Cloverdale’s historic downtown hasn’t changed much in 50 years, making it a popular backdrop for films, TV shows and even commercials seeking a typical small U.S. town.
But there’s more to Cloverdale than TV’s Smallville. Cloverdale was the setting for one of Coca Cola’s Christmas commercials. And some of the decorations festooning main street were originally props used in Deck the Halls, a 2006 movie starring Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito about two competitive neighbours who try to outdo each other in the decorating department.
Sadly, the critical consensus seems to be Deck the Halls spreads little cheer and rates a dismal six percent on the Tomatometer, a rating that means just six per cent of critics gave the film a favourable review. It also earned the dubious distinction of one of Ebert and Roper’s Worst of 2006. But take heart: the DVD will make a perfect present for that naughty person on your shopping list this year.
With movie magic in mind, here are a few classics guaranteed to get you in the holiday spirit:
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
A 1964 stop-motion animated classic directed by Kizo Nagashima and Larry Roemer, and featuring the voices of Billie Mae Richards and Burl Ives.
Teased about his light-emitting nose, young Rudolph runs away from Santa’s workshop only to save the day when fog threatens to ruin Santa’s Christmas Eve flight. Features such colourful characters as the pick axe-wielding Yukon Cornelius, the toothy Abominable Snowmonster and Hermey, the elf who’d rather be a dentist. It spawned several sequels, including Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (1975) and Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July (1975).
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Animated and directed by Chuck Jones of Bugs Bunny fame and featuring the voice of Boris Karloff as the narrator. You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch, plotting to steal Christmas from the Whos of Whoville. Poor Max the Dog and little Cindy Lou Who, who is no more than two.
But it’s a funny, thoughtful story – a true classic that captures the spirit of the season in a tidy 26 minutes.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, and Lionel Barrymore, and directed by Frank Capra. Long-suffering savings and loan operator George Bailey finds out what life would be like if he’d never existed. Not a Christmas movie so much as a long, dark teatime of the soul. A box office dud when first released, the film gained cult-like status thanks to syndication on TV.
Much of it is quite bleak, even despairing and existential but the story ends in a triumphant celebration of courage and sacrifice for the common good. Best ending ever?
A Christmas Story (1983)
All little Ralphie wants for Christmas is a Red Rider BB Gun. “You’ll shoot your eye, out, kid,” he’s warned time and again, thwarted in his efforts to convince his parents, teacher, and the big man himself, Santa, that he deserves one this year. It’s set in the 1940s and written and directed by Bob Clark, the same guy who brought you the teen sex comedy Porkys! (1982) and Black Christmas (1974), a horror film about a sorority house terrorized by a prank-calling, homicidal murderer who’s clearly lacking in Christmas spirit.
A Christmas Story was narrated by author Jean Shepherd, who also wrote the novel. Still so popular, the house where it was filmed has been turned into a tourist attraction. Don’t forget to bring your Little Orphan Annie decoder pin and be sure to drink your Ovaltine!
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Judy Garland. A plot synopsis doesn’t capture the true magic of this delightful film, an MGM musical about a family living in St. Louis in 1903 and who is reluctantly planning to move to New York City. Features Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, and the memorable Trolley Song.
A Christmas Carol (1951)
There’s a lot of imitators out there, but this one, starring Alastair Sims as Scrooge, is the ultimate film adaptation of the Charles Dickens story. Scrooge is portrayed not as a miser but as a tormented, lost soul. Chilling, supernatural and heartwarming at the same time.
The Polar Express (2004)
Directed by Robert Zemeckis and featuring the voice of Tom Hanks. An animated story of how a boy’s faith is rewarded one Christmas Eve when a steam train pulls up outside his house and takes him on a mysterious, thrilling journey to the North Pole – home of Santa’s Workshop. Adapted from an illustrated children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg. Breathtaking on the big screen, like a storybook brought to life.