Christmas is once again almost upon us, which means that it’s the season to watch some Christmas movies. I can’t speak for everyone, but in my home, the comedies get a lot more mileage than the melodramas. What are your favorites?
When it comes to Christmas comedies, one film tops Santa’s “Good” list, and that would be ‘A Christmas Story‘. This omnipresent part of the holiday season isn’t significant only because TNT/TBS (as well as local affiliates) have played it endlessly around the holidays for roughly the past 25 years, but it sure helps. No, it’s the oddly familiar and funny vignettes, from the innocence-dashing Ovaltine ‘Little Orphan Annie’ promo to the churlish nature of adults and much-desired kids’ gifts, and on to questionable lamps and daring cold weather dares. Each episode within the script has legs that either carry a crazed holiday spirit, or else, with repeated viewings, take on a shared experience life of their own. (I’ve found this to be just as true from warm, non-snowy parts of the world.) Happily, I prefer Ralphie’s escapades, such as changing the tire with his father to getting the soap from his mother, to any number of drab “I don’t want to see my relatives” Xmas movies.
There’s no danger that I’ll choose ‘A Christmas Story’ like I’m sure everyone else will. I’ve never been able to stand that movie. When it comes to big, loud, over-the-top Christmas comedies, give me ‘Christmas Vacation‘! Though the third ‘Vacation’ film has its share of groaners, it also has enough classic moments that it always gets a spin at our house around the holidays. I love to whip up a batch of eggnog, sip it from my moose mug and watch Clark Griswold celebrate/endure the holidays. I relate to that poor bastard in more ways than I’d like to admit.
My favorite Christmas comedy… and, in fact, my favorite overall Christmas movie, is director Richard Curtis’s ‘Love Actually‘, a film that certainly comes with plenty of drama, but is loaded with humorous moments. It’s both my favorite Hugh Grant movie (playing the British PM) and my favorite Bill Nighy movie (playing an aging rock star), and it now has the added appeal of seeing the late, great Alan Rickman in one of his best performances (as a married man tempted by a younger woman).
I tend to be pretty cynical about most feel-good holiday movies, but it’s almost impossible for me to watch ‘Love Actually’ without both a smile on my face and a tear in my eye. If you’ve never seen it, give yourself a present this year and check it out. It’s available on Blu-ray and Netflix streaming in December.
M. Enois Duarte
Since I first saw it in theaters, Richard Donner’s ‘Scrooged‘ has been one of my comedy favorites to watch around the holidays every year, almost instantly becoming a Yuletide classic for me. Resituating Charles Dickens’ original tale about the true meaning of Christmas in modern day New York, Bill Murray does the best cold-hearted, penny-pinching, “Bah humbug” miser ever as TV executive Frank Cross. Not only is the concept of updating the familiar story for contemporary audiences clever, but it also takes jabs at modernity – its addiction to excessiveness, and its obsessive pursuit of wealth and consumerism. Granted, the final few minutes are a bit on the corny and overly sentimental side, but they’re well-earned after a series of hilarious gags leading up to Murray’s tear-jerking speech. You can’t go wrong with ‘Scrooged’ this and every holiday season.
Speaking of corny, ‘Just Friends‘ has become my guilty pleasure over the last few years. It’s a bad movie, I know, but I like to start the joyous festivities with something stupid, which I usually watch around the first week of December. There’s nothing else I can really say about it, except that Ryan Reynolds is part of why it’s funny.
My pick may be a little controversial, but not in its theme, subject matter or classification as a Christmas movie. Instead, mine may draw heat simply because so many people disliked it.
My pick is ‘The Ice Harvest‘, the 2005 noir black comedy from director Harold Ramis. John Cusack plays a lawyer who, with the help of his shady buddy (Billy Bob Thornton), commits a Christmas Eve heist. The two have just stolen $2 million from a local Mob boss (Randy Quaid). What should be a simple and fast getaway turns into a damning game of hide-and-seek when a major ice storm rolls into town and forces them to split up and evade the Mob’s henchmen. Being a genuine noir (I believe Ramis called it a “retro-noir” because of the palette and color scheme), it even features a femme fatale played by Connie Nielsen.
The cast is great. This was before Cusack started taking roles just for the paycheck. Also stealing scenes is Oliver Platt. The comedy is dark and wickedly funny. While some viewers were disappointed by it, I drank it up.
If only it was on Blu-ray.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
No, not that ‘Jack Frost’; I’m talking about the one with the serial killer turned mutant snowman. Despite having a pretty sizable body count and sloshing barrel drums of the red stuff around, we are indeed talking about a comedy. The sheriff’s deranged kid comes up with a near-fatal way to keep his pop warm on these chilly days. Bullets whiz straight through Jack’s snowy midsection, so the sheriff and townsfolk literally pack heat with an arsenal of hair dryers. A then-unknown Shannon Elizabeth has a bit part, and let’s just say the carrot on Jack’s head moves south for the winter. A bunch of the murders are in some way holiday-themed, making ‘Jack Frost‘ especially fun to revisit this time of year. The premise is pretty much genius, revolving around a killer who can’t be shot or stabbed, and his ability to melt into water and reconstitute himself means there’s no real escape. I’m a sucker for the movie’s gonzo sense of humor, and I can’t get enough of the head-on collision of dark, demented imagery with holiday cheer. Michael Cooney’s 1997 horror/comedy has just found its way onto Blu-ray courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome, so at least for me, Christmas has come a little early this year.
Although it perhaps feels like it’s been force-fed on audiences as a pre-packaged naughty Christmas classic, I’ll stand up for the original ‘Bad Santa‘ anyway (not so much for the recent sequel, which I haven’t seen but seems unnecessary). Billy Bob Thornton’s crotchety, sarcastic, alcoholic thief posing as a mall Santa hits all my comedy buttons. The best part of the movie for me is Lauren Graham’s slutty bimbo with a messed-up Santa fetish. The Christmas-y episodes of ‘Gilmore Girls’ play very differently (and better!) when you imagine Graham chanting her character’s signature ‘Bad Santa’ catchphrase over them. I know I’m not the only person who’s done that!
Do you have any offbeat suggestions for Christmas comedies that deserve some more attention? Tell us in the Comments.