Recently I was asked to discuss my favourite Christmas-themed comedy shows, movies, etc… okay, so I wasn’t really asked, but doesn’t it make this article sound a lot more important when you think it’s been requested!? Anyway, here goes:
Bad Santa – Billy Bob Thornton
This is a new millennium Christmas classic that blends a dash of the holiday spirit with a decent helping of dark comedy. Billy Bob Thornton does what he does best: play an alcoholic, deadbeat asshole (ala Bad News Bears, his musical career, etc.). It’s scary to think that parents would actually take their kids to a mall Santa that looks like Thornton does in this movie. The outfit can only cover up so much of the filth. Seriously, though, you’ll be laughing consistently throughout this movie… trust me!
National Lampoon’s: Christmas Vacation – Chevy Chase
Up until the TV show Community, the Vacation movies were the only role I could stand Chevy Chase in. The real gem of this movie, though, is a pre-crazy Randy Quaid, playing Cousin Eddie. Of course, the sequel, made 15 years later and featuring Cousin Eddie wasn’t very good. The plot of Christmas Vacation sees Clark Griswold try to survive yet another family holiday, this time, in what should be, the comfort of his own home. Things are already off to a rough start when the entire family arrives and all hell breaks loose in one of the greatest curse-laden rants of all time.
Elf – Will Ferrell
There are so many funny moments in this movie, thanks to the hilarious Will Ferrell. At the same time, and unlike many of Ferrell’s other flicks, this one can be enjoyed by the entire family. Buddy the elf is on a mission to reconnect with his biological father and that takes him to New York City, a far distance away from the North Pole. It takes a while, but in the end, Buddy is able to win over his father, his father’s new family and a good portion of New Yorkers. A definite highlight comes when Buddy mistakes liquor for his favourite food group of syrup and indulges a little too much while on the job at his dad’s office.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Jim Carrey
When I first heard of this movie, I wasn’t sure they’d be able to squeeze out an entire movie based off of the classic Dr. Suess book and the 1960’s animated TV special. They did, though, going into the Grinch’s back story and explaining how he became a Christmas hater – a far worse distinction than being a playa hater. The atmosphere of the movie is really spectacular and the team who dreamed, designed and built the town of Whoville should be commended for their work. It still stands up years later, even with rapid advancements in visual effects.
Home Alone & Home Alone 2: Lost in New York – Macaulay Culkin
The movies that made Macaulay Culkin a star to millions of youngsters and a object of affection for Michael Jackson. The best part of each of these movies is, of course, when The Wet Bandits are forced to go through young Kevin McCallister’s torturous booby traps, but there’s more meat in both films than just the finales. There are a lot of great Christmas moments that are very touching and the music selections are top notch. I’ve never seen the third movie or the made-for-TV fourth edition, but perhaps they’re worth a look… any suggestions?
The Santa Clause – Tim Allen
This is a good pick for the young ones. It’s the story of a divorcee who accidentally causes Santa Claus’ death (maybe not a child friendly action, but hear me out) and now must assume the role. Of course, because he’s lost his wife, who’s now seeing someone else, and his relationship with his son is becoming strained, as well, everyone thinks he’s also lost his mind when he starts filling out like Santa Claus and growing a fluffy white beard (hmmm, this is definitely more adult-oriented than I originally thought). In the end, he proves to them all, that he is, in fact, Santa Claus and then makes two sequels for the heck of it.
Scrooged – Bill Murray
In a modern twist (well, as modern as 1988 seems now) on the classic A Christmas Carol tale, TV executive Frank Cross goes through the night before Christmas and the three ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future in order to redeem himself and right the wrongs he has committed over the years. I wonder what it would be like if they filmed a reality show where Bill Murray, himself, had to go through this ordeal. Perhaps he could reverse his 1971 drug arrest and somehow get me back the two hours I wasted watching Kingpin…
The Muppet Christmas Carol – The Muppets Gang
Of all the versions of A Christmas Carol – and there sure re a lot of them – this ranks up there as one of my favourites. You have Gonzo and Rizzo providing commentary on the events of the movie through narration, Kermit and Miss Piggy as Bob and Emily Cratchit, Waldorf and Statler as the Marley brothers, Fozzie Bear as Fozziwig and the rest of the troupe along for the fun. And really, that’s the fun of any re-telling of Christmas classics: seeing which character portrays each role in the tale. While you’re at it, you should also check out the Muppets new movie in theatres now. I said RIGHT NOW… go this very minute, even if it’s not showing.
Gremlins – Zach Galligan (wouldn’t it be awesome if it was Zach Galifinakis… I smell a remake with Galifinakis as Gizmo!)
This is not your typical Christmas movie, but it does take place at Christmas – like Die Hard and Die Hard 2: Die Harder, as well as many other non-denominational classics. This was our first introduction to the absolutely adorable Gizmo and his unfortunate spawn, the Gremlins. A little trivia: Did you know that Gizmo was voiced by Howie Mandel? How about one more trivia note: In the movie, the main character (well other than Gizmo and the Gremlins – that’s actually a good name for a band) Billy has a drawing mentor and it’s none other than Looney Tunes artist Chuck Jones.
Love Actually – Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley
Even my dislike of Hugh Grant can’t stop me from recommending this gem. The movie takes place in England – hence the use of the usual British suspects Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, etc. – in the weeks leading up to Christmas. It focuses on a number of characters as they intertwine through various stages of love, each searching for their own happy ending (no, not that type of happy ending… well maybe for one or two of the characters). A particular highlight of the movie is the former 80’s rocker who’s now turning his one-hit-wonder into a Christmas-themed song, hoping to revitalize his stalled career.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas – John Cho & Kal Penn
I haven’t seen this movie yet, but if it’s as good as when they guys went to White Castle and an improvement from when they escaped from Guantanamo Bay, then it should be worth checking out. Neil Patrick Harris returns as himself, despite being shot and presumably killed in the last Harold and Kumar movie, to add to the fun. Plus, the movie is in 3D, which always means lots of zany gags with the technology… and sometimes it doesn’t. This will definitely be on my must watch list for next Christmas, when it will surely be released on DVD, to once again take advantage of the Christmas season.
Very Merry Mentions:
A Christmas Story – Peter Billingsley
Ernest Saves Christmas – Jim Varney
Four Christmases – Vince Vaughn & Reese Witherspoon
It’s a Wonderful Life – Jimmy Stewart
Jingle All the Way – Arnold Schwarzenegger
Bah, Humduck!: A Looney Tunes Christmas – The Looney Tunes Gang
The Nightmare Before Christmas – Tim Burton
Trading Places – Eddie Murphy & Dan Aykroyd
Trapped in Paradise – Nicholas Cage, Jon Lovitz & Dana Carvey
Fred Claus – Vince Vaughn
Eight Crazy Nights – Adam Sandler
Mickey’s Christmas Carol – The Disney Gang