I’m up early on Christmas Eve, so I thought I’d blog quickly and then avoid the wrath of a wife who thinks I ought to be spending time with children instead of my computer. I shan’t be blogging on Christmas Day, unless absolutely necessary. (What is wrong with me?)
Questions were raised in the comments about other Christmas movies, such as Scrooged, which is arguably the most rancid Christmas movie ever made. Bill Murray is usually very good at making unlikable characters likable, but he can’t do the impossible. This movie is so nasty, so mean-spirited, that Murray’s ultimate redemption rings utterly hollow. This came out when I was a missionary in Scotland, so I thankfully never saw it in theatres. I turn the channel every time it tries to inflict itself on me on television.
Miracle on 34th Street is a favorite of many, but I’ve never gotten into it. Natalie Wood’s character always strikes me as something of a spoiled brat, and the movie feels dated in a way that It’s a Wonderful Life doesn’t. The remake is entirely forgettable, although Richard Attenborough makes for a very twinkly Santa.
I don’t much like The Nightmare Before Christmas, either, although the animation is delightfully creepy. It’s fun to see such elaborate stop-motion stuff made before the age of CGI. The story is pretty thin, though, and Danny Elfman’s songs are surprisingly leaden and clumsy. The whole thing works better as an amusement park ride, which is what happens to Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion every Christmas season. Unlike the movie, it only lasts about fifteen minutes, which is pretty much all I can take.
My kids are fans of The Polar Express, which is a great piece of whimsy on paper but a bloated mess on screen. The children’s book is about twenty pages long, which can’t sustain a feature length movie. So they pad that sucker out with lots and lots of business that gives the whole enterprise a cluttered feel. Lots of people complain about the computer animation and the deadness of the character’s eyes, but that doesn’t bother me so much as the absence of any real justification for stretching the thing out over an hour and a half.
Jim Carrey’s Grinch movie has the same problem and an even worse solution. Instead of just adding Hamburger Helper to bulk up the story, they add a new, tedious backstory that contradicts everything that was so delightful about Dr. Seuss’ original. Suddenly, the Whos aren’t the kind, gentle creatures that Seuss intended them to be; they’re consumerist Nazis, while the Grinch is a misunderstood outcast in yet another precious and preachy Hollywood fable about tolerance. Blech. And it doesn’t help that Carrey is insufferable in the title role.
Foodleking mentioned the Governator’s Jingle All the Way, which is not worth mentioning. Home Alone, however, is worth mentioning, and it has much to recommend it, but it’s not nearly as family friendly as you might think. Was it really necessary to have Macaulay Culkin call one of the burglar’s a horse’s ass? And the comic violence goes so far over the top as to be painful, not cartoonish. Still, a lot of it is pretty funny, and the subplot with the old man and his estranged son is handled with restraint, something missing from most of Hollywood’s seasonal offerings.
To sum up, the best Christmas movies are, in order:
1. It’s a Wonderful Life
2. A Christmas Story
You can pretty much avoid just about everything else.