It’s amazing how stressful the holidays can be. Dealing with family, finding that toy your kid (and 3 million of his contemporaries) just has to have and making sure that you don’t make the same gift giving mistake with your wife this year—that Dyson Ball vacuum looked so cool on TV—can really take the “merry” out of Christmas. Let’s face it, now that we’re older, some of the “magic” of Christmas that we reveled in as children has been replaced by realities of the season that our parents dealt with. Maybe that’s why dad always seemed so crabby at this most festive time of year. My marketing guy, for example, had a friend as a kid whose dad use to tell him and his siblings that he was going to light a fire in the fireplace on Christmas Eve so Santa would “burn his a** off”. The prospect of flaming Santas aside, one thing that hasn’t changed over the years is that the family can still gather together to enjoy each other’s company while watching some of those old classic Christmas movies. Unfortunately, in these increasingly frenzied times, it’s harder than ever to get everyone together in the same room, and, when you do, you don’t want to ruin the moment by watching some wretched piece of celluloid dreck that you only vaguely remember from your youth. So to help you maximize the ability to build those happy holiday memories, I’ve put together a brief synopsis of some of the more popular Christmas related fare to help you make the most educated viewing decisions possible.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)- This one actually starts out with the Macy’s Parade on Thanksgiving so it has a pretty extensive holiday viewing span. Natalie Wood plays a little girl—she was just born with the acting chops—who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus and Maureen O’Hara is her uptight mother. Edmund Gwynn, who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of the big guy in the red suit, changes all that and everything culminates in an ending that would melt the heart of even the biggest holiday cynic. A good one to watch with your pre-teens.
Christmas Vacation (1989)- Quite possibly the best holiday slapstick picture of all time. “Get yourself somethin’ real nice Clark”
Bad Santa (2003)– A Christmas movie for the totally depraved. Billy Bob Thornton and Bernie Mac rip it up in this comedy about a seedy department store Santa. I saw it with my extended family, and I don’t know which was funnier: the movie, or watching my brother-in-law try not to laugh so my sister wouldn’t yell at him when they got home. Yes, it’s that type of movie. Probably best to watch by yourself…in a locked room.
Elf (2003)– Will Farrell at his most annoying—and that’s saying something. However, kids love it and sometimes you just have to suck it up.
Scrooged (1988)– Remember when Bill Murray was funny? In this take on the Dickens’ classic, he’s almost at his Caddyshack best and that makes it a holiday viewing nugget.
A Christmas Story (1983)- The gold standard. Ralphie’s quest for a Red Ryder BB gun will crack up even the biggest gun grabber in your family. Every scene rings true to the kid in all of us, from bad gifts to finding what we really wanted under the tree. For all you over protective parents out there it even includes a cure for bullying. Please take notes.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)- Perhaps the most over rated movie of all time. And isn’t this really just full-throated attack on capitalism garbed in holiday clothing. Sure, I wouldn’t want to have Mr. Potter over for Christmas dinner, but who wouldn’t rather invest in his bank as opposed to the Savings and Loan run by that doofus, George Bailey? For more complete details about the loan, just see this here. I’m just saying. If you find yourself wavering on watching this one, just pop in A Christmas Story again.
So there you have it my friends. Please accept this guide as my gift to you and I hope that it helps you, and your family, enjoy this Christmas season. I think you’ll find that this list offers a little something for everyone, and for those of you who insist on watching It’s a Wonderful Life, remember, you have been warned.