Christmas is a great time for the movie studios. Box office numbers go up, people don’t want to be challenged and everyone’s too befuddled by big meals and booze to care much about the quality. Now as I enjoy one of my all-time favourite holiday movies – National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – I’ve been considering the best movies this season has inspired. But since every other website has done that Top 10 already, we bring you the ten movies you want to avoid watching. The movies that are sappy, cheesy and cheap, usually the result of studios taking advantage of the opportunity to wring a few extra bucks out of movie-goers.
10. The Grinch
This movie was certainly popular upon it’s release in 2000, riding on the success of Jim Carrey’s popularity and cashing in on the title of a classic. What it actually is is a nightmarish glimpse at a commercialised fairy tale. Carrey is, surprisingly, quite good in the role but Whoville is populated by demented looking freaks who are liable to haunt children’s nightmares rather than enchant. The art design is a cluster bomb of colour and noise and the tripod is jammed on a crooked angle. More likely to induce nausea than raise your Christmas spirits. When you have the option of watching the Chuck Jones/Boris Karloff version instead, there’s no call for this.
9. Die Hard 2: Die Harder
This may not have been considered if it wasn’t for the original film appearing on so many ‘Good Christmas Movies’ lists. It’s not terrible, but it is a tired rehash of Die Hard with none of the suspense, originality or Alan Rickman. Again, you have the option of watching the first one. Take it.
8. A Mum For Christmas
(Couldn’t find a trailer – found the whole movie instead. Don’t watch this.)
I hadn’t heard about this one until Mrs. Funk suggested it for this list, selling it’s lack of virtues based on the lead role being played by Olivia Newton-John. That may have been enough, but then you look at the plot synopsis. A store mannequin comes to life (a classic movie trope that always works!) to help and widowed man and his child celebrate Christmas. You can tell when a movie is terrible by the fact that it hasn’t scored enough votes to warrant a Rotten Tomatoes score, and is available for free on youtube.
7. Four Holidays (Christmasses)
(Different titles used in different regions in the name of demented political correctness.)
A movie packed with Oscar nominees and not a sign of talent. It’s confused, badly written, badly acted and filled with nasty, unsympathetic characters. If you have a funny bone that is tickled by recurring baby vomit gags, this might be for you.
Vince Vaughn and Reece Witherspoon, obviously not being picky with their scripts, star as a pair of assholes who want to avoid their families over Christmas in order to go on an expensive holiday, only to be forced through dues ex machina to go to each of their parents houses for Christmas one after the other.
6. I’ll Be Home For Christmas
Jonathan Taylor Thomas stars in this piece of sappy, unfunny trash that Disney spewed out in 1998. The forced plot revolves around a wiener who is subject to a truly bizarre prank. A group of bullies corner him and, for some ungodly reason, glue him inside a Santa suit and dump him in the middle of the desert. Who the hell does that? Do they want to be convicted for manslaughter? The humour is forced, the character unlikeable and the whole thing completely hokey.
5. Surviving Christmas
Starring Ben Affleck and James Gandolfini, this 2004 offering concerns a disillusioned millionaire who heads home to relive the Christmases of his childhood. Upon learning his family no longer live there he – for some idiotic reason – pays the new home-owners to play along for him. Forced screwball comedy fails to amuse, instead it only tests your patience.
4. Santa With Muscles
I’m not going to tell you why this movie is terrible, I’m just going to tell the plot. Colourful wrestling personality Hulk Hogan plays an asshole who sells diet and workout supplements. After an altercation at a paintball match the cops are after him. After a car chase in which the police utilize a rocket launcher, Hulk tries to hide in the mall by donning a Santa suit. Then, while climbing up a garbage chute, he is hit on the head with discarded Christmas decorations. He now has amnesia and is convinced that he actually is Santa and starts to fight petty crime. He eventually sets out to foil a gang of evil scientist who are trying to shut down an orphanage.
3. The Polar Express
Motion capture technology can produce amazing effects in modern cinema. The Lord of the Rings, Avatar and the upcoming Tintin have all benefited from what can now be achieved. Robert Zemeckis, unfortunately, was a bit impatient when waiting for this technology to be perfected and put out this ambitious project. Whilst Peter Jackson was perfecting Gollum, this movie was populated entirely by dead-eyed zombies that reached directly into the uncanny valley and gave it a prod. Casting Tom Hanks in almost every role was also an odd choice. Zemeckis obviously thought it worked out OK, because he pulled the same routine with A Christmas Carol. Thank goodness the studio shut him down before he finished his remake of Yellow Submarine.
2. Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure
(No trailer found – thank goodness.)
Over the years Christmas Vacation has become a fondly remembered holiday classic, partly due to being written by the legendary John Hughes who deftly marries the corny family moments with the comedy. So, obviously, they churned out a pointless sequel. Since the ‘Vacation’ franchise did turn out a number of sequels, there’s no harm in bringing back the Griswald’s for one more routine. Except the original family, including actors Chevy Chase and Beverley D’Angelo, make an appearance. This is just about Eddie, the annoying, white-trash cousin who’s role was to antagonize Clark is now centre role, hunting game for his family on a tropical island. How seasonal.
1. Jingle All the Way
During the 1990s Arnie took one to many knocks to the head and got the idea that he’s be suited to comedy (the punchline was becoming a Governor). This terrible era of his career featured him becoming pregnant, coming out of his movies into the ‘real world’ and this – the low point. An ode to the glorious materialism of Christmas, Arnie is a desperate father trying to get the ultimate toy for his snotty brat of a kid. It’s not funny, it’s painful to watch and it ends on the message that good parenting is reliant on buying the best toys.
Now I’m going to purge my mind of these movies with the ultimate Christmas movie: Batman Returns.