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The New Christmas Canon: Gremlins At The Music Box

By Steven Pate in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 15, 2010 9:20PM

2010_12_gremlins.jpg Holiday movies form a sacrosanct canon. Stand between people and their It's a Wonderful Life, White Christmas or Miracle on 34th Street and you should expect to be treated as if you had just offered serve Rudolph as a plate of reindeer jerky. We love the old chestnuts, but sometimes you need to mix it up. Which is why, even if we personally can't get too fired up about their 27th annual sing-along Christmas show, we are thankful to them for putting together a nifty alternative Christmas program next week featuring a truly neglected Christmas classic: Gremlins.

If you haven't seen it in a while, it is easy to forget Gremlins is a Christmas film. It wasn't marketed as such when released in the summer of 1984, but it only takes a few minutes of the movie before its yuletide character asserts itself. Gizmo (the cuddly mogwai who inadvertently spawns the naughty gremlins) was, after all, a Christmas gift. With countless details such as the mother watching It's a Wonderful Life, to plot incidents involving decorations and (lest anyone forget) the worst Christmas story ever told, one has to ask why we don't watch this movie every December?

This can be partly chalked up to its rarity on cable programmers' schedules, and partly to the enigmatic nature of director Joe Dante's masterpiece. Gremlins is a movie which straddles divides. It could be shown at Halloween or at Christmas. It operates both as teenage love story and as an action movie, as a frightening monster movie and as a kid's "toys-come-to-life" story. Even when it came out, nobody was sure what to do with it (they had to create the designation of PG-13 for it). But with fabulous special effects and an original story, Gremlins still holds up. That's not even mentioning the treasure trove of amusing details you'll find along the way (cameos from Steven Spielberg and Chuck Jones, Howie Mandel as the voice of Gizmo, supporting roles for Judge Reinhold and Corey Feldman, etc.)

It will be shown with another classic 80s movie set during Christmas, Die Hard. If you've never seen that one, it's about a Christmas party at Nakatomi Plaza that goes terribly wrong, with Bruce Willis doing his Santa Claus impersonation in an elevator shaft instead of a chimney. We couldn't ask for a better non-canonical Christmas bill. Here are some of our other candidates that we'd show at the Music Box Sing-a-long instead of the traditional Christmas options:

  • Home Alone
  • It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie
  • A Diva's Christmas Carol
  • Black Christmas
  • The Ice Harvest
  • Scrooged!
  • Remember the Night
  • The Ref
  • Bad Santa
  • Edward Scissorhands
  • The Bells of St. Mary's
  • Elf
  • Die Hard 1 and 2
  • What Would Jesus Buy?
  • Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
  • Babes in Toyland
  • National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
  • A Christmas Story
  • Silent Night, Deadly Night
  • And who could forget "The episode of 'Tales From The Crypt' where Dr. Giggles plays a murderous Santa"

Let's get primed for holiday cheer with the trailer for Gremlins...

Showtimes for Music Box’s Alternative Christmas Double Feature! on December 21 are Gremlins at 5 p.m., Die Hard at 7:05 p.m. and Gremlins at 9:35 p.m. Tickets for the double feature are $10 in advance and $12.50 at the door.