John Lyttle on film

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The Independent Culture
All Christmas film fare totes a heavy-handed neo-Victorian moral (blame a certain Mr Dickens); yea, even such gory Ghoultide treats as Black Christmas and the psycho-Santa segment that enlivened Tales from the Crypt. They demand that you express goodwill to all men every bit as much as White Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street. It's just that rather than wring their hands (see Rudolph or Trapped in Paradise or Santa Claus: The Movie - or better yet, don't) they'll wring your neck instead. Turkey-style. That'll teach you to take the birth of Christ in the spirit intended.

The spirit intended is liable to have you retching quicker than Mummy's sage and onion cannonballs, the ones she made in October, the same month she put on the Brussels sprouts. We all know she's going to be in a vile temper, that Dad will be both legless and lazy, and the rug rats will be sick, hit one another and cry hysterically when they discover that Barbie is missing her Cheap Slut ensemble and Action Man doesn't have gripping hands. The Nightmare Before Christmas? This is The Nightmare That is Christmas.

But the morally uplifting movies want us not only to spend time with these people, but to love them too (Home Alone, Home Alone 2, A Christmas Story). Films like The Santa Claus (right) pretend that they encapsulate the true meaning of the season - give, give, give - and are bulwarks against shallow commercialisation. If that's true, how come The Santa Claus didn't put its money where its white beard is and hit cinemas in, say, June? Christmas celluloid - the biggest snow job of them all.

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