FATHER CHRISTMAS IS BACK Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Bah humbug, says Alexander Wallace.
Father Christmas is Back is a strange movie that I have something of a hard time describing. After racking my memory for any words that could best describe this unusual oddity of cinema, the most appropriate phrase I have is “a movie for those strange people who actually enjoy nasty family fights on Christmas day.” Such occurrences are rightly loathed by most reasonable people, but I’m not entirely convinced that the market for this film (or its creators) are what most people would call strictly ‘reasonable.’

The premise is simple: a rich family with an ancestral estate in Yorkshire holds Christmas there. The four middle-aged sisters of this family bring their families, their children, and (in one case) their dissertation to this centuries old-mansion. You can tell that they loathe each other under the genteel warmth they all try to display; they are, however, united by their shared hatred of their father, who walked away from the family when they were children.

That shared loathing becomes inconvenient when it is learned that one of the daughters spent some time with the father at his home in Miami, and, without telling the others, invited him to Christmas at their estate. His arrival scandalizes all of them. As happens in this sort of movie, cat-fights, bickering, and a vicious slinging of insults ensue.

As many Christmas movies do, this film tries to inculcate within you the notion that family trumps everything, and is worth defending. Despite that clear attempt at moralizing, the film’s proceedings hammer in how family is not inherently wonderful. Frankly, these people all just hate each other, and they would do well to make their own living elsewhere.

What galls me so much about this film is how nasty the sense of humor is. It’s a very cynical, wry, dare I say British sense of humor, one that delights in twisting the knife lodged in every wound. You come away from the film thinking that, for all the love they profess to one another, these are just plain unpleasant people. What confuses me is who, exactly, would enjoy this film?

I concede that these barbs, mean as they are, can be occasionally funny in something of a bitter Borscht Belt-esque way. There are precisely four vaguely likable characters in this film: the husband of one of the sisters who is the only person of color in the film and seemingly the audience surrogate, and a different sister who is unmarried, a lesbian, and working on her dissertation on the Beatles. Other than that, all these people are simply too vindictive to be pleasant in any way.

There are times I really don’t understand the movie business. This movie is one of them. Father Christmas is Back is a cynical, nasty thing with good production values but a depressingly dim view of human beings. If this is what Hollywood thinks, and they are so rich, what does that say about the rest of us?

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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