Christmas Movies

 

Great Christmas Movies

Modern-Day (2)



Great Christmas Movies
(chronological by film title)
Intro | Classics (1) | Classics (2) | Modern-Day (1) | Modern-Day (2)



Great Christmas Movies: Modern-Day (2)
(in chronological order)
Title Screen
Film Title/Year/Director, Setting and Brief Description
Screenshots

Jack Frost (1998)

A father named Jack Frost has a second chance at doing something he failed at the first time around - being a parent. He comes home for Christmas one year after his death, reincarnated as a Snowman on his son's front lawn.

A small (fictional) Colorado Rocky Mountain town, Medford

[Note: This film is not to be confused with the horror film Jack Frost (1997), about a serial killer named Jack Frost (Scott MacDonald) who became a mutant killer snowman.]

Director Troy Miller's cliched, over-sentimental, contrived 'heart-warming' family film was a 'live-action' version of the classic holiday animated film Frosty the Snowman. This holiday film's tagline described how a deceased father became a 'cool dad' as a snowman: "Jack Frost is getting a second chance to be the world's coolest dad... if he doesn't melt first." Some described the film as a live-action version of the popular, half-hour long animated tale, Frosty the Snowman (1969), narrated by Jimmy Durante.

The title character, the snowman, was created via animatronic puppetry (Jim Henson's Creature Shop) and sophisticated computer graphics (from ILM). Due to its sappy, cliched and sentimental story line and fantasy elements, the manipulative and cloyingly-sweet film was a box-office flop.

Struggling, chronically late, and self-absorbed, middle-aged rock musician Jack Frost (Michael Keaton) lived with his wife Gabby Frost (Kelly Preston) and ignored 12 year-old son Charlie (Joseph Cross) (called "Charlie Boy" by his father) in the Colorado mountains. Frost had already proven that he couldn't keep family promises and parental/spousal obligations. Jack gave his son a golden harmonica (bought on the day Charlie was born) and promised: You play that, no matter where I am, I can hear it."

At Christmas time, he cancelled his attendance at the planned family mountain cabin outing to play at a record label executive's party on Christmas Day in Denver with his band - the Jack Frost Band. But then, he changed his mind and began the drive home in a borrowed car, and died in a car accident on his return (off-screen).

A year later, a still-grieving Charlie built a snowman in his front yard, using Jack's battered old hat and scarf. That night, when the boy started to play the "magical" harmonica his father had given him on the previous Christmas (the night before he died), the snowman out on the lawn was taken over by Jack's spirit.

The reincarnated Jack experienced one final chance to make things right - father-son bonding (Jack told Charlie: "Thanks for giving me a second chance to be your Dad") - before being threatened by melting from a warm front and returning to the afterlife as a spirit.

Before departing for the last time, Jack promised his son: "I will always be there, I promise. As long as you hold someone in your heart, Charlie, you can never lose them, ever. You let me back into your heart, and that took real courage, and you did it. And if you can do that, you can do anything. I'm so proud of you, Charlie. If you ever need me, I'll be right here. You just call me."







How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) (aka Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas)

Makeup, prosthetics and LOTS of green fur, Jim Carrey delivers as the conniving Christmas-ruining Grinch. The green Grinch vamps around stealing Christmas, and it's as bad for the residents of Whoville as it for us who are watching at home.

The City of Whoville

Director Ron Howard created this aggressively-presented, over-produced, big budget, live-action adaptation of the classic 1957 children's book by Dr. Seuss about a selfish green creature intent on stealing Christmas. Although it wasn't altogether received positively, it was a major box-office hit, and became the highest-grossing (domestic) Christmas holiday film of all time at $260 million. [Note: The first version of Dr. Seuss' tale was How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966), a 26 minute animated TV special, directed by legendary animator Chuck Jones. Boris Karloff starred as the narrator and as the voice of the Grinch.]

The main role of the detestable and cruel green Grinch with sadistic yellow eyes was played by maniacal physical comic Jim Carrey, covered with layers of prosthetics, makeup and synthetic green fur. He was miserly, grotesque, and generally distasteful of Christmas due to a back-story that was revealed early on. After he was adopted and raised by two elderly sisters in the peaceful valley of Whoville, he was ridiculed, shamed and bullied at age 8 by his school classmates for his appearance - and this childhood trauma was the explanation for his current demeanor. All alone, the Grinch exiled himself to Mount Crumpit (the town's garbage dump) to live in a cave.

Presently, in the town inhabited by rodent-like creatures (with buck teeth, snouty faces, wacky hairdos and strange costumes), charitable-minded, big-eyed, button-cute 8 year-old Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen) took an interest in the Grinch, a former town resident. She was also one of the few to fear that the true meaning of Christmas had been lost: "Where are you, Christmas?"

The demonic Grinch was coaxed down from his mountain hideaway when Cindy Lou nominated him for a special Yuletide honor during the town's Whobilation. After a difficult and humiliating visit to town when he was mocked a second time, the Grinch decided to sabotage and destroy Christmas. He dressed as Santa, and with a sleigh, he invaded the Whos' homes on Christmas Eve to burglarize their presents.

On Christmas morning, Mayor Augustus May Who (Jeffrey Tambor) blamed little Cindy Lou for ruining Christmas by trying to extend kindnesses to the Grinch. Although troubled by the thefts, the townsfolk came to the realization that they still had the Christmas spirit, and that Christmas wasn't just about materialistic goods.

As they joyfully sang together in the town square, the Grinch heard their singing from his mountain top. At first, the curmudgeon was frustrated that his plan had failed (Narrator: "He hadn't stopped Christmas from coming"). He was about to dispose of their gifts wrapped in a large red sack on the sleigh, positioned on a windy and snowy mountain peak. He thought and puzzled to himself:

"It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags....Maybe Christmas... doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas means a little bit more."

His heart painfully grew three sizes when he realized that Christmas still went on in Whoville even if he had stolen all of their presents. He sobbed and sobbed, and then was pleasantly surprised to see Cindy on top of the gigantic sack. She gave him heartwarming love and respect: "I came to see you. No one should be alone on Christmas." But then the sleigh was positioned to slip off the mountain top and crash to the ground.

With all of his strength, he saved the sleigh (and Cindy) from disaster ("I got you, Cindy Lou") by holding the sleigh high above his head. He returned with her to the village to return the stolen goods, where he apologized (or repented), and was forgiven. He was redeemed, decided to marry his lifelong unrequired love interest - slinky, uppity Martha Stewart-like Martha May Whovier (Christine Baranski), and began a new life.


1957 Dr. Seuss book

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)

Jim Carrey as The Grinch

Cindy Lou Who


Bad Santa (2003)

Adults only! With excessive profanity, sexual innuendo and promiscuity, this movie, one of the most depressing Christmas movies of the holiday season, is the polar opposite of your usual holiday flick. Starring Billy Bob Thornton as ne'er do well mall Santa Willie Stokes.

First in Miami, Florida, then Phoenix, Arizona

The irreverent, tasteless R-rated black comedy, suitable only for adult audiences, had the tagline: "He doesn't care if you're naughty or nice." It was an unusual pick for a holiday film, with repulsive foul-mouthed vulgarity, alcohol abuse, promiscuity and armed burglary. [Note: A similar sequel followed, Bad Santa 2 (2016).]

The film opened with bitter, hedonistic, obscenity-spewing, unshaven scumbag Willie T. Stokes (Billy Bob Thornton) slumped on a barstool. He was wearing a red Santa outfit, while finishing off a whiskey and smoking a cigarette - and noting:

"Hey, can I get another drink down here? I've been to prison once, I've been married twice. I was once drafted by Lyndon Johnson and had to live in s--t-ass Mexico for 2 1/2 years for no reason. I've had my eye socket punched in, a kidney taken out, and I got a bone-chip in my ankle that's never gonna heal. I've seen some pretty s--tty situations in my life, but nothing has ever sucked more ass than this! If I'd known I was gonna have to put up with screaming brats pissing on my lap for days out of the year, I would have killed myself a long time ago. Come to think of it, I still might."

The con-man was joined by ill-tempered midget-dwarf Marcus (Tony Cox), as they went on regular annual road-trips each holiday Christmas season (they had been successful for seven years) dressed as Santa and Santa's Little Helper, to execute one big scam (that would last until the next year). Their ulterior motive, other than spreading good (and profane) cheer as a shopping mall Santa Claus and Elf in their costumes, was to learn how to circumvent mall security systems in order to rob the stores on Christmas Eve. Marcus would hide in the mall and disable the alarm system, while Willie would crack the safe.

Part of the job entailed having child-hating Willie entertain young "s--t's" on his lap all day long, wishing he could rush through them: "Make it quick, Santa's gotta pee." And he was forever avoiding the brats brought to him by their mothers: "I'm on my f--king lunch break, ok!" He also took time out to 'fornicate' with a heavy-set woman in the Big & Tall dressing room. For most of the film, Willie was partially drunk, and half-dressed in a partial 'Santa' outfit, sometimes with a ragged T-shirt or bare-chested showing off his tattoos.

Currently, they were in Phoenix, Arizona, where 'Santa' befriended a precocious, bullied, overweight eight year-old pre-teen that he nicknamed the Kid/Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly). The unpopular, bedeviled boy lived with his senile, catatonic grandmother (Cloris Leachman) ("Let me fix you some sandwiches"), without parents (his mother was dead, and his father was in prison for embezzlement).

At first, Santa was contemptuous of the Kid, and took advantage of the annoying boy. He invited himself to stay in the Kid's basically empty lavish home, and then robbed the safe of money and stole a BMW.

In one of the more outrageous scenes from his Santa chair, Willie delivered a maddened tirade at the Kid, giving him fatherly advice when he acted wimpy toward skateboard kids who teased and pulled on his underwear, and telling him to defend himself:

"Jesus, kid. When I was your age, I didn't need no f--king gorilla. And I wasn't as big as one of your legs. Four kids beat me up one time and I went crying home to my daddy. You know what he did?....He kicked my ass. You know why?...It's because he was a mean, drunk, son of a bitch. And when he wasn't busy busting my ass, he was putting cigarettes out on my neck. The world ain't fair. You've gotta take what you need when you can get it. You've gotta learn to stand up for yourself. You gonna have to quit being a pussy and kick these kids in the balls or something...Or don't. S--t. I don't care. Just leave me the hell out of it."

Marcus was increasingly impatient and upset with Willie's debauched and extreme behavior, and chastised him. At first, he said: "You're an emotional f--king cripple. Your soul is dog s--t. Every single f--king thing about you is ugly." He then accused Willie of the three B's: "Every year, more booze, more bulls--t, more butt-f--king."

In the meantime, the mall's prissy, anxious general manager Mr. Chipeska (John Ritter in his final film role) was also suspicious of Willie: "There's something about the guy that makes me uneasy." He assigned his scheming Security Chief Gin Slagel (Bernie Mac) to investigate Willie's background. Later in the subplot, Gin decided he wanted to be in on their loot, and insisted on one-half of the money ("We split the dough right down the middle").

Willie also began a relationship with sexy, kinky, nympho bartender Sue (Lauren Graham). The Kid regularly referred to her as "Mrs. Santa's Sister." Willie bragged to her: "I'm an eating, drinking, sh-tting, f--king Santy Claus." She replied: "Prove it" - and they immediately had sex in the front seat of a car - to the tune of the William Tell Overture, as she screamed out three times: "F--k me, Santa." Afterwards, she admitted:

"I've always had a thing for, uhm, Santa Claus, in case you didn't notice. It's like some deep-seated childhood thing...I like you. Don't mothball that suit."

The Kid was also completely enamoured by 'Santa,' and gave him a present of a wooden pickle - which he had carved (causing him to severely cut up his hand). Willie beat up a group of teenagers who picked on the Kid and blackened his eye. He declared: "I beat the s--t out of some kids today. But it was for a purpose. It made me feel good about myself."

To eliminate Gin as a partner and continuing problems with Willie, Marcus (Santa's Little Helper) and his wife/partner-in-crime Lois (Lauren Tom) murdered Gin with their van. Then, during their climactic mall robbery, Marcus (and Lois) double-crossed Willie and held a gun on him. As Willie asked: "Do you really need all that s--t? For Christ's sakes, it's Christmas!", the police arrived, and Willie was shot eight times during flight - but he survived (all of the bullets avoided vital organs except his liver - which was already damaged). He avoided jail time because of a letter he had written to the Kid:

"Thank you for giving that letter to the cops. I forgot I asked you to do it, but it's a good thing you did, or 'Santa's Little Helper' would have plugged his ass. And now the cops know I wrote it, which is gonna keep my ass out of jail. That, plus everyone agreeing that the Phoenix police department shooting an unarmed Santa was even more f--ked up than Rodney King."

The film ended with the arrest of Marcus and Lois, and Sue was given temporary guardianship of the Kid until his father was released from jail in one year and three months. After healing, Willie was to be employed by the police department as a sensitivity counselor.

In a strange way, the Kid had taught Willie the true meaning of Christmas, and the young boy also learned how to stand up for himself (Willie had written (in voice-over) to him in a letter from the hospital: "Don't take no s--t from nobody, least of all yourself. Ho, ho, ho.") When the Kid was again taunted by a skateboarder outside his home, who called him a "loser" and a "fat-ass," the Kid kicked the bully in the crotch, and then rode off on his bike as the film ended.












Elf (2003)

Both charming and foolish, Buddy (Will Ferrell) is a prime example of a 'fish out of water' as he navigates the North Pole and then Manhattan as a 6'3" elf.

At the North Pole, and in New York City

One of the more hilarious, likeable and light-hearted Christmas movies of all time - it was a fish-out-of-water tale about a naive, good-hearted Elf trying to reunite with his biological family. A baby from an orphanage stowed away in Santa's (Ed Asner) sack during Christmas Eve delivery, crawled out and found himself at the North Pole. He was raised by Papa Elf (Bob Newhart), and named Buddy after the brand name of his diapers.

Thirty years into the future, the baby grew to be 6 foot, 3 inch Buddy the Elf (Will Ferrell), a misfit towering over the others. He realized that he was different from everyone else (he was not adept at toy-making for "the show" or "the big dance"), but was unaware of his origins until he overheard two other elves noting that he still hadn't figured out that he was "human."

Disoriented, he sought advice from his knowledgeable neighbor Leon the Snowman, and from Santa about traveling to civilization:

"First off, you see gum on the street, leave it there. It isn't free candy...Second, there are, like, thirty Ray's Pizzas. They all claim to be the original. But the real one's on 11th. And if you see a sign that says 'Peep Show,' that doesn't mean that they're letting you look at the new toys before Christmas."

He also learned that his real father was mean: ("Buddy, you should know that your father... he's on the naughty list").

Hoping to find his true identity and his widower birth father (who was named Walter Hobbs (James Caan), a workaholic at a children's book company), he bravely took a trip to the human world in New York, where his naivete was both charming and idiotic, as he:

  • waved at a man hailing a taxi
  • laughed hysterically as his shoes were shined
  • graciously accepted ad flyers
  • played hopskotch on pedestrian walk lines
  • ate parked bubblegum
  • spun out of control in a revolving door
  • spread his legs riding an up escalator
  • punched all the lighted buttons in an elevator ("looks like a Christmas tree")

He found his father in an office at the top of the Empire State Building, where he was thrown out after Walter sarcastically thought he was a costumed Christmas-gram. As he was escorted to the outside by security guards, one of them noted: "Why don't you go back to Gimbel's?" Inside the store where it was assumed that he worked, in anticipation of Santa's arrival ("SANTA! OH MY GOD! SANTA HERE? I KNOW HIM! I KNOW HIM!"), Buddy spent overnight in the department redecorating, cutting snowflakes, setting up train sets, and ornamenting trees.

However, he was dismayed by the imposter-fake Santa that showed up the next morning and they had a riotous altercation (in front of a line of children and mothers) that landed him in jail. He was bailed out by his father, taken to a doctor for DNA testing to prove his identity, and then was introduced to his extended family - patient and kindly stepmother Emily (Mary Steenburgen) and lonely, 10 year-old half-brother Michael (Daniel Tay).

Buddy fell in love at Gimbel's with Jovie (blonde Zooey Deschanel), a jaded, yet quirky store employee who stacked merchandise. Nervously asking for a date, he told her:

"I feel really warm when I'm around you, and uhm, my tongue swells up."

Earnest Buddy's adventures and escapades, in addition to reminding cynics of the real meaning of Christmas in Central Park where Santa's jet-powered sleigh had crashed, included the following:

  • Buddy was attacked by a grumpy and menacing raccoon in the park
  • Buddy entered a coffee shop in NYC: ("You did it! Congratulations! World's best cup of coffee! Great job, everybody! It's great to be here.")
  • Buddy was mistaken for a Gimbel's employee by the store manager (Faizon Love), and had a fight with the Santa at Gimbel's ("You smell like beef and cheese, you don't smell like Santa")
  • Buddy's "perfect gift for that special someone" to his father - a piece of white lacy lingerie with a red bra
  • Buddy's belching for twelve seconds after drinking a 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola ("Did you hear that?")
  • Buddy's expert snowball fighting skills in the park to defend himself and Michael
  • Buddy's instigation of a fight with short, bestselling writer Miles Finch (Peter Dinklage) by repeatedly calling him an "elf" and asking: "Did you have to borrow a reindeer to get down here?"








Love Actually (2003, UK)

A British Christmas-themed romantic comedy and anthology about love between various couples (at all ages and social levels), that endures in ten intertwined stories, in the 4 weeks before Christmas.

At Christmas time, primarily in London

Writer/director Richard Curtis' feel-good ensemble film was dubbed "the ultimate romantic comedy" - with its tale of numerous romantic relationships among its many interlinked characters during one Christmas season in London.

The opening prologue set a hopeful and loving tone for the remainder of the film. The British Prime Minister (Hugh Grant), in a voice-over credits prologue, spoke about how "love is everywhere," with views of the arrivals terminal at London's Heathrow Airport where people were greeting each other, hugging and kissing:

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around.

The second of the ten stories involved the marriage of Juliet (Keira Knightley) to husband Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor), with Mark (Andrew Lincoln) serving as their best man. However, Mark remained love-struck and heart-sick at Juliet's tying of the knot. In the film's most heart-breaking scene set on Christmas Eve, he showed loving, written placards (cue-cards) at her door expressing his love to her, to the sound of a boom box softly playing the Christmas carol "Silent Night." The cards said that on Christmas, one must tell the truth. And to him, she was perfect, and his "wasted heart" would love her until she was old and gone. When he began walking off, she ran into the street and kissed him out of compassion and affection. As he continued on, he muttered to himself that he had to get on with his life: "Enough, enough now."

2nd Story

In the third story, writer Jamie (Colin Firth) discovered he was being two-timed by his girlfriend (Sienna Guillory). He withdrew to France for a short while and became acquainted with his Portuguese housekeeper Aurélia (Lúcia Moniz) who didn't speak English. After eventually realizing they were suited to each other and on each other's wavelength, he took Portuguese lessons, returned to Marseilles at Christmas, and contacted her family. They took him to a restaurant, where she was working as a waitress. In broken English, he declared his love and proposed, in front of an appreciative clapping audience. She accepted in a heartwarming way:

"Beautiful Aurelia, I've come here with a view to asking you to marriage me. I know I seems an insane person - because I hardly knows you - but sometimes things are so transparency, they don't need evidential proof. And I will inhabit here, or you can inhabit with me in England....Of course, I don't expecting you to be as foolish as me, and of course I prediction you say 'no' but it's Christmas and I just wanted to check..."
"Thank you. That will be nice. Yes is being my answer. Easy question...Yes, of course."

3rd Story Proposal

In the fourth, most heartbreaking story of all set on Christmas morning, Karen (Emma Thompson) received a Joni Mitchell CD for Christmas from her straying husband Harry (Alan Rickman), instead of the expensive necklace she discovered in his pocket -- and realized tearfully as she listened to Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" that he was having an affair with his new seductive secretary Mia (Heike Makatsch). After weeping silently, she forced herself to put on a happy face when she returned from her bedroom to rejoin her family in the living room.

In the fifth story, the newly-elected British Prime Minister, David (who was Karen's brother), was competing with the US President (Billy Bob Thornton) over the affections of shapely staff secretary Natalie (former UK soap star Martine McCutcheon). On Christmas Eve after receiving a card from Natalie stating her love ("I'm actually yours. With love, your Natalie"), David located her at a school nativity play with her family - and was discovered kissing her backstage when the curtain rose, to the tune of "All I Want For Christmas." He urged her to smile, bow, and wave back.

In the eighth story, Britisher Colin Frissell (Kris Marshall) traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to find love, where he met three pretty American girls: brunette Stacey (Ivana Miličević), blonde Jeannie (January Jones), and Carol-Anne (Elisha Cuthbert). Almost immediately, they invited the obliging Brit to their place to share their bed with him, naked.

The ninth story was about two body-doubles or stand-in performers, John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page) who were completely comfortable with each other while naked during simulated sex scenes, but otherwise tentative and awkward with each other. At the doorstep, after sharing a kiss, Judy told him: "All I want for Christmas is you."

In the closing epilogue - a montage scene of arrivals of all the major characters at London's Heathrow Airport, the split-screen ending featured numerous kisses and greetings, and eventually evolved into the shape of a heart, to the tune of the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows."



Prologue

Fourth Story


8th Story


8th Story


9th Story


Epilogue

Tokyo Godfathers (2003, Jp.) (aka Tokyo Goddofazazu)

Three homeless people find an abandoned baby girl in a dumpster, and try to find its parents.

In Shinjuku, Tokyo, on Christmas Eve

Japanese anime writer/director Satoshi Kon's third feature film was this holiday-themed, melodramatic film. There were some parallels and similarities between the anime and John Ford’s western classic 3 Godfathers (1948).

The family drama told about the discovery of an abandoned infant girl in a trash container on Christmas Eve, by three homeless, disenfranchised individuals who were functioning as a family unit (the tagline was: "Meet the ultimate dysfunctional family"):

  • Gin (voice of Toru Emori), a middle-aged alcoholic bum, an ex-bicycle racer and gambler
  • Miyuki (voice of Aya Okamoto), a teenaged runaway
  • Hana (voice of Yoshiaki Umegaki), an aging ex-drag queen/transvestite, mother-obsessed and hot-tempered

Hana had just prayed for the miracle of her own baby after attending a Christmas Pageant in the film's opening, and then her wish came true. At first, Hana argued that the "Christmas miracle" baby should be raised by them, but then they decided to search for the parents and return the baby (named Kiyoko), in the midst of many adventures - with lots of chase and rescue sequences. With clues, they were able to learn that the baby’s mother was named Sachiko (voice of Kyoko Terase).

During their quest, all of the triumvirate characters identified with the child - and in the process became more cognizant of their own estranged pasts.




Christmas with the Kranks (2004)

Chaos ensues after the Kranks' decision to skip Christmas is thwarted when their daughter announces she's coming home for the holidays with a fiancee.

At Christmas time, in a Chicago suburb

Director Joe Roth's unfunny comedy was adapted by Chris Columbus from John Grisham’s 2001 novel Skipping Christmas. It was a box-office success, although it was soundly vilified for its strong Orwellian message of mean-spirited conformity during the Christmas holidays (tagline: "Their Christmas will turn the town upside down!").

The best thing to say about the film was the number of holiday standards on the soundtrack - just a sampling below:

  • Jingle Bell Rock (Brenda Lee)
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  • I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (Eddie Dunstedter)
  • White Christmas (Dean Martin)
  • Frosty the Snowman (Steve Van Zandt)
  • Blue Christmas (Elvis Presley)
  • The Christmas Song (Ella Fitzgerald)

[Note: There was a similarly-titled romantic comedy Surviving Christmas (2004), released the same holiday season, that starred Ben Affleck as a wealthy Chicago ad executive who decided to buy happiness and relive his happy childhood memories of Christmas traditions, although he had always eschewed Yuletide celebrations.]

The title's family - middle-aged Luther and Nora Krank (Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis) were a suburban Chicago couple (in the town of Riverside) who had just celebrated Thanksgiving, and had said goodbye to their daughter Blair (Julie Gonzalo) who was beginning to serve a Peace Corps term in Peru. The Kranks decided to forego traditional lavish spending for the holidays (for lights, presents, parties, X-mas trees, and lavish decorations) ("We skip Christmas! We'll go bask in the Caribbean sun") and use the money for a Caribbean cruise vacation, although they would still customarily give holiday donations to children's charities and their church.

Immediately however, the Kranks were considered Scrooge-like and out-of-synch by their pressuring middle-American neighbors and co-workers, especially their neighbor Vic Frohmeyer (Dan Aykroyd) ("Christmas has always been a neighborhood thing around here"). Many were distressed that they wouldn't be partaking of the normal spending or trappings of the holiday season, such as FROSTY FEST (i.e., decorating their home for the annual neighborhood's 'Best Decorated' contest). When Christmas carolers came to the Krank's home, Luther sprayed his front lawn with water, which froze over and deterred the holiday-singers.

The twist came when on Christmas Eve morning, Blair called from the Miami airport, announcing that she was on her way home with her new fiancee from Peru - Enrique 'N-Reeky' Decardenal (René Lavan) ("I'm bringing home Enriqué!"). With only twelve hours until her arrival, the Kranks chaotically began to decorate their home with the traditional trimmings, and prepare for a party and homecoming. They were aided by cooperative neighbors to decorate the house and prepare the food (a long segment was devoted for the acquisition of a Hickory Honey Ham). When the couple arrived, the house was blazing with lights, a giant Frosty figure was on the roof, and inside, a dinner was prepared (and cookies had been baked).

In the end after all the frantic chaos, Luther was forced to reluctantly acknowledge that they shouldn't have skipped Christmas, and should have achieved yuletide happiness in the usual way ("Skipping Christmas - what a stupid idea").









The Polar Express (2004)

Praised for its milestone special effects, The Polar Express showcases an action packed, magical journey to The North Pole.

At Christmas time, set in the 1950s in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Robert Zemeckis' ground-breaking, blockbuster adaptation of the beloved 1985 illustrated children's book by Chris Van Allsburg, was a journey of self-discovery with a strong endorsement (or sales-pitch) for the belief in the existence of Christmas. The fantasy holiday film was enhanced with memorable performance-capture technology. It was praised for its milestone special effects, but also criticized for some of its lifeless-looking, unreal humans and animations. However, it was still notable in its claim to be the first major feature-length film to use the process of Motion Capture Animation.

Late on Christmas Eve, a doubting and skeptical 8 year-old unnamed 'Hero Boy' (voice of Daryl Sabara) was introduced (in voice-over), as he lay in bed contemplating that there was no Santa Claus. He was wishing to hear the beautiful sound of reindeer bells from Santa's sleigh:

"On Christmas Eve many years ago, I laid quietly in my bed. I did not rustle the sheets. I breathed slowly and silently. I was listening for a sound, a sound I was afraid I'd never hear - the sound of Santa's sleigh bells."

He was hoping to believe in everything related to the Christmas holidays, but at a turning point in his life, he was becoming agnostic and doubting with shaky beliefs about the true existence of Saint Nick. He heard noises downstairs, and saw a shadow, but discovered a ruse. It wasn't Santa Claus, but his own father who ate the cookies and delivered the presents. He returned to his room to search in magazines and encyclopedias for confirmation of Santa, but in a description of the 'North Pole' in his World Book encyclopedia, it was only described as "stark, barren, devoid of life."

He then pretended to be asleep when his parents entered his bedroom. They mentioned that their disbelieving son no longer stayed up late listening for Santa Claus's arrival. He was awakened at about 5 minutes to twelve by a loud whooshing and rumbling sound - a monstrous, golden-lit magical steam train pulled up outside his house. He ran outside in his pajamas, slippers, and torn-pocketed bathrobe.

The conductor (Tom Hanks, who played most of the characters) had announced: "All aboard," and claimed they were bound for the North Pole (and Santa Claus' home). He had also claimed: "Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can't see."

Hero Boy joined fellow travelers - all wearing pajamas, including:

  • black Hero Girl (Nona Gaye)
  • nerdy Know-It-All (Eddie Deezen)
  • sickly and shy Lonely Boy Billy (Peter Scolari), from a broken home, and living on the bad side of town

The hour-long, sometimes out-of-control ride to their fantastical destination was filled with spectacular theme park-like roller-coaster thrills and action sequences. At one point on the journey, a huge herd of caribou was encountered crossing and blocking the path, and the train in steep Glacier Gulch skidded off its tracks and slid across an iced-over lake. Hyperkinetic, white-aproned dancing waiters served hot-chocolate to the young passengers, while the conductor sang the bizarre song: "Hot Chocolate" about the joys of drinking the hot beverage. During one long magical sequence, the girl's golden train ticket fluttered away and was sent through an obstacle course, of sorts, before blowing back into the train.

At Santa's headquarters or workshop, there was a bank of TV monitors that allowed the elves to monitor who had been naughty or nice, while gifts were transported around within pneumatic tubes. With preparations ready for Santa's yearly Christmas deliveries, one silver bell fell off of Santa's sleigh. Hero Boy picked it up and shook it, but couldn't hear it. He then stated his belief in Santa, and saw Santa's reflection behind him in the shiny bell. He shook the bell again, now heard its sweet sound, and returned it to Santa.

Soon after, Hero Boy was selected to meet the red-suited, white-bearded, pompous Man/Santa Claus (Hanks again) who asked him what he wanted for Christmas. The Boy was presented with his request - a silver sleigh bell - "the first gift of Christmas." The bell could only be heard by those who believed in Santa.

"This bell is a wonderful symbol of Christmas, as am I. Just remember, the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart."

During the return trip back home on the train, Hero Boy realized the bell was missing (from his torn pocket), and he was saddened. On Christmas morning, the last tiny gift box to be opened by him and his sister Sarah had a note on it from Santa - to "fix that hole." It contained the silver bell. The two could hear the bell, but their parents couldn't (thinking it was broken).

Hero Boy re-dedicated himself to the spirit of Christmas and in the film's last line stated:

"At one time most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe."








Joyeux Noel (2005, Fr./Ger./UK) (aka Merry Christmas)

Writer/director Christian Carion's anti-war drama was based upon a true event that occurred during World War I. It was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film (subtitled in French), losing to South Africa's Tsotsi (2005). Its tagline succinctly described the plot:

Christms Eve, 1914
On a World War I Battefield,
A Momentous Event Changed the Lives of Soldiers
From France, Germany and England

On Christmas Eve in 1914, a truce or cease-fire was called during the war (between German, French and British soldiers) on the French battlefield. French, German, and Scottish officers met in no-man's-land and agreed on a cease-fire for the evening. Flares were shot into the air and the soldiers cheered and applauded, and then tentatively crossed the battleground to the enemy's side. They exchanged Christmas greetings, shared native foods (bars of chocolate) and drink, showed family photos, listened to bagpipe music, sang carols, and participated in Christmas mass together, where they listened to the singing of a Danish soprano singer.

The story was seen through the eyes of these individuals

  • French Lieutenant Camille René Audebert (Guillaume Canet)
  • Scottish Anglican priest Father Palmer (Gary Lewis)
  • German tenor and Private Nikolaus Sprink (Benno Fürmann)
    and his fiancee
  • Danish soprano Anna Sørensen (Diane Kruger, dubbed by singing voice of Natalie Dessay)





The Night Before (2015)

Co-writer/director Jonathan Levine's R-rated holiday-buddy comedy film, filled with racy and vulgar dialogue, debauchery and drug usage, was about a trio of best childhood friends who had annually celebrated "the night before" for the previous decade. [Note: There were a number of similarities between this film and the stoner comedy A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas (2011), directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson.]

  • Isaac Greenberg (Seth Rogen) - with expectant wife Betsy (Jillian Bell)
  • Ethan Miller (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) - a failed musician, a hotel cocktail waiter (dressed as an elf), whose previous love interest was Diana (Lizzy Caplan)
  • Chris Roberts (Anthony Mackie) - a fame-seeking, steroids-using, celebrity pro football player, chauffeured in a large limo sponsored by Red Bull

The threesome had originally been brought together to party due to a tragedy, when Ethan's parents were killed in a drunk-driving accident in 2001.

Now, the thirty-somethings have decided to end their boozing tradition with one last blow-out Christmas Eve together in New York City. They planned to attend a legendary and exclusive (invitation-only) party known as the Nutcracker Ball (where they were surprised by a performance of "Wrecking Ball" by Miley Cyrus (as Herself)).

Their misadventures included an overdose of drugs causing hallucinations, dancing on a keyboard at FAO Schwartz (homage to Tom Hanks' scene in Big (1988)), switched cellphones (with a dic-pic), bathroom sex between Chris and fan Rebecca Grinch (Ilana Glazer), a fantasy time-travel strip club sequence, a reindeer-pulled sleighride that dragged Isaac down the street, and Isaac's nauseous vomiting in front of everyone during a Midnight Mass service.

In the end, it was revealed that the story was read from a book by Santa/Narrator (Tracy Morgan), who was sitting with his elves and his son Mr. Green (Michael Shannon), the host of the Nutcracker Ball and a weed-dealer.





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