Kumar Christmas. It was nice to mix it up this year with a different film in my annual line up with last year’s indie release, Christmas Eve (trailer). Christmas Eve features an ensemble cast of over a dozen individuals who find themselves stuck in a series of elevators across New York City over Christmas Eve night after a sudden blackout.

I never heard of this film before until I saw it on retailer’s shelves a couple months ago, which was surprising since it has a pretty decent cast. Turned out this only played in a limited run of theaters and grossed just under a $100,000 at the box office. As you can see on the video cover art, Patrick Stewart is front and center, but his character, Harris, has the least airtime since he is stuck in an elevator alone. I mostly was interested in this because I saw James Roday was in this film, and I am a huge Psych fan and this is the first thing I have noticed him in since that show ended nearly three years ago.

I tend to enjoy films shot in limited or single settings such as Phone Booth, 127 Hours and Buried so to see this type of film executed with an ensemble cast in multiple single settings was a twist on the trope that easily appealed to me. I read the description on the back, so to see the cast and my aforementioned history of how I enjoyed films shot in this style yielded in me making a gut decision to go in blind on Christmas Eve. I hoped it would at least be an average feel-good Christmas film where all these strangers would initially start off the night despising each other, but in the end would all embrace the spirit of Christmas and wind up in a wholesome happy ending. I guess it turned out I was both right and wrong.

Not every set of characters in each elevator is likeable, but each elevator has a unique gimmick to it. James Roday plays the character simply known as “B” and he is stuck with one Annie (Julianna Gall) as the two predictably start off instantly despising each other, but things gradually change as the night goes on. As mentioned above, Patrick Stewart is the hard-nosed kingpin boss who finds himself alone all night. A hospital elevator features one Dr. Roberts (Gary Cole) stuck with a cancer patient (Christina Chong) he just hours earlier he deemed too far along to perform surgery on. Another elevator features a boss (Max Casella) with an employee (Jon Heder) he just laid off earlier in the day. The most unique predicament is a section of an orchestra en route to a Christmas concert that is stuck together for the night.

Since there are six elevator (and one non-elevator) settings Christmas Eve is constantly switching between, not one set of characters overstays their welcome, especially in this brief hour and a half runtime. Some of the elevators are particularly fun to follow along with the shenanigans that ensue for the night, with the orchestra stealing the show when they naturally break out into a big performance in what resulted in my favorite scene of the movie. I will also give a shout out to Gary Cole in his silent-yet-powerful scene towards the end of the film. Others are kind of bland and suffered from poor dialogue. As much as I am a fan of Roday, him and Annie’s elevator was the one I enjoyed the least because it almost played along verbatim to the elevator scenes in New Years Eve from a few years ago, but with Roday upping the creep factor exponentially so.

Director Mitch Davis and Tyler McKellar both wrote the film, but both only have a handful of prior writing credits to their name and I can imagine that this movie could have benefitted greatly with a more veteran presence to handle so many characters. Again, not all the dialogue is bad as I enjoyed the characters and exchanges in about half of the elevators, but it seemed the writers spread themselves a bit thin here. I will give them props however with how all the ‘endings’ for each elevator plays out in the final scenes. Not each elevator has the stereotypical feel-good ending I was expecting. Some do, while others have kind of bummer endings, while others left me feeling mixed and inconclusive. I will give the writers props for going in that direction as I did not see it coming and it kept me more intrigued on how each setting played out.

There are not a ton of bonus features on the DVD. There are several mini-interviews with the cast and crew members and a deleted scene tallying up to a little under a half hour. I would not say any really stand out, except for Patrick Stewart who I could listen to talk about anything and never get bored. Christmas Eve did not wind up as the sleeper hit holiday movie that blew me away, not that I was anticipating that. It would be overdoing it to say I wholeheartedly recommend adding it to your regular Christmas movie line up, but it would also overdo it to say this is a complete dud. I would say it is just above passable, but definitely not must-see. However, if you happen to stumble upon it on cable, Netflix or at a Redbox during the holidays I would easily throw it in your ‘wild card’ mix like I did this year for a breather from the usual holiday favorites.

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

12 Angry Men (1957)
12 Rounds 3: Lockdown
21 Jump Street
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Atari: Game Over
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Batman: The Killing Joke
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
Bounty Hunters
Cabin in the Woods
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Clint Eastwood 11-pack Special
The Condemned 2
Dirty Work
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
The Fighter
For Love of the Game
Good Will Hunting
Hercules: Reborn
Man of Steel
Marine 3 & 4
Mortal Kombat
The Replacements
Rocky I-VII
Running Films Part 1
Running Films Part 2
San Andreas
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Steve Jobs
Source Code
Star Trek I-XII
Take Me Home Tonight
The Tooth Fairy 1 & 2
Veronica Mars
The Wrestler (2008)
X-Men: Days of Future Past

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