Pop Culture Blind Spots: I’ll Be Home For Christmas

Jonathan Taylor Thomas – J.T.T., if you were born between about 1980 and 1990 – perfectly illustrates the life cycle of a tween hearthrob. He was Randy Taylor on Home Improvement, Young Simba in The Lion King, and a Certified Hottie in the pages of Tiger Beat. When I was in fourth grade (the 1995-1996 school year), all of the girls in my class were obsessed with him. A few short years later – 1998, when I’ll Be Home for Christmas was released – we had all but forgotten about JTT. A lot had happened since 1996 (Hanson. Leonardo DiCaprio. Puberty). That’s how I, a one-time J.T.T. fangirl, got to 2015 without seeing his foray into Christmas entertainment. Here goes:

  • This is the most high-school looking college I’ve ever seen. J.T.T. is in a hallway covered in lockers; his dweeby friend is STUFFED INTO ONE.
  • 1998 thing: J.T.T. uses the phrase “on the net.”
  • 1998 thing: a flock of girls are wearing Biore pore strips and J.T.T. asks if they work (1998 thing: they don’t).
  • 1998 thing: J.T.T. (Jake), wearing one of those button up bowling shirt things, flirts with a Mary Camden-era Jessica Biel (Ally), who has a Smashmouth poster.

  • Ribbed shirts sure were all the rage, weren’t they?
  • I think Mary Camden  is wearing a skort.
  • So Jake wants Ally to spend Christmas with him instead of her family. Is this a thing 18-year-olds do? My 18-year-old cousin went to Florida with her girlfriend’s family last Christmas and we all thought it was a little extra for someone who didn’t exist until 1996.
  • J.T.T. and his bros are in a cafeteria. This is the weirdest, most high-schoolish college.
  • J.T.T’s little sister is roughly the age we were when this came out, and she is the late-90s awkward stage personified.

File under: lime green mock turtleneck, stripey zipped thing, half of your hair pulled tightly back. Yep, all checks out.

  • “Is the convenience of technology worth the loss of our privacy?” – a very prescient J.T.T.
  • J.T.T.’s father offers to GIVE HIM A PORSCHE if he comes home for dinner at 6:00 pm on Christmas Eve. If I am home for dinner at 6:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve, I get dinner.
  • So how’d I end up watching this? I’m watching a nephew and niece while their brother is in the hospital (note: this will be relevant later). Anyway, the 8-year-old boy requested a Christmas movie that neither of us had seen. He pronounced J.T.T.’s dad’s offer “a little extreme.”
  • 1998 thing: A group of boys cheat on a final with the aid of beepers and antique dial-up internet.
  • Mary Camden is wearing her second chunky-knit awkwardly short ribbed sweater.

  • The bros drop J.T.T. in the desert wearing a Santa Suit and I have questions. They leave a note: “Let’s see you sweet talk your way out of this one.” So. They knocked him unconscious, changed his clothes, and drove him to a secluded location to die? God, this is dark.

  • Mary Camden: “if you make me listen to any sexist, racist, or homophobic jokes I’m gonna have to slug you.” Add that one to my to-cross stitch pile. (She’s driving cross-country with J.T.T.’s enemy bro.)
  • 1998 thing: Eddie, the enemy bro, is in a sensitive mood, wants to listen to “Jewel, Sarah, Fiona.”
  • Tracey, Jake’s sister, is wearing giant terrible overalls.

Can’t find a pic of the overalls, but here’s a vest. A vest and I guess a spoiler.

  • J.T.T. and a car full of blue-haired Tom Jones fanatics listen to What’s New Pussycat.
  • It starts snowing on J.T.T. in the desert, I scoff, 8-year-old reminds me that deserts have dry climates but can be extremely cold at night. Which is true.
  • Jessica Biel slug’s Douchebag Eddie “as per our agreement.” I miss this teen movie archetype.
  • A van driver swerves about the road while he’s trying to retrieved a dropped sandwich and Charley and I both laugh out loud. FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY. GIGGLES FOR ALL AGES. No but really, this movie is not bad on the separate rating scale I use for Christmas movies.
  • Douchebag Eddie calls himself a “millennial type of guy” who likes yoga and macrobiotic food. I could have sworn we were still going by Gen Y in 1998.
  • J.T.T. and the sandwich guy lie to a cop and say they’re giving presents to children in the hospital. They hand out kitchen appliances.
  • THEN a little boy says that all he wants is to go home and be with his family. My nephew looks a bit glum thinking about his brother, and I learn a lesson about trying to entertain a worried child with Jonathan Taylor Thomas movies. See, that’s why the Babysitters Club used to bring Kid Kits with them. ANYWAY. The hospital boy is never seen again, so there was no point in the movie turning serious for like 20 seconds.

21 Reasons You'll Want To Watch "I'll Be Home For Christmas" This Holiday

  • Sandwich Guy sings to his estranged wife Marjorie at her workplace. Her workplace is a restaurant where you, I guess, choose which cow you want to eat.

  • Douchebag Eddie wonders why more breakfast places don’t serve food right in the skillet. Same. But also, tort liability probs.
  • I’ve somehow stopped noticing that JTT has been wearing a Santa suit this whole time.
  • Douchebag Eddie and Mary Camden stay at a honeymoon suite decorated by my grandma during one of her mid-90s craft sprees.
  • JTT steals a man’s gross meat sandwich, which sounds like a euphemism but isn’t, and says it’s a liver transplant so that his bus goes where he needs it to.
  • This is an OK Christmas movie, but you know what would be the BEST Christmas movie that I’d watch every year? If they cut together all of the Christmas or wintery or snowy parts from all the Harry Potters. I’d pay probably not evening admission for that, but definitely matinee.
  • Allie and Jake meet up and have a boring fight. You could skip it.
  • J.T.T. enters a Santa 5K to get money to fly home. He wins after a cluster of Santas gets taken out by a friendly dog. The whole thing would make a fantastic Where’s Waldo page.

  • Jake donates his winnings to homeless people.
  • Tracey has a plane ticket’s worth of money in her “ballerina bag.” The best thing I had in my Irish Dance bag was maybe like a newish Werther’s Original.
  • Jake stows away in a dog crate because he doesn’t have an I.D.
  • Charley: “How did Allie and Jake get there at the same time, if he flew and she took the bus?”

Me: Wait. How DID they?

Honestly the geography of this trip is very confusing to me.

  • Jake steals a sleigh to get home in time. My nephew notes that Jake “steals a lot” and he isn’t wrong.
  • Jake makes it home at 5:59, but refuses to go into the house until after 6 because he is silly.
  • The Porsche is parked in the snowy front yard by a set designer who doesn’t know how snow works.

 

  • Jake, a silly goose, refuses the car but accepts his father’s love. AWWW.
  • Jake and his stepmom exchange sweater sizes. She is an 8.
  • 1998 thing: a size 8 woman in a movie.
  • Bottom line: this Lifetime-quality Christmas movie that was perfectly serviceable. On my separate rating scale for Christmas movies, it was “cute.” In Christmas movies, cute isn’t a bad thing.

 

I Saw 10 Ships: The Best Christmas RomComs

When you think of what children’s Christmas movies are really about – elaborate holiday fantasies about befriending Santa, visiting the North Pole, and getting the ultimate present – it’s a wonder that any kids like them at all. Real life never matches up.

You could say the same thing about holiday rom coms. I don’t know why I love watching attractive people fall head-over-heels in love (right in time for Christmas!) while sporting designer wardrobes. I could die alone in clothes from Target, but that won’t stop me from loving a good Christmas rom com. If you love rom coms too, make some time between now and 12/25 to see these three ten ‘ships come sailing in.

Traci’s Picks

Love Actually

What’s a Christmas movie list without Love Actually? Shit – is what it is. I remember going to see this with some friends in high school (at the theater Molly used to work at!) and immediately loving it about 10 minutes in. I was enamored with Christmas in London, hot Karl, Jamie and Aurelia’s unspoken love story, ‘Ifyou real-ly love Christtt-mas’ charming Prime Minister Hugh Grant, pre-fame Chiwetel Ejiofor & January Jones, everything about Emma Thompson, SAM – all of it. I bought the soundtrack and played it on repeat, even when it wasn’t Christmas. Needless to say, it’s not only one of my favorite Holiday RomComs, but all time movies in general. Besides Crash, Richard Curtis brought the intersecting storylines way of filmmaking into the the 2000s, and it’s been an influence on movies ever since.

The Best Man Holiday

Let’s be real. I only went to see this movie theater because of the impressive amount of HBMs (<- click for explanation). I hadn’t see the first one, but I figured I didn’t really need to know much about it, and they would recap me if necessary. And if you haven’t seen it either, the good news is that when you watch The Best Man Holiday, they’ll do just that. This group of longtime friends gets together for some quality time over Christmas, and while there are many laughs and near panty-dropping moments (like the one shown above), all I’m telling you is to watch with a box of tissues next to you. You will probably need them.

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

I wasn’t one of those girls into JTT. Just call me the 1%. I was too busy fangirling over Leo and BSB, I didn’t have time for a silly crush on a 90s It boy. However, I wasn’t exactly immune to his movies either. Like this one, a fun and festive adventure which has JTT speeding across the country in a Santa suit to get from California back home to New York in time for Christmas. Yes, that is Jessica Biel as his girlfriend. Yes, of course, the ride in a one-horse open sleigh together.

Bad Santa

Does this really constitute as a romantic comedy? Maybe not entirely, but these is some ‘romance’ in it, thanks to my girl Lauren Graham and her naughty relationship with Billy Bob Thornton’s Santa. He’s a disaster, but you know who really wins Christmas in this movie? THIS KID.

When Harry Met Sally…

When Harry Met Sally doesn’t entirely take place over the holidays, but a chunk of it does, and of course the end at New Year’s Eve, so I’m counting it. If you’ve read my previous post about this film, you’ll know that I was a late bloomer to this amazing movie, but I’m all in now. WHMS is a reminder that New York at Christmastime is a magical beautiful place – and then you snap back into reality watching Sally try to haul a Christmas tree by herself in the snow down the street. But all of it, the good and the bad, is a reminder why RomComs like this are the perfect thing to watch at the holidays. They make you laugh, make you cry, make you all tingly inside knowing that the season isn’t just about the trees and the snow and the presents – it’s about being around the people you love.

Molly’s Picks

The Holiday

The Holiday is one of my top two Christmas rom coms (it sort of shares first place with Love Actually). It has everything I could want in a Christmas movie: aspirational real estate (both the California mansion and the Cotswolds cottage), just-as-aspirational hair and wardrobe, precocious English tots, a kindly old man, and Jude Law right in the middle of what will someday be remembered as his golden era. Sure, it does fall into the romcom trope of everyone thinking the obviously pretty and charismatic Kate Winslet is some sort of sad sack, but – spoiler! it turns out she’s leading lady material after all. With Jack Black and Cameron Diaz rounding out the main cast, the Holiday is the perfect balance of rom and com.

Meet Me In St. Louis

As with regular-season rom coms, it’s important not to disregard the classics at Christmas. This musical (come on, you knew there would be a musical!) follows a year in the life of a turn-of-the-century family. However, the film ends at Christmas time, and is the origin of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. To be honest, I never would have bothered with this movie if (1) I weren’t in the play in 8th grade, and (2) it didn’t star Judy Garland while she was still … doing well. But it’s worth watching if you like musicals, holiday cheer, and one of the most talented performers of a generation.

The Family Stone

I recommend this rom com with one reservation: I am recommending the whole thing except for the last, oh, five-ish minutes. If you’ve seen it, you know why. But the rest of it is great, sort of a Yuletide This Is Where I Leave You. And like TIWILY, it’s at least somewhat relatable if you have a large family of grown siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews. The comedic parts of it hit a little harder than a lot of Christmas movies, which stick to the feel-good fluff. Plus, the cast is incredible: Christmas King Dermot Mulroney, as well as Diane Keaton, Craig T. Nelson, Luke Wilson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Claire Danes, Rachel McAdams,  Elizabeth Reaser and Paul Schneider (Mark Brendanawicz himself).

But I mean it about the last 5-10 minutes.

Elf

Elf, a rom com? I say that it is! It may be a children’s/ family movie, but I think it’s one of the funniest films out there. And I know I’m not the only one who thinks so, because just about every other adult I know can quote the whole thing. After a rocky start (the musical Law and Order: SVU episode setup that is Baby It’s Cold Outside), the gentle love story of Buddy and Jovie is a big part of what makes Elf so sweet. What can I say? Smiling’s my favorite.

While You Were Sleeping

If I had to explain to someone what 1995 was like, in the romcom world anyway, I’d show them While You Were Sleeping. This movie is just so delightfully normcore, before we had a word for it. Everyone’s hanging out in Chicago, wearing Gap sweaters and Land’s End khakis, telling lies about their romantic history and falling in love during comas and stuff. If you’re wondering why your mom still calls Sandra Bullock America’s Sweetheart, just watch While You Were Sleeping.