Balance. Believability. Bordering on Ridiculous.

I’ll be honest. I absolutely love stories that border on the ridiculous, the unreal, the fantastical, the unbelievable. I don’t mean fantasy. I mean real life that gets out of control. Hyperbole. Satire.

I totally crack up.

And there is no better example of it done right than the Christmas movie JINGLE ALL THE WAY. I watch it every year. A harried father tries to make up for working too much by rushing out to buy the hot new toy on Christmas Eve.


The unbelievable.

The fight for the Turbo Man doll, the stampede. Yes, overdone. But for me? Hilarious.

Bordering on ridiculous:


Oh yeah, that’s right. The Santa sweatshop. A bunch of con men dressed up as Santas selling overpriced toys. They come complete with candy cane numchucks.


And then there’s the part where the dad ends up dressed up as the toy, Turbo Man. And his nemesis throughout the movie, Sinbad, is dressed as Turbo Man’s nemesis. But what a perfect ending for such a fantastical movie.

The balance.


This movie was grounded in something primal: a father trying to make things right with his family, struggling to earn back their trust. I rooted for him, cheered for him, hoping he’d pull through.

This satire on commercialism at Christmas time was balanced with the true meaning of the season and real heartfelt emotion that anyone could relate to.

This is the kind of stuff I love to read and write. And I’ve often had to rewrite to find that balance: toning elements down, beefing up the primal emotion.

How did JINGLE ALL THE WAY get it right?

  • Great writing.
  • Great acting.
  • Finding that balance.

As a story, they did everything right too. Opening and closing mirror image and foreshadowing, making everything go wrong for the character, running gags, subplots that tied in. I’m sure it would pass the Blake Snyder beat sheet test.

The biggest aspect of believability is not whether what happens is truly believable. It’s in the setting up of expectations and the follow through. Not veering from the tone and style of the story. Building up to the ridiculous moments with the right emotions and set up.

What’s your favorite Christmas movie?

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27 Responses to Balance. Believability. Bordering on Ridiculous.

  1. Andrea December 9, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    I like that movie too. I think it works well because the “overdone” elements that bring so much humour are rooted in reality…and it’s so easy to imagine a similar (if not quite so ridiculous)situation. Great post, Laura!

  2. Sarah Pearson December 9, 2011 at 11:08 am #

    How have I managed to miss this movie?

  3. April Plummer December 9, 2011 at 11:47 am #

    My favorite Christmas movies have to be the Santa Claus movies with Tim Allen. I LOVE those movies. I think Tim Allen is hilarious, the little boy is adorable, and I love the explanation for Santa Claus and how he can live throughout the years. Of course, also, the romance in the second one when Santa Claus finds his Mrs. Claus. We just saw that one Wednesday evening. 🙂

  4. Sheri Larsen December 9, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    You used one of my favorite words: hyperbole. Love it! (Not sure why, though???) *scratches chin*

    Balancing out the fantastical with some reality can definitely deliver a great story. There are so many wonderful Christmas stories. The only one I can think of right now is The Nightmare Before Christmas. I’m a major fan of the odd and strange. 🙂

  5. April Plummer December 9, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

    Oh, yes, Sheri, that one is incredible! My husband and I were floored by the beauty of the animation, even though it was creepy!

  6. Stina Lindenblatt December 9, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

    I haven’t seen this movie in years. Unfortunately the library doesn’t have it. I suddenly had a craving for it.

    I love Home Alone and the Tim Allen Santa movies. And I love The Christmas Carol (any of the versions).

    • Laura December 9, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

      You know how old this movie is by the fact that the dad has to use a phone booth! 🙂

      I love the Tim Allen movies too. They are very similar. Taking the ridiculous and making it so believable.

  7. Laura Marcella December 9, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

    I’ve seen many Christmas movies, but I haven’t seen that one. I was never a fan of Arnold so I think that’s why I skipped it. I may have to check it out now since you like it so much!

    I love a lot of Christmas movies, but my go-to favorite is Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the cartoon version with the voice of Boris Karloff!

  8. Alex J. Cavanaugh December 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

    I’d have to say A Christmas Story. It’s every kid’s desire for that one perfect gift.

  9. Susan R. Mills December 9, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    I love A Christmas Story. Oh, I see Alex said the same thing. So true…every kid wants that one perfect gift.

  10. Donna K. Weaver December 9, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    Oh, I love your concluding remarks (though I hated that movie, lol). I just have a problem seeing adults act like idiots. I guess I see enough of that every day.

  11. Susan Sipal December 9, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

    I’m enjoying reading everyone’s favorite Christmas movies. Grinch is definitely one of mine. Another one I like, and it’s not because of great writing, but rather childhood nostalgia, is The Year Without a Santa Claus. I always loved the songs, “I’m Mr. Heat Miser, I’m Mr. Sun…” And “I’m Mr. Freeze Miser, I’m Mr. Snow.” 🙂

  12. Susan Kaye Quinn December 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

    I have such a hard time with slapstick … it’s just not my thing. But this looks awesome! I think it’s the underlying structure, once again. You tug my heart, and I’m totally along for the ride!

  13. Patti December 9, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

    I haven’t seen this one, but I think you have to suspend your disbelief a little bit when your reading books or watching movies. Something my kids have yet to learn as they comment on how unbelievable things are in most movies.

    Favorite Christmas Movie is still Rudolph.

  14. Angela Ackerman December 9, 2011 at 5:15 pm #

    A perfect example of how to take the ridiculous and make it work. This is a classic film. 🙂


    • Laura December 9, 2011 at 6:20 pm #

      Isn’t A Christmas Story where the kid sticks his tongue to a pole? I’ve never seen that entire movie and I don’t even know why. Probably b/c it doesn’t run along my sense of humor, like Jingle all the Way does. But I should probably give it a chance.

  15. Jemi Fraser December 9, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

    I love those bouts of ridiculousness too! Makes me smile every time. I think my all time favourite Christmas movie would have to be the original Grinch! 🙂

  16. Christina Lee December 9, 2011 at 7:15 pm #

    Elf and A Christmas Story (My hometown. The original house from the movie is a little museum here in Cleveland).

  17. Matthew MacNish December 9, 2011 at 7:31 pm #

    There’s also the fact that Arnold is the most unintentionally funny actor in the world.

  18. Becca Puglisi December 9, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

    My favorite Christmas movie is Scrooged, not because of any stellar cinematic or storytelling value, but because Bill Murray can stand there and do nothing and I’ll still laugh like a lunatic.

  19. Karen Strong December 9, 2011 at 9:52 pm #

    Maybe I’m just a kid at heart because all of my favorites are cartoons or animations like “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” and of course “Charlie Brown Christmas”

  20. Sherrie Petersen December 9, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

    I love Christmas movies! My favorites are “Elf” and “A Christmas Story.” Both, I think, have that element of hyperbole.

  21. Len Lambert December 10, 2011 at 5:10 am #

    Hi Laura! I love this post! So funny. My favourite Christmas film is It’s a Wonderful Life. It just makes me cry each time I watch the end of the film, LOL.

    Hope you have an enjoyable holiday! 🙂

  22. Ava Jae December 10, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    I’ve never seen this movie, but I can definitely see where the humor kicks in. I especially like what you said at the end there, Laura. You’re absolutely right–believability doesn’t start in the actions or whatever might seem unbelievable otherwise (just look at Harry Potter), it’s the follow-through that makes or breaks it.

    As for my favorite Christmas movie, I’ve watched A Christmas Story nearly every single Christmas. I’d say it’s definitely worth watching at least once. 🙂

  23. Caryn Caldwell December 10, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

    Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll give it a try. I’ve never seen this one. We usually watch Scrooged every year, except for the one where we watched Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (funny only because it’s SO terrible).

  24. Peggy Eddleman December 10, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

    I think you totally hit the nail on the head with Jingle All the Way! I love that movie!

  25. Talli Roland December 11, 2011 at 9:46 am #

    I’m with you – I love satire! Hm… my favourite has got to be ‘Love Actually’.

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