Holiday Watch: Pete’s Christmas

Pete's ChristmasDon’t you just hate those Christmases when you live it over and over and over…. It’s like that for one hapless teen in Pete’s Christmas.

The “high concept” description for this movie would be: Sixteen Candles meets Groundhog Day during Christmas. Simple as that. Middle child Pete Kidder (Zachary Gordon) has a lousy Christmas. His brother wet the bed, his parents forget his Christmas present, he’s the punching bag of the neighborhood bully family, he gets the blame for every mishap, and his grumpy grandfather (Bruce Dern) gives him an empty box just before grandpa leaves in a snit with his own son.

And then he gets to do it all again.

Over time, and innumerable Christmas repeats, Pete starts to get the hang of things. As with Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day, he explores the possibilities of a looped day (sans killing himself — this is a xmas movie, after all). With the help of newly moved in neighbor Katie (Bailee Madison) Pete gets the insight he needs to make the days get better. Also: lots of snowball fights.

I have to admit, the start of the movie made me want to bail. I was fine with the mash-up of familiar conceits, but the family was made odious, and the amount they shat on Pete was so large (I’d say “dumped on”, but that doesn’t really capture it), that I hoped maybe, just maybe, it would get better. It did. Much better. The ending felt a scene short, but was sufficient.

Because the idea of the story is familiar, I would suggest that anyone who doesn’t want to get stressed just skip the first fourth (or so) of the movie. I don’t think you’ll miss any of the key plot points — they are more-or-less repeated, often more than once — but you get to come in as the movie ramps up the holiday spirit. Perhaps that’s just my personal distaste for gonzo holiday “cheer”, but I have to call ’em like I see ’em.

Other than the setup, I enjoyed how it played out. It was interesting to see how insights were gleaned and problems solved. For what it does in the post-setup, it does it well — even tugging on the ol’ heartstrings at the right places. It’s a shame the beginning dampened some of my enthusiasm.

  
Story:★★¾☆☆ 
Acting:★★★¼☆ 
Antagonist:★★½☆☆ 
Denouement:★★☆ 
Overall:★★★☆☆ 
3 of 5 

For more movies, go to the list at: Watching the Holiday Movies

Photo: Crown Media

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