Monday, November 12, 2007

movie review--fred claus

So, if I should ever go on about how Christmas stuff gets started far too early, and go on about how I wish we could at least make to, oh, Independence Day without having to put up with anything Santa, you can point out to me that a good week-and-a-half before Thanksgiving of this year, I went to a movie theater and saw "Fred Claus"

I could probably point out that there was little else worth watching, but that wouldn't really be a good argument, would it?

Anyway, "Fred Claus"...

It was a pretty good movie, as long as you keep in mind the types of actors in it. Vaughn can do funny stuff, and having him as the black sheep of the Claus family works. Kevin Spacey as the 'bad guy' efficiency expert was good, and they sort of have some fun with his role in the last Superman movie. Another scene I liked was the 'Siblings Anonymous' one, where the less-famous brothers of famous people are getting group therapy.

There is little really original in it. Christmas is once again in jeopardy because Santa may not be able to do his rounds, since he's not making quotas and the whole operation may be moved to the South Pole, or some such thing. Santa's operation is, of course, state of the art, and with some kind of giant magical snowglobe through which a person may look anywhere on earth and even into the past.

The religious imagery and message of Christmas is almost completely lost in it, but not quite. Santa is identified as a saint, though what that may have meant is unclear. We see him as a child, one who is selfless and kind but not overly observant--his ideas of helping others may not be well informed on how may be best to help them. The Christmas music in the movie is also almost completely Santa-related, with the sole exception I remember being a nice rendition of "Silent Night", but even that scene had little to do with Christ and Christmas. It was used more as mood-music then as fitting the words.

Maybe "Talladega Nights" used up their quotas of references to the Baby Jesus, because I can't remember even one in this movie, except the before-mentioned "Silent Night".

One of the main messages of the movie has to do with the whole "naughty and nice" thing. Fred's job is to take a small dossier-like summary of the kid's year and so stamp each one 'naughty' or 'nice', with the naughty kids being exempt from getting gifts. In one scene, we see Fred indiscriminately stamping 'nice' for each kids without even reading about them. Later, he tells his brother that there are no naughty kids, that each kid deserves a gift.

One could really have some fun with the concept of "deserving a gift". We probably do use the word 'gift' in such a way, but at it's core, I rather think that the idea of 'gift' is something that isn't deserved, isn't earned, but given anyway. If we do deserve something, it may be merited as an award, or earned as a wage, but it's not really a gift anymore.

But the whole idea of there being no naughty or bad kids is outrageous. This isn't a slam on children and childhood, it's the truth--there are children out there who are not good children, and while there may be external causes that effects them, in the end they are simply bad kids. Period. They're selfish, they are rebellious and disobedient, they lie and steal and do things they shouldn't do.

That message of "Fred Claus" is some kind of simplified, idealized, feel-good message, but without any kind of support.

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