by Ramsey Marwan
Every year around Christmas time, it’s not unusual to sit in front of the telly, trawl through the never-ending, poorly executed melodramatic Eastenders specials and eventually resort to a DVD. America is the natural home of Christmas commercialisation and with this, Hollywood has provided some real crackers (pun intended) over the years in terms of Christmas films. Separating the naughty from the nice and the downright rubbish can sometimes be difficult, but here goes:
1. Home Alone 1 – This film combines a pre-life crippling drug addiction Macaulay Culkin, insane Mafioso-star, Joe Pesci and one of the greatest classic American film directors – John Hughes. The result? The best Christmas film of all time.
Home Alone manages to include all that is good about Christmas – an alleged serial killing neighbour turns out to be a kind-hearted old gentleman whose only dream is to see his granddaughter over the holidays; a distraught mother travels up the East Coast with the Polka King of the Midwest, played by none other than John Candy and an incredibly endearing Kevin (Culkin) plays out the fantasies of every young lad with the run of his family’s house – overcoming both his fear of the furnace in his basement and defeating the believably psychotic Wet Bandits. The sequel isn’t half bad either!
2. The Muppets Christmas Carol – There’s no better way to view a nineteenth century Charles Dickens’ novel translated onto the movie screen than by seeing it acted out by The Muppets. Michael Caine plays a considerably dark Ebenezer Scrooge, who learns the real meaning of Christmas after a haunting night with three spirits. Jim Henson’s son Brian does an incredible job as director, with Kermit playing the loveable Bob Cratchit. Full of cheesy musical numbers and clichéd messages about love at Christmas, only The Muppets could get away with making such a heinous yet incredibly enjoyable Christmas film that has stood the test of time.
3. Elf – Will Ferell stars as Buddy the Elf, a hilariously overgrown man-child who travels from the North Pole to New York City to meet his real father, Wall Street executive Walter Hobbs (James Caan). A story about the innocence of Christmas, Caan wonderfully acts out the transition from hardened businessman to caring father as the Christmas miracle melts his heart and that of the disillusioned people of New York. While the sentimentality may make you want to spew, Ferell provides his own brand of oddball comedy gold throughout, even featuring him getting attacked by Peter Dinklage after mistaking him for an elf. Also, any film with Zooey Deschenal has my vote.
4. Jingle All The Way – Possibly Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best film (although that’s probably not saying much), Jingle All The Way is the tale of Howard Langston (Arnie) as he struggles to get his son the must-have Christmas present action-figure, Turbo Man. The movie offers a witty critique of the materialism of Christmas and combines side-splitting slapstick with subtle humour to produce a film fit for all ages. Sinbad plays Myron Larabee, a deranged mailman who becomes Langston’s sworn enemy as both parents battle it out to find Turbo Man, culminating in Arnie dressing up as the action-figure himself and jet-packing across the Minneapolis Christmas parade.
Phil Hartman also plays out his role perfectly as Ted, the questionably intentioned neighbour who continues to frustrate Langston throughout the film by making advances on Langston’s wife whilst he’s busy searching for his sons’ Christmas present. There’s even a fight scene between Arnie and an army of counterfeit Santa Clauses who work in a bootleg toy factory. The film is a little bit more than ridiculous, but what the hell, it’s Christmas.