It’s the start of the festive season, and that means it’s time for an array of made-for-television romantic comedies with holiday themes.
There is no shortage of these movies and each year, new titles are added. Many are filmed in Canada, especially in British Columbia. Summerland has been used as the setting for several of these movies, as have other communities.
However, not all holiday movies are equal. In some cases, filmmakers have chosen to play it safe, but others have been pushing the limits of this film genre.
If the latest holiday movie selection seems a bit daunting, here is a checklist to use while watching. The scores are based on the degree of risk or innovation in various categories.
0 points: A small town in a U.S. location with cold weather and snow
5 points: A major U.S. city
10 points: Southern Florida, Arizona, southern California or Hawaii
20 points: Europe, Australia or New Zealand
30 points: Asia, Africa or South America
50 points: Any Canadian location, featuring Canadian customs and traditions
0 points: Winter-themed family activities such as carolling, tree decorating, baking cookies, snow activities, holiday dinner, etc.
10 points: Community events such as markets, talent shows or gingerbread house contests
20 points: Religious activities in a place of worship or in the home
30 points: Christmas traditions representing unique ethnic or cultural groups
50 points: Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice or Festivus activities and customs
0 points: Both main characters are white, as are most of the supporting cast members
10 points: At least one main character is a member of a visible minority group
20 points: The two main characters are a same-sex couple
30 points: At least one of the main characters has a disability (not a temporary injury)
50 points: The main characters are seniors
Relationships and families
0 points: Both main characters have not been married or are widowed without children
10 points: One or both main characters have been divorced
25 points: One or both main characters have a child or children
50 points: There are messy or uncomfortable dynamics with one or more people in the extended family of grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and siblings
0 points: A main character runs a bakery, restaurant, boutique shop, toy store or small inn
10 points: A main character is a musician, teacher, firefighter, social worker or health care worker
20 points: A main character works in a corporate leadership role and remains happy in that role at the end of the story
30 points: A main character works on a factory floor, as a trades worker or as a low-level to mid-level office worker and remains in this role at the end
50 points: Jobs and careers, whether past or present, are not mentioned
Some cliches show up in holiday stories. Subtract 10 points for each of the following:
• Someone says, “This is amazing,” after one bite of a food or one sip of a beverage
• Someone says, “Christmas was always so special when I was young”
• Main characters bake cookies or decorate a tree together
• A business has a Christmas-themed name such as Mistletoe, Jingle Bells or Dasher
• A character has a holiday-themed name such as Rudolph, Holly, Ivy or Carol, or a nickname such as Grinch or Scrooge
• A mysterious character who looks like Santa seems to have some magical powers
• There is an effort to save a small family-run business from a large corporate takeover
• An office professional gives up his or her career to move to a small town
• The story is an adaptation of A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
• There is a tree-lighting ceremony
Of course this checklist might not be perfect.
A holiday movie, set in small-town Manitoba and featuring a romance between two seniors with dysfunctional families, celebrating Festivus, would score high points on this checklist, but there’s no guarantee it would be an outstanding production.
In the end, a good movie is a good movie.
John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.