Billy Jackson- Erik Von Detton [went to play a heartthrob/jerk in "Princess Diaries"]
Sarah Jackson- Yvonne Zima [had a tiny role in "Iron-Man 3" I don't recall]
Henry- Jackson- Robert Hays [from "Airplane!"]
Molly Jackson- Bess Armstrong
Uncle David- Robert Curtis Brown [he's from Bucks County PA- where I grew up!! :P ]
Aunt Caroline- Robin Riker
Cousin Jacey- Julia Whelan
I may have mentioned this briefly in one of my compilation Christmas entries, but after watching the movie this year, I decided to do one final write-up.
For all I know, I might not be able to see it next year. And even if it's still on YouTube, I don't know if I'm going to have this same feeling next year. I would have waited for the 20th anniversary of this movie to write this otherwise.
I first saw this movie when it first came out and for some time, I watched it every time it aired... then it just stopped showing... a couple years ago, it made a comeback... only to disappear again.
But whenever it came back, there was much rejoicing on my part.
Rewatching it for the 2nd year since someone put it on YouTube, I couldn't help but get nostalgic over it. Just seeing the Jackson family room decorated for Christmas, I felt like I was home. That warm and fuzzy feeling came back and stayed for me throughout the picture.
Billy Jackson (Erik Von Detton) is a 13-year old teen who lives in a small town on the east coast with his parents and his younger sister, Sarah. His dad owns the general store, one of many small businesses that are the trademark of the town. It's a place where everyone is very close and knows each other. As of the beginning of this movie, this is a notion that Billy doesn't quite appreciate, but will grow to with time.
And because this is a Christmas movie, it needs to be added that he lacks in Christmas spirit as well. So being the narrator of the town's annual Christmas pageant is an occupation he begrudges.
Christmas Day is more or less a disaster. Billy's Uncle David, Aunt Caroline and his cousin, Jacey, are visiting. Back in the day, his dad and his uncle worked together in the general store, then owned by their father. But after his father died, a rift occurred, so David left town and became a successful businessman. Now he's back with the mind to bring a super mall to the town-- something that many of the town's denizens do not want because it'd be disastrous for all the town's small businesses and their owners.
And as with a lot of family gatherings, a lot of arguing occurs.
Including one between Billy and his sister Sarah, which ends with both of them wishing it was Christmas every day (Sarah meant it for real, Billy did it sarcastically).
Either way, the wish was granted and it was Christmas again.
Sooner or later, Billy had to learn that only he can stop it from being Christmas every day. He had to change and with changes he made to his life, he'd affect so many others.
[Kinda like "Groundhog's Day" but with Christmas instead]
Thoughts and Comments:
Looking at this now, there are some aspects about this movie that don't sit quite right.
This year in particular, I had a couple of moments where I was groaning and rolling my eyes at our protagonist. He went through a phase where he was renting movies (what the heck is Blockbuster doing open on Christmas?!) and imitating actors from westerns and kung fu movies. Most of it was standing up to the school bully Joey and trying to steal away his girlfriend Diane... none of which worked. Just cringe-worthy garbage. I realize it's a made-for-TV movie so it's not perfect, but still...
Another aspect is how dark it gets at points.
Almost every day we have Christmas (5 of 7 days), there's a big argument in the family about the value mall. Differences of values between the brothers and imperfections of the marriages beginning to show... it feels like the world's going to end and the rifts that form can never be fixed.
Plus there's the fact that a big theme of the movie is a sad reality. A lot of these small timeless towns have been ruined by big businesses. And not all of them have the luxury of the businessman having a familial connection within the town-- giving more of a chance for things not to change.
Now for the good...
Just like people who grew up in tight-knit communities can relate to this small town life, the same can be said about the characters. You can relate to one of them on a personal level or you have a friend or family member that reminds you of them.
In recent years, I've become a little disenchanted with Christmas so each year has been a little tough to find the spirit. Last year, I didn't really feel it until the day of- after everyone opened their presents and they really made a lot of people happy.
This year, I was feeling a little like Charlie Brown- not so much hating the commercialism of Christmas (although I hate the fact they start advertising even before Halloween), but just not feeling the joy of the season. Oddly enough, getting involved in a Christmas project worked wonders like it did for Charlie Brown.
Billy's had trouble finding the Christmas spirit, but also appreciating what's in front of him. Spending more time with my family over the month doing all these Christmas related things- that's really made me appreciate what I do have.
There's a moment where Billy's dad says that every now and then you need to step away from yourself and look at what you have in front of you... that's kinda sums up the way I've come to feel over the course of December.
Of course, the best day of the Christmases is the final one because all the pieces finally come together.
And I really love how Billy spend time with his relatives and does all these small things to make them happy. You also get to know them more as people than you maybe have the entire movie. And feeling the influence of the holiday spirit, they go on to do great things for other people... and the warm and fuzzies start piling on and I can't stop smiling :D
If you're lucky enough to find this movie, at least give it one look. It may not be perfect, but just family gatherings at Christmas, they don't have to be for you to fully appreciate them.
[And the reason I'm not giving away all the details... you need to experience them for yourself to appreciate them. And you're also free to make your own connections, whether it's with the characters, the town or the situations involved].