Family Christmas Movie: Act I

Family Christmas Insanity 1980s Style

Family Christmas Insanity 1980s Style

We’ve seen so many holiday movies, haven’t we? They all seem to blend into little sub-genres. There’s the one about the fast track guy who has lost the meaning of Christmas, and the other about the woman (or the kid or the man) who undergoes a crisis at the holidays, but who is rescued from the depths when she (or he or they) finally realizes that Christmas isn’t about gifts, but friends.

And then there’s the family Christmas movie. These usually feature an odd family, old family tensions, or a squirrel in the Christmas tree and a toupee afire.

The following movie treatment features a guy visiting his quirky family at Christmas. The issues involved, as well as the joys, stresses, food, and alcoholic coping medicine.

Should you try to imagine the main character, you might envision a slightly more sedate Jack Black or a darker Sean Austin (Samwise Gamgee). Someone might describe or compare our main character with these men, but only after that someone has had a bunch of whiskey and passed from that curious period of alcoholic creativity into the zone of slurry dyslexia, unremembered words, and generalized comparisons.

We first meet our guy in the airport, since most good family holiday movies start before the family has been introduced. We need to learn a little about the main character before the influence of his family.

He runs into an acquaintance at the airport and they talk about their upcoming family visits. There is a nod and smile that says both a lot and nothing. We’ll call this foreshadowing.

On the nine-hour flight to the US, our guy’s character is explained through polite interactions with flight staff as well his helpful attitude towards a group of old women who have chosen to press him into service. He spends more time lifting bags, retrieving bags, opening bottles, and generally at work than he really should be on a flight he has paid for. He does this all with a smile that is hiding slight annoyance. Nevertheless, he clearly likes helping the group he now refers to as “his old women.”

Before his flight ends, he will walk in on one of them pooping in the bathroom.

We’ll call this more foreshadowing.

Enter Parents

The entrance of the character’s family is an important moment in the family Christmas movie. Their initial interactions are often too-witty or too-tense, over-emphasizing that the family is out of the ordinary or constantly at strife. The good movies balance it better, which allows the viewer to commiserate and relate with them.

Our main dude meets his parents at the airport and their discussion focuses on how the flight was early, how they are early, how his bags were on the belt early, what he wants for dinner, and what the meals were on the flight. This all suggests the family’s total obsession with being early and their lifelong devotion to what they are going to eat when they get there.

The drive from the airport allows some of the family’s quirks to be displayed. The father figure accidentally switches off the headlights and can’t figure out how to get them back on. And as they fly down the pitch dark highway in mounting terror, the mother character gives the father directions on how to turn them back on, but unfortunately Stephen Hawking isn’t there to help them. They are forced to pull over and find the lights, which is done so by the main character, who now wants to be out of a car and into pajamas more than at any other time in his life.

The parents begin a two-perspective story in which the father character tells the main story, only calling upon the mother character to give descriptive superlatives and intensifiers for back up. Like this:

Dad: “Wasn’t it a beautiful hotel?”

Mom: “So beautiful!”


Dad: “Wasn’t that the best flan we ever had.”

Mom: “It was the best best best best best flan we ever had. Best.”

Amid the main character’s consistent repetition of answers due to the father character’s untreated hearing loss, he silently questions to himself whether other families are this crazy. Thus the viewer can respond with a resounding, “Um. Yes.” then the main character yawns deeply. And we know that jetlag’s first nasty pincer has gripped onto his shoulder.

The rest of the prologue will depict the main character’s  desperate struggle to pay attention to his parents while he slips under the drugged blanket of jetlag. The father character tells him roughly every piece of information he has imbibed over the last two months, changing subjects so often that it simply has to be intentional. The mother begins to list his week’s duties. The main character mentions several times that he is no physical state to comprehend, respond to, or remember anything that is being said, but these lamentations are largely ignored.

The evening culminates in a phone conversation the father character has with a former neighbor on the subject of American football. Every opinion the father voices is contested by the mother, who has begun her own dialogue on the subject while cleaning a laundry room within earshot. The father character never realizes this.

In the final scene of this prologue, the main character is stumbling up the steps to bed when his mother reminds him of the week’s planned familial shenanigans. She mentions his brother and sisters, his aunts, Grandmom, nieces, nephews, and cousins. And he is reminded of the big family affair on Christmas Eve.

And as he collapses into a deep sleep induced by going from one place to another place far away, he reflects on what has been said. More family equals more crazy people. But he instead focuses on the advantages, that with the entrance of the sibling characters, he will have back up.

End scene.

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