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THE BEST AND WORST HOLIDAY MOVIES

No holiday season would be complete without an arbitrary list of things you really don’t need. So here’s mine!

BEST

CHRISTMAS VACATION (1989): the best of the Vacation movie franchise in my opinion. Clark Griswold just wants to give Ellen, Rusty, Audrey and the in-laws a “good, old-fashioned, family Christmas”. Disaster ensues, naturally. The running gag of Clark hanging outside holiday lights by itself is worth the price of admission. (Fun fact: When he’s dressed for this chore, Clark looks exactly like my dad doing the same task in that era.) Hilarious and heart-warming without being cheesy. Love this one.

A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983): There’s a reason TBS runs this movie 24 hours straight on Christmas. Because AWESOME. Set in the 1940s, little Ralphie Parker wants only one thing for Christmas – “an official Red Ryder carbine-action two-hundred-shot range model air rifle.” But even Santa thinks he’ll “shoot his eye out, kid”. More sentimental than Christmas Vacation, maybe, but just as funny. Hits me where I live as an adult and as I remember being as a kid. I don’t make my family watch “Christmas Vacation” with me. I do make them watch this one. Make your family watch it too.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1951) There have been countless good film versions of Dickens’s tale (including the next entry on this list), but this is one of the best. Alastair Sim is a mesmerizing Scrooge. The black and white film of the era and the attention to detail put you right in side Victorian London in all it’s somber, sooty glory.

THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL (1992): a very different telling of the tale, but no less powerful. The Muppets do what they do best – blend great music and humor and a lot of heart to tell a wonderful story for all ages. Plus, if that’s not enough, we get Michael Caine as Scrooge. “God bless us, everyone!”

THE SANTA CLAUSE (1994): Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) accidentally becomes Santa…but doesn’t know it. Hilarity ensues. Funny and heart-warming are over-used terms, but they fit here. (Calvin: “I’ve gained 45 pounds in a week.” Doctor: “What’s your diet like?” Calvin: Milk and cookies. But I don’t always finish the milk.”) This is a feel good movie for a cold December night with some eggnog and holiday cookies.

PLANES,TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES (1987): Two days before Thanksgiving, weary traveler Neal Page (Steve Martin) just wants to get home to Chicago from New York. Disaster ensues and the awesome John Candy is along for the ride. Or lack of one.

MIXED NUTS (1994): Martin’s in this one too, part of a very funny ensemble piece by the late Nora Ephron. A dark(ish) comedy set in the offices of a suicide hotline, the film still manages to be funny AND pack a holiday punch. The production feels more stage play-ish than film-y, I suspect by design, and I’m okay with that.

WORST

THE FAMILY STONE (2005) uptight businessman Dermot Mulroney brings even more uptight, conservative fiancée Sarah Jessica Parker home for the holidays to meet his super- liberal family, headed by Craig T. Nelson and Diane Keaton. Comedy (allegedly) ensues. There’s really only one thing wrong with this movie – despite big star power, not a single character is remotely likable. None of them. Even Luke Wilson can’t save this one.

HOLIDAY IN HANDCUFFS (2007): Melissa Joan Hart is a waitress who kidnaps a random customer (Mario Lopez), so she can take him home for the holidays and pass him off to her family as her fiancée. I’m serious. They fall in love at the end because, you know, the script says so. This movie is so bad, there are rumors there was a sequel in 2010. I haven’t found it yet. I’ve looked super hard.

ANY OTHER MADE-FOR-TV HOLIDAY MOVIE FILLER: You’ve all seen them.

Honorable mention, but not sure which list: THE POLAR EXPRESS (2004) is a refreshingly unusual holiday tale about a boy who hops a mysterious train to the North Pole. The story is fine, the animation stunning. The thing is though, as amazing as the train looks, the rendering of the characters is creepy and off-putting. Plus, Santa and the elves aren’t all that likable.

So, what say you, holiday movie watchers? Give your favorites a shout out.

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