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There are no new movies out this week.

That may not exactly be true, but I didn’t have any screeners this week, so I have nothing to review. Instead, I thought we would examine a few Christmas classics. It is the Holiday season after all. Your TV is filled with reruns of claymation specials, black and white films of yesteryear, and a slew of relatives that would be awful to hang out with in real life — but because they’re on film, we love them.

There’s a movie called Halloween. Easter has Hop. Gary Marshall has turned every minor holiday into a movie. Christmas, though, is the only holiday that spawned its own genre of films. Many of them are remembered fondly. Some don’t deserve the praise heaped upon them. So this year, let me help you separate great from good from so-so from terrible.

THIS IS THE FIRST ANNUAL GREAT CHRISTMAS MOVIE JUDGEMENT!

If you disagree with my opinions, feel free to type a long email to me and then press delete. I don’t care what you have to say. Understand that I have put an entire fifteen minutes of thought into this.

ELF (2003)

Quite simply, the greatest Christmas movie ever made. We have Will Ferrell at his most Ferrell-esque. Zooey Deschanel at her least Deschanel-esque. James Cameron is the perfect Christmas curmudgeon. Add in memorable cameos from Artie Lange and Peter Dinklage and sweet merciful crap, do you have a cast that’s hard to rival.

VERDICT: Great!

A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS (1965)

This is one of the more anticipated Christmas TV specials every year and for the life of me, I have no idea why. Is it the pathetic tree? Is it the retelling of the Nativity? Of course not. It’s the music. Every Peanuts TV special is shit on a stick, but A Charlie Brown Christmas has the advantage of the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s jazz-white-people-are comfortable-with soundtrack. Really, everything else about this turd is depressing.

VERDICT: Terrible

HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS (1966)

Borris Karloff really knows his way around a cartoon voiceover. I’m not even sure what the Grinch was supposed to be. Was he Oscar the Grouch without the garbage can? Was he a furrier Toxic Avenger? All I know is he was an asshole that owned what should have been some very valuable real estate. This TV special includes two great Christmas songs (“You’re a Mean One, Mr Grinch” and the one that I just call “Da-Hoo-Door-Eh”), pet abuse, and a petty crime spree.

VERDICT: Great

HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS (2000)

Jim Carey is to the Grinch what Jar Jar Binks is to Star Wars.

VERDICT: Is there anything worse than terrible?

NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION (1989)

Finally! A movie that took all the fun and dysfunction of the Griswolds and added Christmas! I don’t know anyone that doesn’t like this movie, and that is by design. Anyone that doesn’t think “shutter’s full” and then laugh to themselves whenever someone wishes them a merry Christmas isn’t someone I want to know.

VERDICT: Great

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946)

What’s that? You hate It’s a Wonderful Life? You don’t care for black and white movies? Fuck you.

VERDICT: Great

MIRACLE ON 34th STREET (1947)

What’s that? You hate Miracle on 34th Street? You don’t care for black and white movies? Fuck — oh, wait. You’re right. This movie isn’t that good. Carry on.

VERDICT: So-So

HOME ALONE (1990)

We could go around in circles debating whether or not this movie is a Christmas movie, or even if it’s that good. Here’s why Home Alone is worth talking about at Christmas. That scene where the whole extended family is at the McAllister house reminds me of my family Christmases as a kid. I remember hating those Christmases and longing for a Home Alone-esque resolution to my problem of too many God damn cousins! Plus, I greet my sister every December 25th by saying “Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal.”

VERDICT: Good

RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER (1964)

There’s really only one problem with this TV special. Overall, the movie is very good. Who didn’t want to visit the Island of Misfit Toys? Every time I see a pudgy man with a thick red beard, I secretly refer to him as Yukon Cornelius behind his back. The problem is Burl Ives. Because he plays Sam the Snowman, we are forced to endure the shitty, soulless (not evil, but merely uninspired) abominations that he somehow convinced a nation were Christmas classics. Let’s face it. When it comes to Christmas music, black people are just better at it than us. (More on that another time).

VERDICT: So-so

PRANCER (1989)

Anyone that can watch Prancer and not cry should be spat upon.

VERDICT: Great

THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL (1992)

If this weren’t a Muppet movie (particularly a Muppet movie in the Jim Henson era) I would call this a good movie. Unfortunately as something of a Muppets aficionado, I can’t help but think at best it’s the fourth best Muppet movie.

VERDICT: So-so

THE SANTA CLAUSE SERIES (1994, 2002, 2006)

This is a series of diminishing returns. The first movie is a delight. The magic of Santa’s toyshop being revealed on screen is just wonderful. Shocking that Santa’s top elf is Jewish, but I’m with you Disney. Rattle a few cages. This series started with murder and a weenie whistle and ended with Martin Short. Judging it on the whole isn’t going to go well.

VERDICT: So-so

THE POLAR EXPRESS (2004)

I’m sorry, but the book is overrated. Now, the movie is just creepy. All of the goodwill Robert Zemeckis built up with Back to the Future is undone by a train full of dancing, dead-eyed children.

VERDICT: Terrible

BAD SANTA (2003)

Phoenix is a miserable place and that’s really at the heart of what this movie captures. Willie T. Stokes is such a loser, such a miserable conman, that he can’t even get suicide right. His hot piece of ass is played by the opposite of a hot piece of ass (Lauren Graham, who looked 40 when she was 25). There’s so much wrong with the scene that it makes just about everything about the movie right.

VERDICT: Great

Did I miss your favorite? Did a give a passing grade to a movie you hate? Well, right your own column then.

Finally, to show my qualifications for writing this piece, I present a picture of my home, which by the way, is only half decorated in this picture.

Demetri's House

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