White Christmas (1954)
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I generally stray away from Christmas movies - I'm one of those people who usually get mildly bummed out by the holiday, particularly after being forced to watch A Christmas Story for the eleven bazillionth time as the lazy television stations all show it on repeat. That being said, time flows by and sometimes things change - I still don't want to watch A Christmas Story pretty much ever again in my life, but sometimes it feels like busting one out from the vault isn't such a terrible idea. This is one of those years, and our entry is not only that but a musical - what most of my kind would consider a "double whammy," considering my usual dislike of musicals to boot. You know what though? Maybe a trip to the past is just what everybody needs this season.
An army general is getting resigned right on the edge of Christmas. His troops are putting on a show to liven the spirits - something the new general doesn't much approve of. The old sends the new on a "shortcut" to HQ that's really the scenic route though, and catches the end of the show - complete with a heartwarming speech from one of his captains. When the general finds himself at a loss for words after hopping on stage, his boys see him off with song. It isn't long after the general takes off on a jeep that some attacks strike a little close to home, causing one of the privates to save the captain and set things in motion for a long course of events.
After the war is over, the boys all go home and take up lives as civilians again - with the captain and the private forming a duo of song and dance. Their show gets big, and the success keeps piling on until they find themselves producing shows themselves - all prodded on by the private constantly reminding the captain of his heroic deed, what most would consider "the puppydog treatment." After wrapping up production for a Christmas break, the boys are ready to head to New York for their next spot of business when they make a detour for an old army buddy who has a pair of sisters doing a bit of a song and dance act themselves. As luck would have it, one of the sisters actually sent the letter, but at least half of the pair feels the chemistry of romance before a sheriff shows up on command of a lying club owner. The boys decide to help out, although with one being left out of most the details - including the other giving the girls their train tickets to hop ship while they run interference.
On the train, the four end up meeting up again and striking it off much better than initially. So much so, in fact, that the guys redirect their trip to go with the girls to a lodge they are booked at. When they arrive, it seems that snow is nowhere to be found however - and without snow, the place doesn't have a whole lot of customers. The captain is ready to take off when a familiar face walks in the door - the retired general. The general insists the girls still get payed the full price of their contract, despite nobody being around to really fill out their show, and during the course of dinner the boys find out that the place isn't in the best financial shape. Wanting to do something for the guy that meant so much to them in the days of the war, they concoct a scheme to put on a show there and fill the place up with business. Misunderstandings between two of the lover-birds and hidden surprises lie in await, and it's starting to be a real wonder as to if this Christmas is gonna be green.
The plot is certainly a lot of chance instances strung together, as such movies tend to do. It's never completely unbelievable - outside maybe the frequent non-performance related musical numbers, but even that's debatable in this movie - but it doesn't chance the fact that many a things falls into place in the name of romance and friendship. Costumes all look right for the crowd they are supposed to represent, including the sequin-heavy stage costumes. The technicolor really makes some of the colors pop in comparison to others - such as anyone with blueish eyes, or the lovely red's of many of the stage costumes. On the other hand, some of the darker bits - suck as black suits or dresses - tend to make all definition sort of just disappear in a dark mass, much like a shadow.
The actors do a great job of hamming it up, and it's something that feels natural for a bunch of performers playing performers. When more serious moments happen, they know when to reign it in a bit, but even though there are some serious parts to attack the old heart-strings throughout the movie, particularly towards the end dealing with the general, it never feels that it's so serious for so long that it becomes depressing. The movie also doesn't feature a lot of downtime in it's run - normally where you would receive a lot of stale portions of dialogue or the likes you instead get another musical number - some of which feel natural (such as practice for the show) with others not so much (let me burst into song about what I do to combat sleep trouble). To the movies credit, all the people who do such are musical people - singers and dancers - so it's not as bizarre as a bunch of everyday people randomly busting out songs about everything they are doing.
The songs themselves, although many being simple, are quite catchy. It's possibly you may walk away with a few fighting for top billing in your head - The Old Man, Sisters for example - most will probably find the title song to be the one to quash the others. To this day, it's not unheard of for even the common person to end up hearing White Christmas over a store's intercom while shopping during the month of December - and that's not even taking radio-play into account. It's very much a feel good sort of thing in the vast majority of songs, and the simplicity only helps propel them into ear-worm territory.
If I had to watch an actual Christmas movie during Christmas, this one isn't a bad choice. It can be serious without being depressing or bland about it, the songs are catchy, and it feels like everyone on screen is just having a good time. It doesn't beat any morals into you the entire time, it doesn't force you to have a retrospective moment about yourself by having some worthlessly bad and mean character to make you hope you aren't that person in the real world, and despite it's musical nature everything even resolves itself without the help of any seasonal magic. Fans of the season probably already watch it, and I'd rather stick to something like Singing in the Rain outside of the December season, but for when the snow's a fallin and the trees twinkling with anticipation, this flick is a pretty good choice.