Having lost his zest for life after the death of his daughter, a newly unemployed father takes a magical journey to Christmasville, where he receives the greatest gift of all — a second chance.
Christmas-themed movies will always be perennial favourites with audiences. From oft repeated classics such as: It’s A Wonderful Life, (1946) and Miracle On 34th Street (1947), to more contemporary classics such as: Home Alone (1990), Elf (2003), National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989), and Bad Santa (2003).
If there’s one thing the history of the film industry tells us it’s that Christmas themed movies are consistent box office winners, whether they be theatrically released, Indie, or direct to video and television productions. Audiences cannot get enough of what’s now commonly known as the celluloid ‘Countdown to Christmas’ where holiday movies play on solid run from Thanksgiving to New Year. The number of people in the U.S. alone who watched a Hallmark Christmas movie in 2017 was around 65 million, with that number expected to exceed 85 million by New Year, 2018.
What’s the secret to their popularity?
Well, that’s simple. Audiences long for homespun, feel-good movies with their universal themes of love, family, hope, and redemption. Add to that the perfect backdrop of crisp white snow, a little mistletoe, the twinkling of Christmas lights and baubles, and a liberal dose of fairy dust, and you’re onto a sure-fire winner.
Steven Clarke’s onto a winner with his rather aptly titled Christmasville which has all these requisite ingredients plus a whole lot more.
We open on family man, Dale. A woodworker by trade, he’s resigned his lot to the ‘shipping and receiving depot’ of a factory in a small town. Dale is getting on with things but he’s also carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, living in the shadow of the tragic death of his young daughter, and more recently the passing of his father. Clearly, Dale is not living his best life. He has an eight year old son, Michael, who worships the ground his dad walks on, and a loving and devoted wife in Tabitha. But still the traumatic events of the past plague him.
As Dale surveys his town he thinks it ain’t all that bad. Sure it’s quaint with its Mom and Pop stores and everybody knowing everybody else’s business, but it sure is pretty this time of year; church steeples rising high into the sky, the shops dressed in their holiday wreaths and colourful lights, and lamp posts strung with pretty garlands.
It’s just over a week before Christmas, the first few flurries of snow are falling and the townsfolk are preparing for the annual Tree lighting.
There’s only one blot on the landscape for Dale and that is the woodworking store (that) stands dark and vacant. A FOR LEASE sign hangs in the fogged out window. This is the store Dale’s father once ran. The store that Dale should now be running.
Oh, and the fact that eight days out from Christmas, Dale is summoned to the boss’s office and unceremoniously given the old heave-ho. Budget’s been cut. Dale was last in, so he’s first out.
A crushing blow, but Dale’s not one to let the grass grow under his feet or let pride get in the way of a providing for his family, so he’s up next day at the crack of dawn to Marone’s Luncheonette. Store-owner Pete is a decent fellow who’ll give anyone a break and before long Dale’s proving his mettle with the popularity of his burgers and BLTs. Until that is – his less than stellar tomato-dicing skills land him in the Emergency Department. What rotten luck. A bunged up hand and a nasty trail of stitches means there’ll be no more working the grill for Dale. Not for a good while anyway.
Still Dale bravely pushes on, now relegated to stoically running errands for Tabitha, at the local Mall.
On the way home with daylight fading fast and the snow now falling hard:
A sharp turn looms ahead,
Dale cuts the wheel,
the brakes lock,
the car slides…
The road twists left
Dale’s car goes straight
Smashing into a guard rail
Dale tenses, can’t speak
This is it.
No time to react.
No time to—
Dale’s car crashes into a guard rail and down a steep embankment.
He falls into unconsciousness.
Then wakes sometime later – ‘everything out of focus, head bandaged’ – he locks eyes with a SMALL MAN by the name of Butter Finger, sporting green thermals and a red stocking cap.
From hereon in things get even more surreal. It appears Dale has entered an alternate reality of seemingly Rockwell-ian proportions – cobblestone sidewalks, a town square surrounded by an ice skating pond, a world inhabited by Elves and reindeer and pretty soon after Dale finds himself riding shotgun in a sleigh next to a hulking man with a white beard who for all intents and purposes looks like Santa. But is he? This Santa has a Pilates class scheduled at three, a particular penchant for the Elliptical machine and a personal trainer coming in at four-thirty. Huh?
For Dale things are getting weirder by the minute and all he really wants is out of this particular rabbit hole and back home to his loving wife and son.
But, try as he might it seems there’s no means of escape.
Meanwhile back home, with Sheriff Shirley Hastings at the helm, the townsfolk have rallied and a search party is underway. It seems Dale has disappeared off the face of the earth, something he promised his wife he would never do. Tabitha and Michael are beside themselves with worry of his whereabouts.
The writing in Christmasville is what elevates this story from any comparison to a ‘by the numbers cookie-cutter’ holiday tale. With its ensemble cast every role is three dimensional and beautifully drawn. It’s no easy task for a writer to create character with only one line of dialogue, but writer Steven Clarke does this with aplomb. Larger standout roles such as town Sheriff Shirley Hastings, (a lovely nod to Marg Gunderson, Fargo ) and her well meaning but slightly dim-witted Deputy Rick, are particularly memorable.
Christmasville seamlessly blends the comical with the sentimental, the dramatic with heart-rending, the nostalgic with the modern. This is an original and beautifully written tale that will entertain the whole family.
Producers: Want all your Christmases to come at once? Well, best open your present early, cause this is a one of a kind limited edition, and it’s sure to sell out fast.
About the reviewer: Libby Chambers has been writing all her life. Over her career, she’s worked in the Features Department for ABC TV as a Program Assistant, trained as a FAD, and served professionally as a freelance web-content editor and proofreader. She lives with her husband (also a screenwriter) in Sydney, Australia, and describes him as being both a good and a bad influence on her writing. You can contact Libby at libbych “AT” hotmail
About Steve: A writer since the age of 12, the first book that Steve Clark ever read was Amityville Horror. The second was Cujo. He’s been writing ever since, and is currently hard at work on two features. He’s reachable at SAClark69 “AT” verizon.net (or on Long Island, if you’re in the area!!)