As the daylight dwindles and
the Most Expensive Holiday draws closer with the inexorable scurry of
The Giant Rat of Sumatra, we're all pushed, pulled, shoved and rushed
to the point of double- and triple- and quadruple-tasking, and it can't
be good for us, because we all end up with frayed tempers, and very
little good will towards anybody with inner peace.
Just last week, for example, a couple of my friends,
having snoozed through my comments on “The Golden Compass,” wanted to
know what I thought of the really fun movies that had just opened.
So I dashed out of work, picked up my Santa
suit at the cleaners, chopped down a Christmas tree, sawed the Yule
Log, and made it to the multiplex in time to watch two movies in one
day. It is, however, just marginally possible that I didn't stay awake
for the whole time, because I only remember one movie, that went
something like this:
Will Smith lives alone in Manhattan, because an
outbreak of Bubble Gum Rock has driven off all the people and left only
animals. Will is still around because he was in his basement
studio remastering some old Robert Morley movies when the Monkees
Will spends his days driving up and down a deserted
Sixth Avenue, looking for a miracle cure because he's a scientist, and
flirting with mannequins because he's nuts.
At night he goes home to his super-cool brownstone
on Washington Square and closes the cast-iron shutters because he's
afraid of the dark, and hallucinates about losing his wife, who left
him for a career in aeronautics when he gave up songwriting for genetic
It turns out he has good reason to fear, because one
evening three horrid monsters break in, trash his house, and sing
repulsive songs in dreadful harmonies with chirpy little voices that
would make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window. With the
help of his roommate, Rin-Tin-Tin, Will captures the beasts and straps
them down in his studio, where he attempts to cure them by making them
listen to loops of Phillip Glass's “Satyagraha” intercut with The White
Album and some Wanda Landowska. “You are sick and I can help you,” Will
says. “I can fix this!” he screams, pulling out more vinyl discs of
Judy Collins, John Denver, and E. Power Biggs.
Will is, however, so close to being completely
unhinged by the horror of the situation that the alpha male monster
(identified by the large upper-case “A” on its sweat shirt, making one
think queasily of Nathaniel Hawthorn) is able to talk him into agenting
them as the opening act for Celine Dion's Kazakhstan Tour.
Fortunately, Will's ex-wife shows up just as the
monster named Theodore is about to squirm its way into Will's bed. She
has a kid with her who doesn't look at all like the kid in his
hallucinations, so you know they're real, but she wants them all to go
to Vermont, for cryin' out loud, which is where all these woodland
creatures come from in the first place.
Will stalls the Vermont trip by negotiating with a
record producer who is also a morgue clerk in “Men in Black” and
a video store owner in “Men in Black II,” thereby proving that
space-time is full of wormholes, or string, or something.
The producer, named J. Worthington Foulfellow and
played by a bald fox, bribes the monster trio into leaving Will by
singing “Hi-diddle-de-dee, a rock star's life for me!” and inviting
them to Pleasure Island, where they meet Lampwick and Pinocchio and get
wasted on Moxie shots and some really fine Miná de Veracruz cigars.
The trio wakes up with a collective hangover the
size of Cleveland, which is why they can't tolerate sunlight, and sell
their souls back to Will for a fistful of Alka-Seltzer and some dark
glasses. “Honest John” Foulfellow is bribed to give up the trio with a
Rogaine therapy gift certificate, and all the good guys end up at
Middlebury College, teaching Screenwriting 101 and spending their
afternoons gathering hazelnuts in the thickets and drinking macchiatos
at the Moldy Monk.
By the time I left the multiplex I had no clear idea
of what I had seen; I ran into the same friends, who said I had
obviously slept through both movies and couldn't be trusted to pass
judgment on any matters artistic, and I said, yawning cleverly, that
their mother wore army boots.
Of course all of us are going to meet again at
Christmas dinner and start the whole donnybrook up again, and I'm sure
you will too; but it's a tradition, and we couldn't get through
the Solstice without it.
So, Happy Christmas to all, and to all a clean fight.