Summit Entertainment via Everett Entertainment
For all the good tidings, joy to all men, and general warm fuzziness that the Christmas season ushers in every year, it sure delivers a load of clunkers to the cinema. There’s a reason why we’d rather watch a full 24 hours of A Christmas Story every year than venture into the holiday-themed DVD aisle, a tinsel-wrapped wasteland. The sad truth is that new Christmas movies are largely terrible, and before you can type out a caps-locked “BAH HUMBUG,” think about the last Christmas movie you saw that could become a classic. One that could truly endure through the years, and one that you could see yourself revisiting every time December rolls around. For our money, the last good Christmas film was Arthur Christmas, and before that… well, good luck finding anything really special that has came out since 2003’s Elf.
But don’t lose all hope just yet. It may be early to tell, but there’s a north star shining on the horizon. One that is ready to bring a Christmas miracle to theaters this year. The trio that delivered the woefully under-seen dramedy 50/50 might save Christmas. Director Jonathan Levine is teaming up with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen once again for a Christmas comedy. The film will follow three childhood friends who reunite in New York City for an annual Christmas Eve outing. Rogen and Gordon-Levitt will play two of the friends, while the third role has yet to be cast. With the pedigree of all involved, this yet untitled Christmas film has the strong chance of actually becoming something really worthwhile, and all we have to do is look back at 50/50 to see why.
50/50 was about real people and real relationships
Many Christmas films often take shortcuts rather than really focusing on relationships that feel authentic. Many involve a family getting together for the holiday, only to constantly bicker at each other until they finally decide to find the “Spirit of the Christmas” in the last 20 minutes of the movie, and enjoy what’s left of the holiday, while the audience wonders why these people, who clearly hate each other, bothered to see each other in the first place. On the flipside, the relationships in 50/50, and especially the central relationship between Adam (Gordon-Levitt) and Kyle (Rogen), feel authentic, so when they do fight it actually matters. The film says that they’re childhood friends, and it goes out of its way to make us believe it.
It wasn’t too saccharine or melodramatic
Obviously the holidays season is the most joyous time of year. But too many films lay on the schmaltz too thick, winding up way too sweet and saccharine. Good Christmas films usually have at least a thin thread of cynicism running through, and 50/50 deals with its subject matter with an even tone. Even though it’s a film about cancer, it doesn’t spend all of its time hanging its head and moping through the story, but it also doesn’t make light of the diagnosis. It showcases the ups and downs of dealing with something that serious, and Levine can do the same thing with his film. Imagine having a scene as heartrending as Adam’s midnight phone-call to Katharine (Anna Kendrick), or one as funny as Adam shaving his head in a Christmas film.
It did romance better than Love Actually
Love Actually, for all its manic effort, spent too much time ping-ponging between too many different perspectives and relationships to make any one of it’s many couples feel real or authentic. The film just says each couple has found love on Christmas, without giving the audience time to believe it. 50/50, on the other hand, allows its central romance to breathe. So when the film eases us into the relationship between Adam and Katherine, we buy their budding affection way more than many of the half baked relationships in most Christmas films.