December 11, 2011

Eyes on Christmas: Gremlins

Now, Christmas movies have never been my favorite sort of movie. There is something about the relentless cheer that many of them bring that gets to me. Perhaps it is because so few of them move beyond the feeling of manufactured joy. Still, there are some, and there are even more that set themselves around the holiday without necessarily being of the holiday. This marathon allows me to investigate films on both sides of that line. This latest film in my marathon takes a look at a holiday gift, given with the best intentions, that just goes wrong.

The movie is Gremlins and it is a fantastic mash of family holiday cheer and little green terror, think of it as It's a Wonderful Life invaded by a horde of miniature Godzillas. It is a movie that will tickle your funny bone, charm you with its characters, and then creep you out when it all begins to hit the fan. It is not a perfect movie, but its execution approaches it. It is a movie that has held up over the years since its release. It exists in a town that is unstuck from time, a moment frozen in history that is able to survive becoming dated. It is also one of the movies that helped spur on the creation of the PG-13 rating (you have to admit this does push some the boundaries of PG, if only a little).

As the movie opens we are introduced to inventor/traveling salesman Randall Peltzer. He goes into this small, obscure Chinese shop looking for something unique to give his son for Christmas. He discovers a little critter called a Mogwai and just must have it. And that he does, but with this little guy come a couple of rules, sort of like Asimov's Three Laws for monsters instead of robots. We learn that they hate bright light (sun light can kill them), do not get them wet, and do not feed them after midnight.

They do not get into the subtleties of the laws, or else we may learn more about why they all get broken. There is a movie screening that doesn't seem to bother them much, they can apparently run through snow without repercussions, and when exactly is it after midnight? If you think about it, all time is after midnight, and does time zone come into play? I suspect there are more specifics to each that we weren't told, it is easier to think that way.

Anyway, Billy (Zach Galligan) loves the little guy, now called Gizmo. But then things go wrong, we find out that water causes them to multiply and feeding them after midnight causes them to transform into slimy little monsters. Before you know it, there are hordes of the little guys wreaking havoc all over town. They mess with traffic lights, kitchen appliances, and you should see them at the bar!

It is up to Billy and his love interest, Kate (Phoebe Cates), to find a way to stop the Gremlins and their leader, Stripe. This leads to plenty of action don the home stretch as the multitude of Gremlins make their way roughshod through the town.

You know, this really is a fun movie. It is really funny, has characters you actually care about, and some really good puppetry. Seriously, these critters are animated wonderfully. This was a big movie in my youth and I am happy to see it hold up so well. It has been awhile since I have seen it and it was a lot of fun to revisit it.

I am not sure how it falls in the canon of Christmas movies, besides the look, setting, and some decorations, I am not sure. Still, if you are looking for a delightfully creepy and funny movie for the holiday, this is one to push play on.

Highly Recommended.

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