You are here: Beginning

TwitterPops

Switchmas Brings Cheer To Stupid Christmastown

Monday, 09 December 2013 10:56 Jennifer Devore
Print PDF

When is $750K a pittance? When it's Hollywood-oriented and gets you a feature-length film, shot over sixty-days and employs no less than the formidable and jauntily avuncular Elliott Gould (M*A*S*H, Ocean's Eleven, Friends). When do you say Mazel Tov? When that film blasts out of the holiday film gate like Seabiscuit on fire and ignites a dynamite line straight to Hanukkah and Christmas movie mainstays.

Switchmas (2012, Von Piglet Productions) is so ding-dang cheerful, so sweet, so good-natured, so family-friendly, so inclusive, so sprightly, so hopeful that one just might puke from its syrupy tinge, if it was not such a fun film. Switchmas is Disney-quality, without the Disney-dollars. Should you find your list of holiday flicks in need of an update, would it kill you to add Switchmas? It slots in beautifully with the other tent poles holding firm the genre: Elf, A Christmas Story, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Christmas Vacation et al.

Mr. Gould, known lovingly to so many of us as Jack Geller, Ross & Monica's dad, isn't the only point-of-light in the Little Film That Could. David Deluise (Wizards of Waverly Place, Stargate-SG1) portrays Max Finkelstein, an optimistic auteur on the fringes of Hollywood and president of Finkelstein Films: "Making the World You Want To See". Max believes he has everything but "a name" to catapult him to Woody Allenesque fame and respect. (If The Reindeer From Planet 9 can't get him an Oscar, what can?) As Max tells a potential client (art imitates life here), "Believe me! You don't need big money to make a movie with big heart!" When "a name" drops in his lap, Max gets the filmic opportunity of a lifetime. The name appears in the form of has-been, aging, bubble-gum starlet Jennifer Cameo, best-known for her role as Desperate Jane (played by Julianne Christie). I am Desperate Jane! I have fans and a blog and I am in control! The conflict? To optimize Ms. Cameo's last gasp of stardom, Max must personally rip out and eat his own son's heart.

 

"Its' the Finkelstein Christmas tree!"

"Finkelsteins do not have Christmas trees."

"Why not?"

"You know why! We're Jewish!"

"Well do we have to be?"

"Ira!"

"I mean at Christmas?"

"You know what? Heritage, tradition, culture. Who needs it?"

 

Resistance is futile. Therein lies the rub. Little Ira J. Finkelstein wants nothing more than to celebrate Christmas. "He's obsessed with The Christmas!" To assuage this desire, Max and Mama Rosie agree to take him to Aspen for Christmas, land of twinkle lights, snowy windowsills, hot cocoa and Louis Vuitton luggage. Then, Miss Cameo is attached to The Reindeer From Planet 9 and Aspen go bye-bye. "If this goes good, we can go to Aspen every year". Instead, even after a heart-melting plea from Ira about promises and mishpucha, Mom and Dad ship him off, to where else? "Florida, for The Christmas". Now, a holiday with the Flah-ri-dah grandparents includes a dream grampy: supportive, doting and effervescent Sam Finkelstein, played to freylech perfection by Elliott Gould.

In classic, Shakespearean-style though, during Ira's layover at the airport, on his way to "stupid Florida", he meets fellow holiday misanthrope Mikey Amato: a poor, Christian boy of newly-divorced parents who -wait for it- wants nothing more than to spend Christmas on a warm beach with some rich grandparents. Poor little shnook, he's on his way to "stupid Christmastown" for a week of gift-giving, parade-going, snowman-building and cocoa-drinking with his gentle, gentile, WASPy cousins, who, fortunately, haven't seen him in quite a while. Boom! A quick switch of some nerd glasses, an old parka, bangs brushed down and the convenient exposure that even Ira's own grandparents haven't seen him in quite a while either, and voilà! You've got The Switchmas. "That's no Finkelstein! It's a different kid! What, is he blind?!"

There's even a pup. Any good holiday film has a dog. This little guy is Killer, a.k.a. Mistletoe: a big-headed, sweet-eyed pit bull who brings to mind The Little Rascals' Petey.

To boot, if you happen to have a grandparent-Jonesing, Switchmas can assuage that, too. Mikey's all too-foreign poolside, beachfront, grandparent-sojourn in The Sunshine State is a non-stop party of chocolate geld, fruity drinks, positive affirmations and socks-and-sandals. (To this girl, it sounds equally perfect to my own Christmastown luxuries.)

(Can we talk?) Raised in a beautifully festive Christmas household, as in Mom could teach Martha Stewart a thing or two, I was annually blessed with a pile of presents that would make Santa blush and enough hugs and kisses for a Strawberry Shortcake episode; it was a veritable embarrassment of riches that happily continues to this day. What did I lack, however? Grandparents. Always feeling I missed out on something grand in this respect, characters like Sam and Ruth Finkelstein bring a broad smile to my gentile pearlies. Moreover, my paternal great-grandparents and grandparents were Jewish, hailing from Vienna, Austria and, eventually, New York City (The Bronx and Long Island): Jakob & Irma Gerstl, and Rudi & Rosalyn Gerstle, respectively. Because I never got to know them, my noodle has compensated over the years with a special love for vintage handbags, antique jewelry, The Golden Girls, Agatha Christie novels and Queen Elizabeth II. (What is in Her Majesty's purse, BTW? Did you notice she even has it next to her on the floor in the 4G Royal Portrait? Dying to know. I bet Werther's Originals, a Waterman pen and a surplus of Irish-linen hankies.) As Angela philosophizes on The Office, "Some of us don't have grandmothers. Some of us have to be our own grandmothers."

(Back to the film ... ) Best of all, for those of us endlessly searching Netflix' "Recently Added" queue for the unequaled, quintessentially '90s TV-series Northern Exposure, the fair Cynthia Geary plays Libby Wilson, the beautifully-blonde auntie with the rosy, mountain-air glow who awaits her, fortunately, long-unseen nephew in Christmastown, WA. True, she is meant to look haggard and toiled, the overworked mom of three and neglected wife to an alcoholic, unemployed schmegegy of a dad; but the MUA failed here, folks. Despite the tousled locks and the persistent frown, Geary (Northern Exposure, Smoke Signals) looks as fresh-scrubbed and nature-girl beautiful as she did twenty-plus years ago as Shelly Tambo-Vincour in the wilds of Cicely, AK. (Apropos, Northern Exposure was shot on location in Roslyn, WA; Switchmas was shot in Leavenworth, WA and Seattle.)

As with any good film serving as part-morality play, there are a few direct lessons involved. Unaware of the notable, Jewish contributions to Christmas song and film? Pay close attention to Christmastown's Santa Claus, Murray Lefkowitz. (This means you, Garrison Keillor.)

"A Jewish Santa?"

"Who else would work on Christmas?"

Fretting about the melding of Hanukkah and Christmas on the proverbial celluloid? Meh. Christmas is a mélange, a spiritual and pagan amalgam of millennia stewed in winter celebration, thanksgiving, festivity and bringing a little light to the shortest, darkest days of the year. The Christmas we know today was not celebrated until 4thC C.E., when Emperor Constantine defected from his pagan beliefs and essentially founded Christianity. He declared the 25th as the certifiable day of joy to coincide with the same time during which the ancient Babylonians, Romans, Celts and Norsemen had already been celebrating for eons, knowing full well he would not be able to stop them from said-jubilation and Bacchanalian endeavours.

In the end, I am a wordsmith; words mean something to me and are not to be tossed about hither and thither. Therefore, I refrain from the ignominy of such phrases as "government aid", "literally starving" and, worst of all, "instant classic". However, I am finding it sehr difficult to refrain from the latter. Switchmas might just be that, an instant classic. Only time will tell, and JennyPop's annually-updated, recommended, Christmas-viewing list.

Merry Christmas, Ira J. Finkelstein!

 

Because this stuff is important, especially if your name is listed:

Directed by

Sue Corcoran

Written by

Douglas Horn

Angie Louise

Sue Corcoran

Cast

David Deluise as Max Finkelstein

Elijah Nelson as Ira J. Finkelstein

Elliott Gould as Sam Finkelstein

Angela DiMarco as Rosie Finkelstein

Justin Howell as Mikey Amato

Cynthia Geary as Libby Wilson

 

Available via DVD, Blu-Ray, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Instant Video

 

Follow @JennyPopNet #Christmasfilms #Switchmas

 

Savannah on Facebook

Shop JennyPop on Amazon

Darlings on Facebook

Good to be a Geek on Facebook

JennyPopcorn: Netflix New Releases

  • The Circle

    Ambitious Mae Holland can't believe her good luck when the mightiest tech company on Earth -- The Circle -- hires her. But Mae's enthusiasm for her new job wavers after meeting a colleague who's skeptical of the company's objectives.
  • Gifted

    When his sister dies, 30-something bachelor Frank Adler assumes the care of her 7-year-old daughter. But his plans to raise her are threatened when the child reveals herself to be a math prodigy, and his mom suddenly gets involved.
  • The Boss Baby

    An addition to the family in the form of a suit-wearing baby brother has 7-year-old Tim worried about losing his parents' affection. But when a corporate plot threatens the balance of love in the world, Tim teams with his sibling to foil the scheme.
  • Colossal

    Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is an out-of-work party girl who, after getting kicked out of her apartment by her boyfriend (Dan Stevens), is forced to leave her life in New York and move back to her hometown where she's reunited with her childhood friend (Jason Sudeikis). When news...

Meet Miss JennyPop

Jennifer Susannah Devore

Jenny Pop is the acclaimed Author of the Savannah of Williamsburg series of books and The Darlings of Orange County. In addition, Jen is a prolific consumer of media and pop culture. Never leaving the house without her journal and fave Waterman pen, an old-fashioned, analog book (usually Hunter S. Thompson) and a fresh coat of lipstick, she is constantly on the hunt for fun, espresso, animation  and comics of any kind and always ready for an impromptu day at Disneyland.  JennyPop.net is a natural extension of  Jen's World; so, spend some time visiting. You'll have fun, she promises!

Meet The Darlings

The Darlings of Orange County

The sexy, cashmere beaches of southern California aren't always what they seem. The dirty little secret here is what it takes to survive. Everyone has a trick up their silk sleeve. Liz Lemon meets Parker Posey, Veronica Darling is smart enough to know what it takes and is willing to soil her soul to bring Hollywood to the California Riviera. The Darlings of Orange County is a salacious, hilarious, harrowing romp chock full of eco-terrorism, horse-racing scandals, weed deals and the obligatory lipstick-lesbian affair that inevitably leads to murder. It all climaxes in a white-knuckled, glitzy, celebrity-stacked Laguna Beach Film Premiere that spells success for Veronica Darling and trouble for her friends and family.

Meet Miss Savannah Squirrel

Savannah Prudence Squirrel

Savannah Prudence Squirrel

Meet Miss Savannah of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. Equal parts Amelia Earhart, Lucy Honeychurch, Scarlett O'Hara and Miss Piggy, Savannah is a scholar, adventurer and a lady. Moreover, she is a pebble in the silver-buckled shoe of injustice and with her best pals she is not a squirrel to challenge. She carries  the Magna Carta in one paw and the latest Parisian silk bag in her other. Whether fighting to end slavery, arguing for freedom of the press or scheming to end a duel, Miss Savannah does so with wit and persistence. Read more to meet her best friends and accomplices: Ichabod Wolfgang and Dante Marcus Pritchen. Prepare to also meet pirates, a Venetian fox and an Irish gull, The Commodore!

PopShots

chardantefilteredportrait.jpg

Meet Miss Hannah

Hannah Hart, ghost dame of the Hotel del Coronado

Hannah Hart, ghost dame of the Hotel del Coronado

So, here's the low down, all you Joes and Janes ... I'm Hannah Hart, dead girl. Don't fret, it's actually a sweet dish being dead. Having perished in 1934 in a terrifically vicious accessories incident with actress Ida Lupino, I reside where I died: San Diego's gorgeous Hotel del Coronado. It ain't a bad gig at all, really! Great weather, swanky guests (not to mention a few fellow ghosties), amazing amenities, my own private turret overlooking the sea and all the java juice and giggle water I can handle; plus, these bartenders know how to make a Planter's Punch like nobody's business! See, I've been waiting for this Internet thing forever ... now, instead of slamming doors and moving lamps, I get to wag my tongue all I like at goodtobeageek.com

Abyssinia, kids!