Saturday, December 24, 2016

25 Days of Christmas: WHITE CHRISTMAS

Christmas Eve is upon us, and what does that mean?  Welcome to Day 24 of our 25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS series, where we will be taking a look at holiday classics each day in the lead up to Christmas. Today we're reviewing a 1954 musical starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye: Irving Berlin's WHITE CHRISTMAS.

Howdy fellow film freaks, Robert here. It's a given that a movie of any type is going to start from the assumption that the audience are fans of that type already. If it wins over a few converts here and there, that's fine, but usually movies of any persuasion are preaching to the proverbial choir.

White Christmas is really, really confident that you love musicals. It's so confident that it's songs rarely have anything to do with the plot. In fact, only two songs in the entire movie have anything to do with what's going on. The rest have nothing to do with anything, and are simply there for fitting in more of the singing and the dancing and the wow. So instead of a two-hour musical, you end up with a forty-five minute movie with lots of cleverly disguised intermissions.

Legendary song and dance men Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye star as Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, two army buddies who get into show biz after doing their bit in World War II, and find success as entertainers and then producers. On their way to New York one night, the pair audition an act by the Haynes Sisters, and in the kind of magical turn that only happens in 1950s musicals, the pair are instantly smitten. So, as these things go, they throw their plans aside and follow the sisters to a small ski lodge in Vermont, which just so happens to be run by their old commanding officer, a General Waverly, of whom the two were quite fond. Wouldn't you know it, the ski lodge is in the red and likely to go under. Not if Wallace and Davis have anything to say about it! And so we're treated to the usual romantic comedy formula interspersed with randomly-selected musical numbers which somebody must have figured would keep your toes tapping, your heart singing, and your eyes alight with laughter and gaiety.

"But what", you may ask yourself, "does any of this have to do with Christmas?" Not a blessed thing, my young padawan, but for the fact that there's a calendar somewhere whose pages keep turning. Yes, the movie is called White Christmas, and so the song pops up a couple of times, but really, that's it. That's all the acknowledgement that December 25th gets, aside from someone explicitly pointing out that "it's Christmas Eve" the day before.

The fact that White Christmas is only a musical revue with a plot notwithstanding, most of the songs are pretty good, and that's coming from somebody who doesn't like musicals (if you couldn't tell). It's unfortunate, though, that the first half to two-thirds of the movie are so heavily reliant on reprises, encore performances of songs that came earlier. The worst offender of this bunch is the signature song of the Haynes Sisters, called -- wait for it -- "Sisters". It's an amusing little ditty, but we have to listen to it in its entirety twice in about fifteen minutes, a second reprise a short time later, and then the song keeps popping up in the film score. It's like Pachelbel's Canon: once you notice it, you spot it everywhere.

There are some strange choices in the songs that don't get encores as well, including a song called "Choreography", sung by Danny Kaye. The song laments the rise of choreography in musical theatre in place of conventional dance, and the choreography for the number itself is just weird. Throughout the number, Kaye and the other dancers are doing what looks like a bizarre hybrid of an early form of the Robot, and the dance from "Walk Like an Egyptian" by the Bangles. The dancers surrounding Kaye seem to know their roles for the most part, but Kaye himself must have skipped a couple of rehearsals. There are at least two places in the number where he just seems to be gyrating randomly. Watch it and tell me that was rehearsed. I dare ya.

The story, meanwhile, is nothing to write home about. The predictable path of "boy meets\falls for\loses\wins back girl" is strictly followed, turning neither right nor left, a fact that's only partially made up for by the chemistry of the cast. Kaye and Crosby are funny enough, and Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen work well as the Haynes Sisters, but you can still spot the exact moments where all the old rom-com landmarks pop up. They don't even try to surprise you. What will surprise you is the transformation undergone by that tiny little lodge after Wallace and Davis's theatre company moves in and starts doing rehearsals. What starts out as a quiet, cozy little sound stage cottage in the woods suddenly becomes as cavernous as Radio City Music Hall, capable of supporting full sets and all the trappings of a professional stage show.

I suppose I can appreciate White Christmas for it's lack of fixation on the titular holiday, but its determination to cram it back in at the very end changes my mind some. White Christmas is fun, in a dated, relic from Grandma's attic sort of way, but I would have preferred more cohesion between songs and story.

Robert's Score: 4/10

Make sure to check us out and like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram for all of our reviews, news, trailers, and much, much more!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment