There may be one more post before Christmas, but due to work and last minute holiday preparations that is not a promise. Last Friday I wrote about my favorite Christmas specials, so today I decided to list my favorite Christmas movies.
Mixed Nuts (TriStar Pictures, 1994)
A group of people at a suicide hotline on Christmas Eve. Doesn't exactly sound like a cheerful holiday romp. But despite the premise, the movie is hilarious with a few sentimental moments mixed in. Mixed Nuts has for a long time been one of my favorite Steve Martin movies, second only to The Jerk. Martin plays Phillip, who, along with Catharine (Rita Wilson) and Mrs. Munchnik (Madeline Kahn), runs Lifesavers, a suicide hotline on the verge of bankruptcy. Lifesavers is also about to be evicted from the apartment that serves as headquarters by the building's owner. While trying to find a way to save Lifesavers, Phillip also encounters Catharine's pregnant friend Gracie (Julliette Lewis), Gracie's gun-wielding, "wall artist" boyfriend Felix (Anthonly LaPaglia), dim-witted, ukelele-playing t-shirt writer Louie (Adam Sandler) and depressed, crossdressing Lifesavers client Chris (Liev Schrieber).
Scrooged (Paramount Pictures 1988)
Aside from maybe O. Henry's The Gift Of The Magi, Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol seems to be the most-adapted Christmas storyline ever. As I mentioned Friday, the Disney version with Mickey Mouse is one of my two favorite adaptations. Scrooged is the other. The movie stars Bill Murray as Frank Cross, a television executive working on a live, Christmas Eve presentation of the Dickens work. Caught up too much in his work and neglecting those he cares about (and who care about him), Cross meets up with his own spirits of Christmases past, present and yet to come. A lot of sentimental moments are mixed with a lot of very funny moments, especially jokes where Cross confuses his own spririts with those of his television production. Highly recommended, though not for kids.
Elf (New Line Cinema, 2003)
An oft-quoted film about a human raised by elves. Will Ferrel plays Buddy, who, as a baby in an orphanage, crawls into Santa's gift bag on Christmas. Santa decides to give the baby to Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) to raise. Buddy is unaware of his human origin for years, until Papa Elf and Santa reveal the news to him. He decides to travel to New York City to find his biological father. The movie is hysterical at times, but also holds back for smaller laughs when appropriate, which I appreciated. Once again, there are also some sentimental moments mixed in, as all Christmas movies should be. I wasn't fond of the climax, though. I thought it was sappy and could have been done better. Overall though, a very good and very funny movie.
It's A Wonderful Life (RKO Pictures, 1946)
If Gift Of The Magi and A Christmas Carol are the most adapted and parodied Christmas works, It's A Wonderful Life is definitely in third place. George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) is about to jump off a bridge on Christmas Eve, which he perceives to be the only way out of the mess he's made of his business, Bailey Building and Loan, as well as with his family. An angel, Clarence (Henry Travers), shows up to convince him to reconsider. At George's request, Clarence shows him a world in which he'd never been born. Voted by the American Film Institute as the number 1 most inspiration film of all time, It's A Wonderful Life is a testament to the impact of the individual, and drives home the message that, as Clarence tells George, "No man is a failure that has friends." Of the films on this list, it has the most sentiment and least laughs, but it still has some funny moments.
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (Warner Brothers, 1989)
Clark (Chevy Chase) and Ellen Griswold (Beverly D'Angelo) return for the third Griswold vacation adventure, this time involving Clark's grandiose plans for celebrating Christmas with his family. From my perspective, this movie is the opposite of Wonderful Life in terms of sentiment to laughs ratio, falling heavily on the funny side. It's one of few films I've ever seen my dad laugh out loud during (he especially likes the sledding scene). It is also one of few films I try to see every year. As as side note, it contains what might be my favorite quote from any Christmas movie: After having a minor breakdown and cutting down a new Christmas tree, Clark tells Ellen that he simply solved a problem, "we needed a coffin..er, tree..."