It’s the Christmas season once again, which means you will be inundated with Christmas movies of all shapes and sizes. Some are funny, some are classics, some are heartfelt and some are just awful. Never fear! I have compiled a list of Christmas movies to avoid like the plague. Overdose on “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story” if you want, but stay away from these duds.
5. How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Let me begin by admitting that there’s nothing inherently wrong with this movie. I enjoy Jim Carey as much as the next person who prefers drama over comedy. My one problem with this movie is that if you’re going to watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” why not watch the original classic? My roommate feels the same way about “A Christmas Carol.” In her mind, the only version that exists is “A Muppet Christmas Carol,” and rightly so, because it’s awesome.
There are three reasons why the 1966 version is better than the 2000 version:
– Boris Karloff (the original Frankenstein) is the narrator and the voice of the Grinch.
– The music is as classically Christmas you can get without breaking out a hymnal. “Christmas, Why Can’t I Find You?” is sweet and all, but nothing beats “You’re a Mean One, Mister Grinch” in my book.
– It’s animated! I’ve never been a huge fan of live-action versions of Dr. Seuss’ works (did you see “Cat in the Hat”?). Dr. Seuss’ characters are illustrated, after all, so it stands to reason that the best films of his work will be animated.
So instead of watching Jim Carey prance around in an Academy Award nominated make-up job, tune in to the 30 minute animated version. And with all the time you’ve saved, you can watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” too!
4. Jack Frost (1998)
“Jack Frost” was Michael Keaton’s desperate attempt to resurrect some form of a career after “Batman.” Given the fact that this movie holds an 11% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I think it’s safe to say that he gambled and lost.
Michael Keaton plays Jack Frost, the lead singer in a blues band that performs covers of children’s Christmas songs. Stop right there and read that sentence again. Blues covers. Children’s Christmas songs. I know it sounds like the recipe for the best movie ever, but it’s actually not. Like every leading character on this list, Jack Frost is a neglectful family man who spends way too much time focused on his work. Jack misses a family trip in favor of a really important gig. On his way there, however, he gets into a car crash and dies. I’m pretty sure that if Disney created a Christmas movie, it would be “Jack Frost.”
Flash forward one year later: Jack’s son makes a snowman that comes to life with his father’s personality! It is at this point in the movie when I wonder why this movie isn’t called “Frosty the Snowman.”
Jack and Charlie do some bonding, scare some bullies, and Jack uses his time to impart important father-son lessons that he never got to impart while he was busy being a Christmas blues cover artist. In the end, Jack magically melts (kind of like those snowmen in the Campbell’s soup commercials) and becomes Michael Keaton again. Then they all live happily ever after.
Instead of watching this weird, sappy movie, just watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.” You can excuse the sappiness in that film because it’s Jimmy Stewart. Plus it has some of the same themes without forcing me to type the words “Christmas blues cover artist.”
3. Santa Baby (2006)
“Santa Baby” is like “Fred Claus,” except the only funny parts are unintentional and it stars Jenny McCarthy instead of Paul Giamatti and Vince Vaughn. Also it’s a waste of time. Jenny McCarthy’s character is a work-a-holic high powered businesswoman. The only problem is that she’s Santa’s daughter and he’s ill! Oh no! So Mary goes to the North Pole to help mummy and daddy with Christmas. But she butts heads with the elves, who weren’t exactly blessed with an abundance of brains.
Will Mary’s hard-core business ethic help her save Christmas? Will she win back her true love? Will Santa be all right? Who cares? Go watch “Fred Claus” instead.
2. The Christmas Shoes (2002)
“The Christmas Shoes” was probably meant to be a poignant cinematic adaptation of a poignant Christmas song. Instead it’s so depressing that you might actually believe that urban legend that more suicides occur during the holiday season.
Just to prepare you for the utter despair that is created by this film, here are the lyrics to the song’s chorus:
Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It’s Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there’s not much time
You see she’s been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight.
So the singer buys the shoes for the little boy and learns the true meaning of Christmas. It’s sweet, it’s sad, and the movie is about 75% lamer.
“The Christmas Shoes” follows two main characters and their families. One guy, Robert Layton (played by Rob Lowe) is a work-a-holic who neglects his family (a Christmas movie staple). Maggie (played by Kimberly Williams) is an ill young mother with a son.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how this movie goes: Robert’s mother dies before Robert can reconcile with her; Maggie’s son fundraises to buy his mother shoes before she dies; Robert helps Maggie’s son buy the shoes and Maggie dies. This is exactly the sort of movie you never, ever want to watch, let alone on Christmas. Instead, consider watching “A Christmas Story.” It’s funny, cute, and not at all depressing. Plus, it’s hard to go wrong with anything written by Jean Shepherd.
1. Borrowed Hearts (1997)
Lifetime and the Hallmark Channel get a lot of flack for cranking out lame made-for-TV-movies. However, right around the holiday season, CBS takes the cake for lame made-for-TV-movies about the holidays. “The Christmas Shoes” was on CBS, as was the sequel, “The Christmas Blessing.” However the number one movie on my don’t-watch list was also on CBS: “Borrowed Hearts.”
“Borrowed Hearts” stars Eric McCormack (Will from “Will and Grace”) and Roma Downey, who you may remember as Monica, the titular angel in “Touched By An Angel.” Borrowed Hearts, like several of the films on this list, took a classic, well-loved story and compressed it into 91 laughable minutes. “Which well-loved story,” you ask? Read my synopsis and maybe you’ll be able to guess.
It starts with a classic holiday character trope: the wizened-hearted single (yet attractive) businessman that is inches (inches!) away from landing the biggest deal of his career. Sound familiar? I’m not surprised. His business associate tells him that the guy in charge of saying yes to this vague deal (I’m not even sure I know what this wizened-hearted attractive businessman does except being attractive while having a wizened-heart) is impressed by family men.
So Attractive Businessman hires Attractive Single Mother and her Adorable Daughter to be his family. Combined with a guardian angel type character played by Hector Elizondo and CBS gave us “Pretty Woman.”The only difference? They set it during Christmas, subtracted a hooker and added a daughter. They even reused Hector Elizondo as the helpful watching angel! Sloppy, CBS, very sloppy.
Instead of watching “Borrowed Hearts” or any of the other Hallmark/Lifetime made-for-TV movies, just watch “Pretty Woman.” It’s not a Christmas movie, sure, but you can watch the scene where Vivian gives the snobby sales lady who works on commission a what for.
Needless to say, watching any of the movies on this list would be a big mistake. Big. Huge. (That’s right, I went there).