Deck the halls with murder, drugs, and erectile dysfunction. Once again, Hollywood has lined up an interesting array of films for Christmas week that donâ€™t quite get me in the holiday spirit. We should be grateful that there arenâ€™t actual holiday movies among the offerings; Iâ€™m sure weâ€™re all unpacking our DVDs of Four Christmases to satisfy that need. But I wonder just how popular the slate of Yuletide releases will shape up to be.
Quite a few movies are opening December 22, just in time for the family to gather. I can see taking the relatives to Little Fockers, though by now the franchise looks as stale as re-gifted fruitcake. But wait until Grandma and Grandpaâ€™s reaction as Ben Stiller stabs a needle into Robert De Niroâ€™s drug-induced erection. Try explaining this to your children, and see if they still have dreams of sugar plum fairies. The raunchy PG-13 comedy, even one with a younger generation of Fockers, seems like a hard sell for a multigenerational family movie on Christmas. But Iâ€™ve found that studios tend to push the envelope for Santaâ€™s big day.
And they like to gift us with Oscar bait. This year, the Coen brothers return to the West with True Grit, which hinges on a young girlâ€™s father shot in cold blood. Their last effort in the West, No Country for Old Men, was chilling and violent. From the trailer, True Grit looks more cemented to its genre, with hallmarks like a big, bad sheriff, a quaint desert town, and plenty of gunshots and horses. Matt Damon offers some comic relief, but the rating promises â€śintense sequences of Western violenceâ€ť and â€śdisturbing images.â€ť
Also on the marquee: An actor and a country singer, both struggling with their own addictions, question how to survive and what course to take. This describes Sofia Coppolaâ€™s Somewhere and Country Strong with Gwyneth Paltrow, both in limited release. The latter will be inspirational, right down to its title song, but stillâ€”two options for pill-popping over the holidays.
Then thereâ€™s Rabbit Hole, which expands from its limited release on December 25. Itâ€™s not quite as morose as previously Oscar contenders (Christmas with The Reader, anyone?). But the loss of Nicole Kidmanâ€™s son hovers over a grieving family. From the wackos in Little Fockers to the missing son in Rabbit Hole, Christmas movies really have it in for the stable family.
If you want a film for the kids, thereâ€™s always Gulliverâ€™s Travelsâ€¦ starring renowned classics actor Jack Black. Judging by the trailer, it looks like the progeny of School of Rock and Land of the Lost. So perhaps we should be grateful for non-conventional holiday fare. Tis the season for dysfunction.