Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Christmas Twister


I wanted to find an obscure Christmas movie to write about today, and they don't get much more obscure than this one. Actually, one of my daughters saw it last year when it debuted on the Ion television network and told me about it. My reaction at the time: "CHRISTMAS TWISTER? There's no such movie as CHRISTMAS TWISTER!"

Well, there is, and I'm here to tell you about it, if not wholeheartedly recommend it.

First of all, it's set in the area where I live, although it was filmed elsewhere, as quickly becomes obvious to anyone familiar with this part of Texas. In fact, the first scene takes place in Dublin, Texas, which has to be the only time I've ever seen a movie set partially in Dublin. Any movie. Other locales include Stephenville, Granbury, Lake Worth (about five miles from where I'm typing this), and Fort Worth.

The plot is pretty simple. A rare, unseasonal outbreak of killer tornadoes threatens Fort Worth and the surrounding area. Climate scientist Caspar Van Dien (who has certainly been in his share of less than stellar movies) realizes what's coming and tries to warn people, including his news broadcaster wife, but nobody will believe him. Sure enough, the tornadoes hit just before Christmas, chaos and destruction ensue, and the scientist and his wife and kids (who are all in different locations starting out, of course) try to survive and find each other. A few soap operatic sub-plots stretch things out.

Christmas is in December, but that's about the only thing CHRISTMAS TWISTER gets right as far as facts go. The science, the geography, the way people actually talk and act in Texas, all of that is pretty much wrong. One of the guys who wrote the script lives in Austin, but there's still a strong sense that he and his co-author just called up Google Maps and plucked names off of it. It doesn't help that the actors refer to highway numbers with "the" in front of them, as in, "Let's hop on the 1-9-9" or "We'll cut over to the I-30". I don't know how widespread that practice is in other parts of the country, but I've never heard anybody say such a thing around here. I've always thought that was a Southern California thing. County names are mispronounced, too.

Yes, I know I'm being picky about things that I happen to know even though they probably wouldn't bother people in other parts of the country. I'm sure I've made similar mistakes in my own work. You try your best and you go on. So I feel bad about pointing them out, but such things do make it hard for me to take the movie seriously.

That's probably the point, though. Movies like CHRISTMAS TWISTER aren't meant to be taken seriously. And in that respect it does manage some moments of goofy, over-the-top entertainment. Richard Burgi, who's made a career out of playing smarmy lawyers, smarmy doctors, and smarmy businessmen, is a smarmy meteorologist in this one, and one of his scenes is particularly effective. A statuesque blond actress named Kassandra Clementi plays the best friend of the scientist's daughter and actually puts some spark and humor into an underwritten part. The fact that she spends her on-screen time in extremely short cut-off jeans and cowboy boots probably doesn't hurt. She's Australian and currently featured on a soap opera down there, but I wouldn't be surprised to see her turn up again in American productions.

Other than taking place just before Christmas, there's not much holiday spirit in this one. It's cheaply made and for the most part very workman-like, but I stayed awake for the whole thing, which is worth something. Ion has shown it several times already this Christmas season. I don't know if it's scheduled again, but you should be able to look that up if you're interested. And hey, there's always next year, when I'm sure they'll show it again.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Can't believe I never heard ot it - I'm choosing to believe you that it's real and not an early April Fool's gag - and that Crider hasn't written about it. C'mon Bill, what about it?

I do love the title, however.


Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

You forgot smary hitmen and smary Federal agents on the Richard Burgi resume. He also worked in at least one soap opera my wife watched, Another World.


Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

I just checked and it is on tonight at 9 EST on Ion. Set your DVR!


Jeff M.

James Reasoner said...

Thanks for the info about the schedule, Jeff. Burgi's career is an interesting one. You certainly can't fault his choices since he's worked steadily and I'm sure done quite well for himself playing creeps, but he was so good as the stalwart hero in THE SENTINEL, a short-lived action series that I've written about in the Tuesday's Overlooked TV series, that I wish he had played more parts like that. But I always appreciate a good character actor, too.

RJR said...

Any girls in tank tops?

RJR

RJR said...

I enjoyed The Sentinel. Also enjoyed him in that series he did with Cheryl Ladd set in Hawaii.

RJR

James Reasoner said...

No tank tops, but the movie does end with the actresses playing Van Dien's wife and daughter in skimpy bikinis, because splashing around in the pool is how everybody in Texas celebrates Christmas, don't ya know? But believe me, Kassandra Clementi in cut-off jeans and cowboy boots is worth tuning in.

james jepson said...

this is definitely filmed in Southern California the fire trucks at the mall were LA County fire trucks