Godmothered, currently streaming on Disney Plus, is the story of a fairy godmother in- training who goes off to help a little girl and give her a happily- ever- after only to learn that she’s now an adult single mother. That’s a cute idea, right? In a world where we tend to focus on the princesses, why not tell the tale of the fairy godmother? Okay, I’m onboard. But here’s the thing…
If you’ve watched the trailer, seen advertisements, or even read the description on Disney Plus, which I swear, when it was first released, it literally said; “Set during Christmas…,” you might be aware that the film is “set during Christmas…,” And after watching it, you might come to the conclusion that Godmothered did not need to be “set during Christmas…”
Just to be clear, that doesn’t mean Christmas was completely irrelevant to story. It worked and made sense, but because of the significance of the fairy godmother ideal within Disney, shouldn’t it have been made into a more neutral movie? Why did Christmas need to be tagged onto it? Why did this concept, that should have stood on its own without the holiday boost, get made into a Christmas movie? Nothing about the premise screams Christmas. With that said, what makes a Christmas movie? Christmas spirit? Believing in Santa? Tradition, family, love… What’s the requirement? Is there one? I have at least one major requirement; Christmas should be part of the plot. What do I mean by plot? The action itself. Christmas needs to be relevant and tied to the plot.
Plot is part of the story, but the story isn’t always part of the plot. For example, in Elf, The Santa Clause and Christmas Vacation, Christmas is the driving force of the action, it’s the reason everything happens. Buddy is an elf who lives at the North Pole, learns he’s a human and goes to find his biological father. Scott Calvin, a divorced dad who struggles to connect with his son, transforms into Santa Claus after Santa falls off his roof and he puts on the suit. The patriarch of the family is determined to make Christmas great despite the chaos that comes with the holiday. Yet in Godmothered, Eleanor the fairy godmother, just wanted to make someone’s life better. She didn’t know it was Christmas, this was irrelevant to her. Everything she did, she probably would have done and could have done at any other time of the year (okay, there are two scenes where she attempts to turn a pumpkin into a carriage, so it probably couldn’t have been set in the summer but still…). The point is plot comes out of the story. The story wouldn’t make sense, or there wouldn’t even be a story without Christmas, and Godmothered is a story could have been told without Christmas.
This is something I think about a lot (clearly). While I do admit that Christmas needs to be the reason why the action happens, several times I’ve seen it when Christmas could be replaced by something else. Home Alone for instance, technically could have worked without the McCallisters going away specifically for Christmas. It could have been a summer vacation. But the more I play around with that thought, the more I realize that Christmas works perfectly in this film. It’s the glue that connects it.
The Wet Bandits are scouting out a neighborhood, knowing that families travel for Christmas, and their houses would be empty. Technically, they could have scouted during any other time of the year, but why bother? People travel for Christmas, that’s a fact, end of story. Aside from the actions of the characters, Christmas is a major player in the feel and tone of the film. When you’re a kid, there’s this general wholesome feeling of excitement and fun when the holidays are on the way, and the feeling is present throughout the movie. I know it might seem obvious, but seriously… Christmas is one of the elements in Home Alone that make it great. It wouldn’t be the same if it was set during a different time.
This applies to Die Hard as well, but unlike Home Alone, this film has an ongoing intense debate on whether it’s a Christmas movie or not. I’ve always wanted to say no. John McClane could have flown out to L.A. for a reason other than Christmas. The company party could have been something other than a Christmas party. Unlike Home Alone, the story wouldn’t have changed if it wasn’t set during Christmas. Although, as I mentioned before, similar to Home Alone, the wholesome sense of Christmas time does help the story. I mean, on Christmas Eve you’re spending time with family, prepping and getting excited for the next day. The last thing you’re probably worrying about is being held hostage by a terrorist group.
But aside from the actual story and setting, Die Hard was not meant to be a Christmas movie. It was released in July 1988. So why set it during Christmas? Or more importantly, why not release it during Christmas? It’s unlikely, that it was set up to be a holiday movie considering its release. Iron Man 3 did the same thing. It’s set during Christmas, but it was released in May. So, why isn’t there a debate with that movie? I assume it’s because Christmas plays much less of a role in Iron Man 3 than in Die Hard.
I admit, it has been a while since I’ve watched it, but other than the scene where we see the Vice- President at Christmas dinner with his family… nothing would change. It wouldn’t affect the story. In Die Hard, it wouldn’t necessarily affect Hans Gruber’s goal or change the outcome of the movie, but the film does lean into Christmas a little bit, i.e. “Now I have a machine gun. Ho, Ho, Ho.” Christmas gives Die Hard an odd charm, that you obviously wouldn’t expect from an action movie. While I’m fine with acknowledging or accepting these films, more so Die Hard, as a Christmas movie, but you can’t convince me that they were intended to be one.
That’s my main issue with Godmothered. It’s trying to be a Christmas movie, and it doesn’t need to be. Most of the other movies I referenced above, wouldn’t work or be the same if it wasn’t Christmas. A Christmas movie needs to get you in the zone, in the mood, in the holiday spirit… That’s why it needs to be part of the plot, that’s why it needs to be the glue that connects everything in the story. It makes you excited when the holidays come around. Where you can just make hot chocolate (or in Christmas language, hot cocoa), some popcorn and watch whatever Christmas movie you love, no matter what it is. I can make arguments and judge movies all day long, but I know ultimately it doesn’t matter. Everyone will watch whatever they want, as they should. So, whether it’s Elf, Die Hard or even Godmothered, watch whatever will give you some joy. Watch whatever will put you in the holiday spirit and watch whatever is going to help you have a great holiday.