Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer

'Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer'

Released October 31, 2000

Every Christmas, I learn there are two kinds of people:
Those who like Elmo & Patsy’s ‘Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer’, and those that thinks it’s musical torture.
I’m a big fan of Christmas “novelty” songs, so I like it. I wouldn’t call it one of my favorites, but I remember hearing it for the first time in 1982. During the ‘83 Holiday season, the song became a Christmas hit, a staple of the Doctor Demento Show playlists and MTV put a video for the song in heavy rotation.

The story takes place in the town of Cityville, where we meet the main character, Jake Spankenheimer. Jake loves Christmas and everything that comes with it, and so does his Grandma, which creates a special bond between the two. The rest of their family doesn’t care much about celebrating Christmas. Jake’s sister Daphne tells Jake that there’s no such thing as Santa Claus, he asks his parents who say Daphne is correct. Jake’s faith in Santa is shaken.

Jake helps out at Grandma’s general store, the only family owned business left in town. At Christmas, the store sells lots of Grandma’s homemade fruit cakes. All other stores are owned by Austin Bucks, Cityville’s business tycoon, and he wants to buy Grandma’s store too. She refuses to sell to him, despite the efforts of money grubbing Cousin Mel, who also works at the store. Mel concocts a scheme: she will poison Grandma’s famous fruitcakes, hoping they will taste terrible, thus bankrupting the store, forcing Grandma to sell to Austin.

On Christmas Eve, the Spankenheimers are hosting a family gathering, when Grandma realizes she forgot her medication and walks home to get it, taking some of her fruit cake with her. While walking home, Santa flies by in his sleigh and his reindeer act distracted and accidentally run over Grandma. Her family notices her absence and looks for her. There’s no sign of Grandma, they find her shoes & fruitcake in the snow. Jake is convinced she was hit by a reindeer. Mel finds a note near the scene and grabs it, telling no one.

A year passes, with still no sign of Grandma. Jake is sad about this, Mel convinces Grandpa Spankenheimer (Grandma’s heir) to give her power of attorney. Grandpa appears to have dementia, so he’s easily manipulated by Mel, so she gets him to sell the store to Austin. Jake protests, saying Grandma might come back and wouldn’t agree to sell. Austin says he’ll give her another week to return.

It turns out Grandma was taken to the North Pole by Santa so he could make sure she received medical attention. She is suffering from amnesia, so Santa doesn’t know where to take her. Jake e-mails Santa, his message is read by Quincy, the chief elf. They figure out Grandma is the amnesiac woman, Santa returns her to Cityville. She is happily greeted by Jake & the rest of her family, the end. Or, it should have been the end, anyway.

At this point of the show, I noticed there was still 22 minutes left in the show’s running time, I wondered what else needed to happen.

Mel and her lawyer I.M. Slime frame Santa for kidnapping Grandma, he is charged with leaving the scene of an accident and “Sleighicular Negligence” (the best “joke” of the special). Mel and Slime also sue Santa for everything he has, thus threatening the existence of Christmas as we know it. Meanwhile, Mel and Slime have kidnapped the still-amnesiac Grandma and hidden her in remote cabin in the forest.
Spoilers follow.
With the help of Quincy the elf, Jake locates Grandma, and finds the note left at the scene of the reindeer accident. Turns out to be a note left by Santa, explaining that he ran over Grandma by accident because the reindeer smelled the fruit cake she was carrying; it seems Mel added “reindeer nip” to the recipe. Grandma’s memory is restored when Jake gives her a piece of her famous fruit cake, she reads the note and rushes to court, where Santa is about to be found guilty. Mel is revealed as the cause of all the troubles, Santa is acquitted; Grandma’s general store is saved, as is Christmas itself.

Austin Bucks has changed his tune, he will not try to buy the store, but wants to start a national franchise of Grandma’s stores, making her and Jake’s family very wealthy.
J. A. Morris says:
Like I said, this special should have ended with Grandma’s return to Cityville. The relationship between Jake and Grandma (and their mutual love of Christmas & the Holiday season) in the first part is touching. Mel could have received her comeuppance at that point.  In the tradition of earlier classic specials, Mel could have even been reformed. And that would’ve probably been enough to get a positive review. But it drags on for practically another half hour after that.
My appreciation of the title song made me want to like this, but I can’t.
My rating:

Two Candy canes

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