Christmas is in the air? Can
you feel it? Can you taste it? Here in Arvada we usually smell
it first. A whiff of crispness from powdery snow on the pines,
the synthetic, waxy smoke of Duraflame logs, and the vomit in
the gutter by the Arvada Tavern, redolent with nutmeg and sausage.
As part of its "Lagniappe" celebration, Olde Town Arvada offers
free carriage rides on weekend nights, but not to take drunks
home, apparently. No, just to take kiddies in circles, ending
up right where they started. Man, isn't that life? The free shit
is for the go-nowheres while those of us with a destination in
mind have to bundle up and slog through the slush, or sleep under
the cardboard boxes behind the Army Navy Surplus.
Santa has been here every weekend,
holding court in a beached sleigh on the lawn of an abandoned
house in Olde Town, and making children cry. Actually, this weekend
they moved him into one of the cruddy little gift shops because--I
guess--they were afraid it was too cold and snowy for Santa. What
the fuck? The guy's from the North Pole.
I didn't visit him before today.
This morning, I headed to the Tavern because the Mrs. was having
a big-ass craft party at the house. These happen every few years
when the stars align and Safeway has a buy-one-get-one sale on
elbow macaroni the same week that Hobby Lobby offers half off
glitter paints. Her coworkers from Hancock Fabrics descend on
the house like crows on a dead squirrel and don't leave until
nightfall. God only knows how much paint and pasta ends up in
their bellies and how much on their Christmas trees.
There's a bragging right that
goes to the first through the Tavern's doors on a Saturday morning.
You can declare you got more drunk before nine a.m. than most
people do all day. I didn't earn that right this week. The Harelip
beat me, already sitting at the corner chair, crunching on celery
from her Bloody Mary when I arrived. "Hey, shit eyes," she barked
as I took my seat.
As longtime readers know, the
Harelip's not my favorite drinking buddy, but she's not my least
favorite either. That would be me, followed closely by the teenagers
behind the Conoco who make me cry every time I have a beer with
them. They're so damn catty. Anyway, this morning it only took
ten minutes before the Harelip and I were arguing, screaming at
each other across the bar about whether Neil Diamond's We're
Coming to America is a piece of shit song or a patriotic masterpiece.
It didn't come up on the jukebox or anything, but it's the continuation
of an argument that started in 1998. I said it's shit and she
yelled masterpiece with enough force to send her saliva fifteen
feet. Finally, she spat the first smart thing she'd said all morning,
"Let's ask Santa, he knows everything."
If anyone is an impartial arbiter,
it's Santa Claus. Not only does he sort of look like Judge Wapner
with a beard, but he's obligated by law to be fair to everyone,
even poor kids. We agreed that we'd abide by Santa's decision.
I left my Bud Lite on the bar and we walked down Grandview to
find him. The fat old man had just set up in the gift shop, and
was rubbing his crusty eyes as the shop owner led the first of
a handful of kids up to sit on his lap. There were the kids who
got up early to see Mr. Claus. you know, the annoying kind who
ask for world peace and science kits. The Harelip wanted to just
push right past them, but I said no, Christmas is for the children,
even the dorky ones. So, we waited in line, and the Harelip made
small talk, giving them a show and tell tour of her tattoos and
scars. While we waited, more children arrived got in line behind
When we our turn came, the Harelip
immediately hopped onto Santa's leg. That pissed me off. How is
he supposed to be impartial when she's up there cooing and babying
up to him? I climbed onto his other leg to balance the scales
of justice. I didn't grab at his nuts like she did, but I let
him know how much I admired his work, even during the years he
left me coal, because I knew deep in my heart, and my father reminded
me, that was what I deserved.
While Santa freed his crotch from
the Harelip's grabby hands I tried to pose the question as impartially
as I could. "Is that crap-ass song We're Coming to America
shitty or a patriotic masterpiece?" Santa stammered and paused.
I asked again and the Harelip licked his beard. "It's real," she
said. He asked us to get off his lap. The Harelip asked him if
Rudolph had shit in cornflakes. Somewhere in line, a kid started
to cry. I repeated the question and Santa responded by trying
to stand, dumping both the Harelip and me onto the floor.
I felt awful, not so much because
we made a scene and were told by the store owner to never come
back. Boo hoo, I'll have to go somewhere else for all my scented
candle needs. I felt bad because Santa never answered the question,
and I thought he was better than that. If Santa can't take my
side, who can I trust to do it? I guess I can still write him
The reason I bring up Santa is
because he makes a cameo appearance in the dull-as-prison-flatware
Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Right smack dab in the middle, jolly Old Saint Nick pops up as
a Deus Ex Machina to hand out some gifts that double as badly
needed tools later in the story. I don't remember the C.S. Lewis
novel being so stupidly obvious, but I do remember it having Santa.
His presence is the most powerful
reminder that The Chronicles of Narnia are stories for
children about minotaurs, talking animals, wicked witches and
folklore. It's fantastical shit, fun for kids, but hardly suitable
for the plumped-up epic-striving entombment that it gets in this
movie. It's pretty damn hard to take seriously any movie that
has him making a cameo and wants you to go "ooooo." But the makers
here want you to. They don't want to entertain you nearly as much
as they want you to think you're seeing something epic. It tries
so hard to be The Lord of the Rings that they even film
it in the same New Zealand wilds and weigh it down with just as
many sweeping panoramic shots.
In The Lion, the Witch and
the Wardrobe, four annoying kids are sent away from London
during the German bombings of World War II. They are sent to live
with a professor in his massive, stodgy country estate. Bored
and restless, they play hide and seek and one of them hides in
a giant antique wardrobe filled with fur coats. She pushes to
the back which opens a door to another world, Narnia. Her siblings
follow shortly after her.
Narnia is a land of fantasy creatures
borrowed from many other sources, but there are no humans. It
has been under the control of the White Witch (Tilda Swinton)
for 100 years, and for that long it has been winter. She is an
evil despot who likes to turn her enemies to stone and impose
Once in this new world, the four
orphans are quickly targeted by Swinton because a "prophecy" declares
that the four humans will restore freedom to the land with the
help of a wise and Christlike lion named Aslan. Just as Joseph
Campbell would want it, the kids are reluctant and would rather
go home than try to save innocent creatures in a world that can't
evenbe sure is real. But when one of them is captured by Swinton,
they are encouraged by a couple of talking beavers. They decide
to stay and lead the good into battle and victory. The movie covers
the first book in the Narnia series faithfully in a literal
sense. The books are short and fun for a kid, loaded with adventure
but light on character depth. The movie adaptation gets the weak
character part, but it completely misses the fun. Instead, it
embalms the story with a bombastic and sappy score and plodding
pace. for a kid's adventure, the whole thing is as shamefully
boring as my sister's worst stories about delousing cats.
Right from the start, The Lion,
the Witch and the Wardrobe declares its overambitious intent
with some flashy WWII shots and a sentimental train departure
scene. After that, the movie mostly crawls at the pace of a turd
sliding down the back of a leg. It's not out of a reverence for
the source material, though; it's because the movie wants us to
be reverent. Apparently, we aren't supposed to have fun, we're
supposed to be cowed by the spectacle. the spectacle of what?
Santa? New Zealand in the winter? Talking beavers? What the fuck?
We watch the characters marvel over how wonderful what they are
seeing is. The movie couldn't just let us marvel, no, for fear
we may not without some guidance. the reason is because this is
the most uncreative fantasy films I have ever seen. Anytime imaginatin
is needed to enhance what Lewis wrote, it drops the ball faster
than Alfonso Soriano.
It continually fails as a story
because it feels more like the cold, calculated construction of
someone building a franchise series with big budgets. So, it takes
even the silliest portions of the slim novel, like Santa, totally
seriously. The dialog is sentimental claptrap. It is also nearly
humorless, but the few occasions it makes an attempt are tired
and trite. In fact, almost all the secondary characters are corny.
The old professor the kids go to live with is doddering and "charming".
A pair of squabbling beavers are like fourth generation Xerox
of Married... with Children.
The only time the movie wakes
up is in the final minutes when the forces of the White Witch
battle the forces of good. The battle sequences aren't unique.
in fact, they are ripped off from Lord of theRings, but
they are at least action. And as long as people are fighting,
it's easy to forget the hokey music and lousy dialog.
The Lion, the Witch and the
Wardrobe also stinks in some strange technical ways. Some
of the talking animals look only a couple of grades of animation
better than Nickelodeon. Several of the green-screen background
shots looks as fake and cheesy as driving scenes in old Hitchcock
It's a shame, really, when adults
suck all the life out of a kid's story. They pretend to revere
it, but what they really do is worship the profit potential at
the expense of the story and the kids. Thismovie is like a grown
up who never opens the action figures he loved as a kid. Yeah,
they're worth a lot now, but you sure miss out on all the fun
that way. Two Fingers for The Lion, the Witch and the