Christmastime has its own set of fantasy movies. It seems that we enjoy hearing of the magic of strange species such as elves and flying reindeer and Whos, of adventure into alien landscapes such as polar factories and the insides of chimneys and Whoville. People like these things in December whether or not they hold a prejudice against fantasy the rest of the year.
I’ve selected for your consideration three fun Christmas movies with fantasy themes that the whole family can enjoy.
The Polar Express
Through breathtaking animation, with magnificent music, and in an extraordinary train, The Polar Express takes us on a wild and frankly dangerous ride to the North Pole. (Those kids really should have worn seat belts, and allowing them to run the train and walk along the roof was, I’m sure, against several federal regulations. Another thing: You know, I think the railroad tracks were unsafe, too. Train on a frozen lake? Really? The cars were jack-knifing.)
In this fantasy, the rules of physics are bent but plenty. Time is magically made to stay at five ‘til midnight. This turns out to be a good thing because we get a chance to see a factory town (elf size), a singing Steven Tyler (elf size), and a Christmas tree (enormous size).
Not just time but gravity gets a magical adjustment. For instance, when the star falls off the tree, the elves dropping down to catch it fall faster than the star. (Galileo would cringe. Let’s not tell him.)
The gist is believing. The vehicle is amazing computer animation. And the cherry on top is Josh Groban singing.
This movie is like a rich dessert: smooth and luscious but too much and you get that sugar crash.
The Santa Clause
The North Pole comes to us when Tim Allen’s character (Scott Calvin) morphs into Santa Claus. Changing from one person to another could be considered science fiction but in this movie it comes about though some kind of magic legal contract after the accidental death of Santa. (It always bothers me that the elves shed nary a tear at the previous Santa’s demise. Cold.)
I think Mr. Calvin could have had a good chance of having the contract – or ‘clause – tossed out if he had taken it to court. But as he says in the movie, his ex had a better lawyer.
The change to Santa ruined his health, or at least his physique. He lost visitation rights to his son – another legal problem for our hero. Not to be stopped by anything as trivial as a judge’s decree, Mr. Calvin abducts his own son across state lines. (He takes him to the North Pole.) This is kidnapping, which as we know is illegal (more problems with the law) and should not be excused. Then Scott, aka Santa, breaks out of jail.
If all this was not bad enough, I’m sure he didn’t have his flight plan filed with the FAA.
Whatever, he gets off easy because his ex gets a Mystery Date game.
I mean, why not?
All in all, The Santa Clause turns out to be a comedic fantasy about being a better dad… or at least a more careful though not necessarily legal Santa.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
In the book, the animated short, and the feature length movie, How the Grinch Stole Christmas is packed with the fantastic imagination of Dr. Seuss. I like the Jim Carrey movie for entertaining the whole family from tots to elders. (He probably should have had the Oscar.)
The elements of a good fantasy are here. There’s an alien world with alien people and an even more alien villain. I mean, he’s green.
These aliens do have a holiday in common with us, that being Christmas… duh. I’d like to say they have an alien attitude about it, but they don’t. Christmas in Whoville is commercialized to the point of panic.
By the end, the Whos and our villain-turned-hero have come as a community to a better sense of Christmas: Family, friends, giving, and singing around a Christmas tree that’s gravely off plumb.
It’s just as well the writers didn’t bring in the true meaning of Christmas – Jesus – because I don’t like fluffy fantasies mixed with reality. The theological and relational aspects of Jesus in a fantasy world are better left to more serious fare.
Now having said all that, this movie is a hoot. I like Martha May and the back story of the Grinch, the selling Cindy Lou has to do to get the Grinch to come to the Who-bi-lation and his resistance to said selling, the dog Max, the Grinch’s Lair, and the Grinch’s alphabetical hatred of his fellow Whos. Behind all that, the whole set of Whoville is a wonder to behold.
My family watches these Christmas movies from after Thanksgiving to near December 25th. We go for the more touching and relevant movies right before Christmas: A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life (ah, Pa, that one makes me cry), and then on Christmas Eve night The Nativity Story. Try these three, too.