It’s that time of year again. Time for celebrating and merry-making. Giving and gratitude. Caroling and cantatas. Sleigh bells. Snow. And the never-ending debate over whether or not Bruce Willis’s “Die Hard” is a “Christmas movie.” (We are speaking of the original.)
What’s a “Christmas Movie”?
We’re gonna settle that controversy once and for all today. Of course, it all boils down to: What makes a movie a “Christmas movie”?
Many would say a Christmas movie should focus on the Babe born in Bethlehem, angelic choirs and wise men from the East. Santa. Sleigh bells. Snow. The prancing and pawing of each little hoof. Festive trees and twinkling lights. Themes of peace, joy, love, and “a thrill of hope.” It goes beyond just tossing out the phrase “Merry Christmas” like confetti on New Year’s.
The Acid Test
Far as we’re concerned, the “acid test” of whether or not a movie is indeed a “Christmas movie” is pretty simple:
Is Christmas incidental or intrinsic per the movie in question?
Another way to look at it:
Can you take the movie’s essential elements, drop them into any setting other than the Christmas season and have the elements (and thus the movie) still work?
If the answer to the second question is No, then it IS a “Christmas movie.” If Yes, then it’s NOT a “Christmas movie.” Like this:
Can you drop Scrooge, Tiny Tim and all them thar ghosts into Times Square in the middle of April and have the same story?
No how. No way. Ergo: “Christmas movie.”
Can you whisk George Bailey, Mr. Potter and Clarence Oddbody A.S. II out of a snowy Bedford Falls on Christmas Eve and toss them into a beachfront condo in Maui on the Fourth of July and still have the movie work?
Can the Grinch “steal” Valentine’s Day or the First Day of Spring? Can Kris Kringle be put on trial at Easter following a stint on 34th Street? What holiday does Bing Crosby croon about in Pine Tree, Vermont?
… And So
Now. Change the office “Christmas” party to any other kind of party – birthday, retirement, whatever – and keep the same basic elements in Die Hard. Do you still have the same movie? Can John McClane rescue hostages from terrorists in a setting other than Christmas and the movie still works?
Yes and yes.
That’s cuz the “Christmas season” in Die Hard is incidental, not intrinsic. Drop the flick into Paris in August or Vegas in May and the movie still flies.
See how this works? It’s not that hard (pun intended.) Fact is, Die Hard works in any season or setting, any time of year. That’s cuz it’s a Bruce Willis action film that happens to be set during Christmas. Additionally, if you can’t take the whole family to see it due to an “R” rating, then guess what?
So the short answer to the age-old question regarding Die Hard is Nope, NOT a “Christmas movie.”
Are we clear?