For the last Genre Grandeur of 2020, the theme is ‘Alternative Christmas Movies’. Whenever I think of this term, films where the story doesn’t rely on typical Christmas elements always comes to mind. After watching and reviewing If You Believe, I remembered another ‘90s Christmas movie I hadn’t seen in years: To Grandmother’s House We Go. However, when I thought about this film, it didn’t seem to focus on the Christmas holiday like other titles, such as those found on either of Hallmark’s networks. Sure, both Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are wearing Santa hats on the movie’s poster. You can also see Christmas lights behind the Olsen twins in the aforementioned image. But the story itself is not one that is exclusive to the Christmas movie genre. In fact, the idea of siblings running away to another family member’s house can be found in a plot from any time of year. Even the title, To Grandmother’s House We Go, doesn’t contain any Christmas references. Now that this introduction is almost over, I’ll take another trip down memory lane by reviewing this film from 1992!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: The appeal of any Olsen twins production is watching Mary-Kate and Ashley’s characters go on adventures that most of the audience will never experience. Though it has been years since I’ve seen any of their movies, I remember Mary-Kate and Ashley giving their characters a sense of likability, no matter the situation. This is what happened in To Grandmother’s House We Go, as Julie and Sarah were a delight to watch as the story progressed! Despite their young ages, Mary-Kate and Ashley had good comedic delivery. A good example of this is when Julie and Sarah give a street musician chicken drumsticks, using the edible item as a tip instead of money. It should also be noted that Mary-Kate and Ashley’s characters came across as genuine throughout the story. In a scene where they overhear their mother, Rhonda, telling her friend her daughters are a handful, the looks on the twins’ faces display feelings of sadness and betrayal that immediately makes the audience feel bad for Julie and Sarah. It also helped that Mary-Kate and Ashley worked alongside actors who can, acting wise, stand on their own! One of them is Cynthia Geary, who portrays Rhonda. When Julie and Sarah are missing, genuine concern can be seen on Rhonda’s face. Because the twins’ journey lasts the majority of the movie, it allows Cynthia’s performance to contain a good amount of consistency.
The inclusion of western movie scenes: Eddie is a delivery man who frequently visits the convenience store Rhonda works at. When something happens in Eddie’s part of the story, scenes from various western movies are shown to visualize how Eddie views his life. Usually, these scenes mirror what Eddie is doing in the “real world”. An example is when Eddie is taking a short cut to the convenience store, as a scene of Roy Rogers riding off the beaten path is presented while Eddie is driving his truck. The reason why these western scenes were included in the film is because Eddie loves westerns and dreams of owning his own ranch. What I liked about this element is how it provided a unique way to present a character’s perspective that isn’t usually seen in Christmas films. In movies of this nature, dream sequences or flashback scenes are given to a character when the story needs to share their point of view.
The messages and themes: A common component in family-friendly movies is the messages and themes that can be found in the overall story. This is especially the case for productions involving the Olsen twins. In To Grandmother’s House We Go, Julie and Sarah overhear their mother say her daughters are a handful and that she’d like a vacation. This causes the twins to run away to their grandmother’s house, in an attempt to help their mother. When all is said and done, the overarching lesson is how our words can, for better or worse, affect the actions of others. Doing the right thing is a theme that can also be found in To Grandmother’s House We Go. Harvey, one of the bandits in the film, helps his wife, Shirley, steal Christmas presents in order to sell them for money. As Harvey and Shirley spend more time with Julie and Sarah, Harvey starts to wonder what his life would be like if he wasn’t a criminal. While I won’t spoil the movie for anyone, Harvey does take the film’s aforementioned theme to heart.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Rhonda and Eddie’s inconsistent relationship: At the beginning of the film, Eddie wants to go on a date with Rhonda. No matter how many times he flirts with Rhonda, she politely declines, as she’s only interested in being his acquaintance. After Eddie finds out Rhonda is a single parent, he gives up pursuing her as a potential significant other. For the rest of the movie, Rhonda and Eddie go back and forth between liking and disliking one another. Their disagreements are resolved rather quickly and they get along for a short amount of time as well. While Cynthia and J. Eddie Peck work well together as actors, the inconsistency of their on-screen relationship prevented me from becoming fully invested in it.
The lottery subplot: Throughout the movie, Eddie is convinced he will win the lottery. He frequently purchases lottery tickets, hoping to win the jackpot so he can afford his dream ranch. This wasn’t a bad subplot, as it effectively connected to the main plot. However, with the majority of the plot revolving around Julie and Sarah’s journey, as well as Rhonda and Eddie’s search for the twins, the lottery subplot felt like it was included to provide an extra conflict. To Grandmother’s House We Go has enough going on to satisfy the run-time, so this specific part of the story didn’t necessarily need to be there.
A drawn-out story: Even though the main plot of To Grandmother’s House We Go is straight forward, there are plenty of twists and turns to keep the plot going. But some parts of the story do cause the overall project to feel drawn-out. In an attempt to raise $10,000 for a kidnapping reward, Rhonda and Eddie plan on selling other people’s Christmas gifts, with the intention of buying those gifts back after the twins have been returned. The entire process of their plan is shown in the movie, lasting for several scenes. This part of Rhonda and Eddie’s subplot could have limited to one or two scenes, as to help tell the story in a shorter amount of time.
My overall impression:
Calling To Grandmother’s House We Go an ‘alternative Christmas movie’ is tricky. On the one hand, there are scenes in the movie that rely on typical Christmas elements more than others. One of them is when Julie and Sarah are building a tiny snowman in front of their apartment building. But, as I said in the introduction, the story itself could be found outside of the Christmas season. For the sake of this review, I’ll call this film a “partial alternative Christmas movie”. As for the movie itself, To Grandmother’s House We Go is a fine, harmless, family-friendly title. Similar to what I said about The Strange Monster of Strawberry Cove, the 1992 picture will be more appealing for a younger audience, as the main story revolves around young children going on an adventure. Personally, I have no desire to re-watch it. Despite this, I am glad I was able to revisit the film.
Overall score: 7 out of 10
Do you remember watching any of the Olsen twins’ movies? If so, which one was your favorite? Let me know in the comment section below!
Have fun on Christmas!