Twas the night before Christmas,
And all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring,
Except the four Grinches comin’ in the rear in standard two-by-two cover formation.
— Theo (He doesn’t actually say “Grinches,” but the rest is right.)
If you watch just one Christmas movie on Jesus’s birthday, you may as well make it the best. You may as well make it “Die Hard.”
What’s that you say? “Die Hard” isn’t the best Christmas movie? Maybe someone who talks to the computer isn’t really the sanest decider of such things. And, anyway, if “Die Hard” isn’t the king of Christmas flicks, what is?
Sure, there are many fantastic iterations of “A Christmas Carol” — Ebenezer Scrooge has been played brilliantly over the years by an eclectic assortment of actors including George C. Scott, Bill Murray and Donald Duck’s uncle, whose name escapes me — and “It’s a Wonderful Life” certainly deserves at least passing consideration as the top Christmas movie.
But get real. Those movies are, essentially, about how money doesn’t buy happiness. Even “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is an indictment of the materialistic mindset.
As awesome Americans we know how stupid that is, because otherwise Obama and the Republicans wouldn’t be negotiating tax deals while schools go unfunded. The Christmas spirit — charity, generosity, joy of giving — is a fine idea, but it’s also a lie. We got to hold on to our money, because it’s ours. George Bailey should have gone to prison.
“A Christmas Story”? Please. We can settle this scientifically through a comprehensive juxtaposition of each film’s violence (how else?):
Analysis One — Weaponry: Ralphie wants an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time. That does sound pretty cool, but Bruce Willis’s John McClane wants a machine gun. So imbued with the Christmas spirit is McClane upon finally receiving this cherished gift, he shares his joy by sending the first terrorist he kills down on an elevator with the corpse decorated in a Santa hat and the words “Now I have a machine gun. Ho, Ho, Ho” written in red across its sweatshirt.
Ralphie’s gun may put eyes out, but McClane’s puts lives out. Thirteen lives, to be exact. So it’s 1-0 “Die Hard.”
Comparison Thing II — Bully beatdown: Ralphie does unleash quite a string of curses as he’s pounding Scut Farkas into the snow. Consider how that fight ends, though … with Ralphie’s mom breaking it up. His mom! Ha! McClane beats up hulking mercenary Karl by bashing his head into metal pipes as he screams “You shoulda heard your brother squeal when I broke his Yuletide neck!” Then he grabs Karl in a headlock and drags him up a flight of stairs while raining massive, bassy blows against his enemy’s bloodied head. “I’m gonna kill ya, I’m gonna cook ya, and I’m gonna Yuletide eat ya!” McClane tells Karl before wrapping a chain around his neck and bouncing his body off a concrete wall. (He doesn’t actually say “Yuletide,” but the rest is right.) Eat it, Ralphie. That’s 2-0 “Die Hard” and the prosecution rests.
The staples of Christmas are everywhere in “Die Hard.” In one of the movie’s earliest scenes, McClane asks nosy limo driver Argyle “Don’t you have any Christmas music?” Argyle responds by turning up Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis”:
It was December 24th on Hollis Ave in the dark
When I seen a man chilling with his dog in the park
I approached very slowly with my heart full of fear
Looked at his dog, oh my God, an ill reindeer
But then I was illin because the man had a beard
And a bag full of goodies, 12 o’clock had neared
So I turned my head a second and the man had gone
But he left his driver’s wallet smack dead on the lawn
I picked the wallet up then I took a pause
Took out the license and it cold said “Santa Claus.”
The film is littered with the wondrous, heart-warming symbols of Christmas, like when Carl Winslow sings “Let it Snow” before his melodious rendition gets cut off by a terrorist’s dead body crashing out his windshield after McClane tosses it from a window 30 stories high.
It doesn’t get more festive than Christmas trees, and there just so happens to be one in the background when McClane first radios police to tell them terrorists have taken over Nakatomi Tower.
“Sir, this line is for emergency purposes only,” a dispatch officer says, her face illuminated by the tree’s lovely little bulbs.
“No mistletoe, lady! Do I sound like I’m ordering a pizza!?” McClane responds. (He doesn’t say “mistletoe,” but the rest is right.)
One small Christmas tree actually gets blasted straight into the air during “Die Hard’s” biggest shootout, when Hans and Karl pin McClane down in an office that’s decorated everywhere with light-up snowmen and candy canes, which McClane sprints past in his bare feet through broken glass. From that point on, McClane is leaving red (Christmas again!) puddles of blood in his wake.
Santa is actually a principal character in “Die Hard,” and he sees way more action than that phony in “Miracle on 34th Street.” Jolly Ol’ Saint Nicholas is in the office when greasy-bearded sleezebag salesman Ellis snorts cocaine, and Kris Kringle comes back again when Ellis gets his head blown off by Hans in a hilarious bit of Christmastime manslaughter.
What’s not to love? Alan Rickman’s Hans has got to be the best Christmas bad guy in movie history, a serpentine criminal genius with a goofball streak, backed by a platoon of mercenaries including the hilarious Theo, whose exclamation once he’s finally cracked the Nakatomi vault sums up the spirit of this season as succinctly as any two words ever could: “Merry Christmas.”
Indeed. Merry Yuletide Christmas.
(This article ran in the Albuquerque Journal last year.)