Monday, December 27, 2010

Time I Want Back

One of the inevitabilities of the holiday season is the glut of Christmas-themed movies, specials, and television shows.  Some are good, some are so-so, and others notoriously bad.  I would like to begin this entry by talking about the absolute worst Christmas special in existence, The Star Wars Christmas Special.  I'm not an expert on television and film, so there may be another, more mediocre Christmas offering, but that is extremely doubtful.

The movie revolves around Chewbacca and his family who he is trying to reunite with so that they can celebrate "Life Day."   Chewbacca's family, who were never even mentioned in any of the Star Wars movies as far as I can recall,  are introduced to the viewer in the opening scenes of the movie.  These scenes contain very little entertainment value.  After the necessary introductions, Chewbacca's wife Mala, father Itchy, and his unfortunately named son Lumpy, communicate through a series of growls and grunts.  In order to figure out what they are saying, one needs to interpret their body language and there is little payoff for the effort.  After some primal howling, presumably because Chewbacca might not make it home for "Life Day", Mala calls up R2D2 and Luke Skywalker to see if they know where Chewy is.  Thus the cameos by the more beloved characters are injected into the plot.

From there things go more downhill, not that it had far to go.  There are a number of reasons why this special is one big flop.  One of the primary reasons why it dragged on is that the audience has no investment in Chewy's attempts to get home.  His family is unknown to the viewer, and their grunts and howls do nothing to endear them.  Nor is it really explained what "Life Day" is or what significance it has to his people.  To be frank I couldn't have cared less whether or not Chewy got home in time.  I think that it was a strategic error for George Lucas to write a special centered around new characters which the audience doesn't have a history with.  Also, the fact that their language requires body language interpretation is another stumbling block that Lucas should have anticipated.  Another aspect that bothers me is the fact that he used a clichéd "I'll be home for Christmas" plot rather than being a trifle more inventive.  In fact the whole special reeks of laziness, from the pedestrian storyline to the second-rate special effects.

One of the reasons that my boyfriend wanted to watch the special is that Lucas tried very hard to suppress it after it first aired.  He was rightfully embarrassed and felt that this misstep might jeopardize future box office successes, so he did everything in his power to stop the public from viewing it.  I wish he had been more creative, and that the hour and a half that I spent watching it was used more productively.  There are other specials out there that use tried and true holiday plots that still manage to bring something new to the table.  For instance, how many good productions have been based upon A Christmas Carol?  Also, there are other Christmas specials that introduce new characters/plots, but those are few and far between.  What bothers me is that Christmas seems to be a bit of a cash grab where studios (movie, television and music) pawn off second-rate material.  It makes movies like The Nightmare Before Christmas and other great holiday movies seem like unlikely masterpieces. Maybe I should just stick to the classics and leave the curiosity to more adventurous people. 



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