The worst Christmas movies of the last 20 years as picked by Mike Spiegelman. We know that Santa Meets the Martians or The Ice Cream Bunny are terrible, but what about the new classics? Besides these top five, listen to recaps of “The Christmas Shoes” and the Santa reboot “Santa Claus: The Movie”
Check out the list below. What are we missing?
5. Toys (1992) – Let’s begin twenty years ago, when the creative force behind Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) released a Christmas movie. Director Barry Levinson and actor Robin Williams whipped up an original trailer where Williams riffed in costume and on set. The production looked mismatched and detached, Williams ranted on, but at least the trailer was 3 minutes long. The actual film departed from Levinson’s grounded family stories into a fairy tale about a toy factory threatened by the military. Williams runs the factory, his brother is LL Cool J, his love interested is factory drone Robyn Wrigh , and he drinks Pepsi Cola. The sets, despite their oversized parameters and bright colors, dull the action, even when there are explosions and floods in the final reel. Trevor Horn of the Buggles wrote the music, including holiday tunes that no one’s ever heard, which is ridiculous because, as Americans, we’ve heard every holiday tune ever recorded. Williams and Levinson later redeemed themselves when they made the even more insufferable Man of the Year (2006).
4. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009) – I’d like to think that while writing A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens was visited by three ghosts: The Ghost of A Christmas Carol Past, The Ghost of A Christmas Carol Present, and the Ghost of A Christmas Carol Future. The first ghost shows Dickens his genius and seismic influence on English literature. The second ghost shows Dickens a deadline for a magazine, for which A Christmas Carol would do. The most sinister ghost, the one from the future, shows his prolific talents ground down into a formula used over and over by TV sitcoms and family movies. For the ghastly kicker, the last ghost shows Dickens the movie Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, a romantic comedy that has nothing to do with Christmas and more to do with Hollywood Lothario Robert Evans. When Dickens sees his story turned into a scene where used condoms fall from the sky, he’d be upset, but then ghosts of his old girlfriends appear and Charles Dickens has the best post-breakup ghost sex this side of MacGruber (2010).
Listen to past review of the movie. With Bob Powers and Amanda Melson!
3. Eight Crazy Nights (2002) – Adam Sandler released several comedy albums full of skits and silly voices, and built a sizable fan base from them. His “Hanukkah Song” became a holiday hit. This animated family fare loosely riffs off the song by having Sandler play a loser living with his silly voiced grandparents. Things dip south, quickly, with Rob Schneider voicing a Chinese waiter. And IIRC, there’s a woman with three breasts. But okay, it’s a Sandler movie, we expect that. It’s the product placement that sinks the movie. Drunk, Sandler walks into a mall and gets lectured through song by actual store logos portrayed by celebrities. To become one with the holidays, any holiday, go shopping. “Hanukkah Song” plays over the end credits.
2. The Polar Express (2004) – Based on a flimsy children’s book, the Polar Express is a dream train that takes kids to Santa’s workshop. Tom Hanks plays the conductor, and it’s rendered in creepy realistic computer graphics that highlight dead eyes. It’s in 3D and there’s no plot, so one set piece has a train ticket float out a train window, descend down crevasses, get snapped up by an eagle, set into a nest, etc. Voice talent includes Eddie Deezen (from the director’s earlier film, I Want to Hold Your Hand) and Hanks’ Bosom Buddies co-star Peter Scolari, so there’s that.
1. Christmas With The Kranks (2004) – Can’t be a list of shitty fucking Christmas movies without Tim Allen. He made The Santa Clause (1994), which led to The Santa Clause 2 (2002), which led to the shitfest; The Santa Clause 3: Oh God, It’s Martin Short (2006). No doubt. You can’t talk holiday shit without talking about the toothless, insidious parodies of Christmas consumerism like Jingle All The Way (1996) and Deck The Halls (2006). Also, fuck John Grisham. So imagine the terrible mix of Tim Allen, holiday satire, and Grisham’s insincere vision of Americana (with screenplay by Chris Columbus, no less), and there you have it: Christmas With The Kranks. Based on The Firm’s author’s short story, The Kranks live in rich suburbia, and their grown-up daughter has left the nest. Mr. Krank (Tim Allen) tells his wife (Jamie Lee Curtis) that he has a naughty idea. She thinks he wants to fuck her on the dinner table, but instead he pulls out financial ledgers showing the money they’d save by skipping Christmas shopping, Christmas decorations, and their annual neighborhood Christmas party. They decide to put that money toward a holiday cruise instead. That ticks off the neighborhood, led by the pudgy Dan Aykroyd and his son, The Youngest Kid on Malcolm In The Middle.
Listen to More about the Kranks!
They forced the Kranks to put up a snowman to match the neighborhood. The movie was directed by Joe Roth, the Revolution Studios honcho, in a sing-songy slapstick style that has Allen Botoxed, overly tanned, and drenched in snow and sleet from an awning while arguing with a store Santa (both survive). When their daughter decides to come home for the holidays, the neighborhood creates a party at the Kranks. Also, the Malcolm kid beats up a criminal, Home Alone-style. Allen gives away his cruise tickets to his even krank-ier neighbor (M. Emmet Walsh). Aykroyd shows up and everyone parties, even the store Santa, who’s really Santa after all, and sleds away from the affluent neighborhood before the movie finally stops. At one point, Curtis takes off her top and I thought, “Wait a minute! There’s another movie with Dan Aykroyd where Jamie Lee Curtis not only takes off her top, but bares her breasts. And that movie was Trading Places.”
And with that: Happy Holidays. May your movie watching be better than the shit the studios dump in January.