When it comes to sappy romance for Christmas, your easiest option is to turn on the Hallmark Channel. The network has a December-long spree of feel-good holiday love stories and family fare that’s hard to top for sheer volume alone. However, in case you don’t feel like spending days sifting through a lot of crap, here are a few nuggets I’ve gleaned for you.
- ‘The Family Stone‘ – Sarah Jessica Parker is at her spastic, neurotic best in this one. Luke Wilson is charming in his laid-back stoner persona. Dermot Mulroney gives his typical constipated performance. Diane Keaton and Craig Nelson have great chemistry. It’s not a perfect movie, but it has some fine comic moments along the way and some tender family relationships to tug at your heartstrings.
- ‘Fred Claus‘ – I’ve watched this the last few years and it’s really grown on me. Vince Vaughn is in his wheelhouse playing a likeable ne’er-do-well, but this time he’s Santa’s brother, Fred, and he can’t seem to catch a break. He goes to visit the North Pole to ask for money and finds that Santa (entertainingly played by Paul Giamatti) is being audited, and the auditor, a sinister Kevin Spacey, is looking for any reason to shut him down. Can they make enough toys in time for Christmas? Will Santa have a heart attack? What’s up with all the bad kids out there? Will Fred get the girl? Don’t worry too much; you know it’s all going to end well.
- ‘Love Actually‘ – I haven’t actually seen this one, but when I ask people about their favorite Christmas movies, I find that the movie comes up a lot. I thought I was going to watch it by the time of writing this article, but alas I have not. I read the synopsis again on IMDb, and with that many storylines and couples and acting talent, I have some pretty high hopes. I’ll get back to you.
- ‘Christmas in Connecticut‘ – If classic movies are your thing, this romantic comedy is a lovely little gem. Barbara Stanwyck plays a savvy career woman who makes her living writing articles for a women’s magazine about how to have a happy home. The problem is that she’s made everything up, but her publisher doesn’t know that, and having been tempted by all the comforts of home that she writes about, invites himself and a war hero over for Christmas. Hilarity ensues. She’s attracted to the war hero (dreamy Dennis Morgan), but she’s supposedly married. Then there’s a cow that gets loose and a baby that’s been kidnapped. But you know it’s all going to end up just fine.
- ‘Holiday Affair‘ – Another classic worth a watch, this one features Janet Leigh and Robert Mitchum in a whirlwind Christmas romance. She’s a single mom who’s working as a secret shopper. He’s working at Macy’s to get enough money to travel out west. Their paths cross. Sparks fly. Watch for the kiss that Robert Mitchum lays on Janet in the kitchen. Rumor has it that the scene wasn’t supposed to be played that way and Mitchum truly surprised Leigh with a real kiss. The expression on her face and the messed-up hair… it looked like a knee-buckler. Also great in the movie is Wendell Corey, who sadly never seems to get the girl.
Yes, I know that there are other classics in the pile of Christmas rom-coms. We’ll get to a few more later in the season.
Next week we’ll bring on the holiday cheer when we look at Christmas comedies.