From ARC Entertainment (II) in 2013, Pete’s Christmas (available on Netflix) is not so much the tale of “Woe is the poor, misunderstood middle-child” as it is an introspection on not feeling sorry for yourself, even when it’s easy to do.
Imagine waking up on Christmas morning in your younger brother’s bunk (who, though uber-smart, still wets the bed) after being displaced on Christmas Eve by a crotchety grandfather (Bruce Dern brings it!) with a chip on his shoulder.
Further, imagine an over-achiever mom, who because she tries to do everything from being the main breadwinner (just until Dad finds a new job after being downsized) as a veterinarian who’s on-call 24/7, to following every holiday tradition to ensure her family “enjoys” Christmas, creates more pressure for perfection.
Finally, the last straw. Watch your older brother delight in his new football. See your younger brother (in some disbelief) open the telescope you asked for… then watch desperate realization set in when each parent thought the other parent took care of you. It’s Christmas, and YOU HAVE NO PRESENT.
Such is the plight of the sometimes forgotten middle child.
Does Pete suck it up and make the best of it? Absolutely not.
Crestfallen, his day goes from bad to worse, when he:
- Gets snowball-bombed by the neighborhood bullies
- Tears his pants before meeting the cutest new neighbor ever – Kate, played by one of my favorite actresses, Bailee Madison
- Is dragged to go Christmas caroling in matching family sweaters
- Is creamed at the traditional neighborhood football game
- Is unfairly blamed for the Christmas tree catastrophe (Thanks older bro.)
- Suffers through a disastrous holiday dinner, also indirectly attributed to him
- Watches his grandfather’s unhappiness spill over into the rest of the family
Before his grandfather huffs away, he gives Pete a mysterious box from “the old country” merely saying he could see Pete was having a bad day, and it was time to pass it on.
There’s nothing in the small wooden box. Another disappointment.
The only good thing about this Christmas is that Pete gets his room back and the day is over.
Or is it? He wakes up again and suffers through the same nightmare. It takes him a few more rounds (In the vein of Groundhog’s Day, and Edge of Tomorrow, Pete is doomed to repeat the same day over and over again until he gets it right; i.e., make it right.) to figure out that he’s not dreaming nor is anyone playing a trick on him. It is in these first few repeats that I personally have a hard time exerting patience, yet I understand they are necessary for what’s to come. (Hence, it influenced my rating below.)
For that is when the fun begins. Pete starts playing with his foreknowledge and what he can do with it. He takes sweet revenge, although it sometimes backfires as he hones his skills.
After a few rounds of employing these tactics, his victories start to feel hollow. He digs deeper, takes a good look at himself, his family members, and his budding relationship with Kate. As he stops delighting in selfish antics, he begins to understand the struggles in the lives of his loved ones.
Instead of trying to changing his circumstances, he realizes that if he changes, perhaps that will impact the others. Try as he does, he seems to keep missing that final mark. So where does he turn to make it all right?
This movie is a little off the beaten track.
How many Christmas films have the instrumental version of Radiohead’s song “Creep” almost continually in the background? One brother even calls another a weirdo at the right time. Here is Straight No Chaser’s version. Because it’s one of my haunting favorites, I’ll share part of the lyrics – clean version.
This could be the middle-child anthem.
CREEP by Radiohead (sample)…But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo,
What am I doing here?
I don’t belong here.I don’t care if it hurts,
I want to have control,
I want a perfect body,I want a perfect soul,
I want you to notice,
When I’m not around,
You’re so very special,
I wish I was special.[Chorus:]
But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo,
What am I doing here?
I don’t belong here.Oh, oh…