By Sue Murphy
The Hallmark Channel has been airing Christmas movies nonstop since Oct 27. This probably was a little confusing for the trick-or-treaters, but who am I to judge?
To fill so many air hours, the station managers had to round up a sleigh-full of movies – “The Mistletoe This,” “The Magical That,” “The Magical Mistletoe Something or Another.” The titles are different, but they share one common plot: The main character is separated from Christmas for some reason. He/she meets someone who triggers a change of heart, snowflakes fall and the credits roll. Life is once again good.
If you can get through the accompanying reverse mortgage and “I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up” commercials, these movies can be uplifting in a harmless sort of way, but I find I need a little more drama, a little more grit, a character on the very precipice of ruin that I can root for. I need “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
You’ve all heard the song. Poor Rudolph gets rejected by his reindeer buddies because of his shiny nose, but in the end, that same nose gets him the job of guiding Santa’s sleigh through an unexpected foggy night to save Christmas.
The cartoon special, however, takes poor Rudolph way beyond the humiliation of the reindeer games. Rudolph’s would-be girlfriend is barred from seeing him. Rudolph’s father is ashamed of him, and then, in one heart-wrenching moment, Rudolph is rejected by Santa himself. Who could survive that? Those at Rankin/Bass weren’t pulling any punches.
What do you do when even Santa Claus rejects you? You team up with another Christmas Town reject, an elf who wants to be a dentist, (Imagine how that played in the Elf Games.) and you set out across the ice and snow to…any place else. At this point, the stations wisely cut to a commercial to allow you to regain your composure.
When next we see our sad little duo, they meet the prospector Yukon Cornelius while Burl Ives sings “Silver and Gold,” a catchy little ditty thrown in so viewers don’t lose heart. Song completed, the group is attacked by an enormous snow monster. Our heroes escape by hopping onto an ice floe that carries them under the northern lights to The Island of Misfit Toys, a makeshift sanctuary for toys that are so different that they are considered patently unlovable. If that doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, I give up.
Of course, in the end, everyone is welcomed back to Christmas Town, where their talents are finally appreciated. The misfit toys are given homes. Even the giant snow monster is rehabilitated. Snowflakes fall, the credits roll, and life is once again good.
The ending is supposed to make you happy, but I find myself left with the great unspoken “Why?” Rudolph and Hermie and Yukon and the misfit toys shouldn’t have had to go through all that to begin with.
I mean, look around you. We’re a planet full of misfits. The reason we’re celebrating at all is that, despite our misfit status, someone loved us beyond measure. So here’s my holiday plea: Reach out to the square wheeled choo-choo in your life. Embrace that dentist elf. Take another look at the water pistol that shoots jelly, because, whether you know it or not, there are times when jelly is exactly what you need, and even if you don’t, it’s the right thing to do, the thing that cuts through all the fog and will bring you safely to Christmas.
(Cue the snow.)