Some films are obviously Christmas movies, likeÂ The Polar Express and Scrooged,Â but for others itâ€™s not so clear cut. They may be set during the holiday season, and they may even touch upon Christmas themes, but does that mean they truly qualify in the traditional sense? To find out, weâ€™re putting these movies on trial and laying out all the evidence for and against them by answering some pertinent questions, like we did with Die Hard, Gremlins, and Edward Scissorhands.And after already examining if Shane Black's Iron Man 3 deserves a permanent spot in the holiday rotation, thereâ€™s no better movie to enter into the great Christmas movie debate than his directorial debut,Â Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
Members of the jury, ask yourselfâ€¦How much of the movie takes place at Christmastime?All of it, although it looks more like Christmas in July since the movie is primarily set in Los Angeles and it's warm enough that people are swimming. It's definitely the holiday season though. There are traditional decorations throughout Tinsel Town, festive lights are strung everywhere and Christmas movies are on TV. There is also plenty of.....unique holiday cheer, like a naked woman in a glass case painted up like a reindeer, and a sexy Virgin Mary the studio still gets letters about.Would the movie be fundamentally different if it were set at any other time of the year?Not at all. The Christmas elements are just set decoration, and none of the characters' references to the holiday season mean anything. They merely contribute to giving the movie a place on the calendar. Even the toy store robbery that led Robert Downey Jr.'s Harry to that fortunate screen test could have been done for a birthday gift rather than a Christmas gift.The biggest change would be how out of place Michelle Monaghan's outfit would be for a quarter of the movie.That freaky Hollywood sex party with the human decorations would have been even weirder too.Do any of the major themes apply to Christmas?At the end of the movie, Harry says the movie is about friendship, but saying that's a recurring Christmas movie theme might be playing loose with the spirit of the question. Normally that idea in Christmas films is "goodwill towards others," not specifically friendship, but if you want to stretch it go for it.Family is definitely a theme in the movie, but mostly how messed up and destructive it can be because of two of the worst fathers ever, so not traditional Christmas fare. The film also touches upon the destructive forces of greed, both with Harry's friend being shot during a robbery, and all of the bad guys in L.A. who get killed.There are two major, connected themes that don't seem as obvious, but could be placed right into any movie about Christmas. One is imagination. Harmony believes in the idea of the fictional detective Johnny Gossamer like a kid believes in Santa. The other is having faith you will one day get what you want if you believe in it enough.Does watching it at Christmas time enhance the experience?No. The Christmas elements feel so shoehorned, and the movie is so divorced from the holiday, that it might make more sense to watch it at any other time of the year. At least then your viewing experience will mirror the strange relationship the movie has with Christmas.Has it been accepted as a Christmas movie tradition?Maybe by swingers and murder enthusiasts, but not anybody else.
If only it were possible to give the movie extra Christmas bonus points for giving us the gift of national treasure Val Kilmer's Perry, but it doesn't work that way. While you can make some thematic connections between the movie and classic Christmas ideas, ultimately the film only uses the holiday as pretty window dressing. (And sometimes for sexy, borderline inappropriate window dressing, but that isn't helping its case.) It isn't any more or less fun to watch it in December, and it's not exactly a staple of the season.As much as we want a film where a dog eats a guy's finger and a coffin rests on an overpass sign to qualify, the clues don't add up for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang to be a Christmas movie.
Images: Warner Bros. Pictures