Friday, December 12, 2014

12 Funny Days of Christmas


Christmas is that time of year we bring out those traditional and beloved holiday movie classics such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Christmas Story or It's A Wonderful Life and cuddle up with a loved one in front of the fireplace for a nice evening together. While that is all good and fine I believe that Christmas can also be a good avenue to explore other ways of celebrating our lord and savior through the medium of film. While our last 12 Days dealt with violence during the holidays, this time we are focusing on the simple power of laughter and the holiday joy it brings. While most will think humor is part of just about any holiday film, these select dozen take the cake in regards to their unique individual approaches to making us laugh. Those other holiday films may be traditional but remember this, traditions are meant to be broken...or at the very least expanded upon.

This is my countdown of the 12 funniest and rather unorthodox Christmas films around that help spread the holiday cheer while also giving us a healthy dose of laughter to boot. Each film will be rated based solely on the amount of Holiday Cheer and the amount of Humor they help give us in this season of joy. In regards to whether or not the films are actually good is secondary for this list, but keep in mind that I would never even mention a film if it didn't have some redeeming values to it. If you find yourself home one night wanting a nice Christmas movie to throw on but also have a yearning to laugh your ass off then I hope this list will help you satisfy both those needs at once.

We will begin with the first day of Christmas and work our way to the twelfth and final day by adding a new film each day leading up to Christmas day. So remember to check back each day to find out which new film will be added next. So without further ado I invite you to join in on my holiday movie tradition of thinking outside the box when it comes to celebrating Christmas at the movies. Lets get to it shall we?

Twelfth Day: Jingle All The Way

CHRISTMAS TREE ITEM
Most all the films listed here (and even the ones that aren't) depict a lot of the same iconic Christmas traditions and characters from Santa Claus to the very reason we celebrate Christmas. But there are surprisingly few that ever tackle the reality of Christmas for many adults, which in the case of Jingle All the Way is the all important, strangely dangerous and very stressful Christmas shopping season. While the premise of following action star Arnold Schwarzenegger around on Christmas eve in search of an ever elusive toy for his son may sound like comedy gold (which it still does), somehow the film became more of an extremely exaggerated version of the Christmas tradition than something anyone could identify with which is either a good or bad thing depending on your expectations.

Arnold battles his toughest enemy yet, the Christmas shopping season.
Just about the only holiday cheer going on here is sadly a lot of sappy father-son bonding that feels way too forced to ever be as endearing as it wants to be. That being said though, it's still a message that is worth exploring, even under the unfortunate circumstances of seeing dueling fathers, one played by Schwarzenegger and the other by Sinbad, battle it out whilst wearing the very same costumes of the toy they are in search of. While that finale becomes a bit eye rolling, the message remains the same which is that while keeping your promises is important, staying true to yourself and being a good role model for your kid is more important. Apparently the importance of that message trumps the idea of setting your child up for a string of broken promises.

Holiday Cheer: 6/10


Santa's selling bootleg toys...yeah, that happens.
Here is where the film is mostly hit or miss depending on your outlook. As an over the top comedy romp that has absolutely no basis in reality, it works. However, if you are like most everyone else out there that was disappointed by the film, the lack of anything for us to relate to hurts it. Scouring the city for your gift, waiting hours upon hours to get into a store that is rumored to have what you want, the resulting mad dash once the doors open, the guilt of waiting far too long to get that oh so important gift and that invigorating feeling of finally holding in your hand the coveted item you have labored so long to get, all of that is missing from here. Instead you get Schwarzenegger visiting a ring of bootlegging Santa's, running around a mall for a bouncing ball (that goes on far too long) and threatening a disc jockey with a bomb which unless you are a psychotic will never relate to. At least there is the always enjoyable smarmy shenanigans of Phil Hartman to keep you smiling.

Holiday Humor: 4/10




Eleventh Day: The Ref

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Here is one of the very few Christmas movies on this list that despite taking place on Christmas eve and featuring all the trimmings never once FEELS like a Christmas movie. The film instead takes the less traveled approach of treating Christmas much like adults do, which is by featuring a lot of conflict, hidden anger and arguments. That's not to say The Ref is all about unpleasant stuff, quite the contrary actually as the film's eventual outcome is surprisingly uplifting and even just a teensy bit hopeful considering all the crap the characters go through while spending Christmas as the hostage of a cat burglar who can't find a way out of the small town he finds himself stuck in.

Spacey and Davis deliver equally amazing performances as a couple on the way to divorce.
Yeah, not too much of that here. Between a couple on the verge of divorce, a blackmailing teenager, a hate-inspiring grandmother, some seriously dysfunctional relatives, a hapless burglar with an itchy trigger finger, a legion of small town cops who can't even operate a VCR (that's something like a Blu-ray player for all you kids out there) and a drunk Santa Claus trying to deliver fruit cakes house to house, there isn't too much cheer going on here. However, as mentioned above the conclusion of the film does bring in some good tidings as those who were in distress at the beginning find some common ground and try to work past their previous misgivings.

Holiday Cheer: 6/10


You better watch out, you better not cry, Santa is gonna get punched.
Of course the reason everyone finds themselves in a position to forgive and forget is because of Denis Leary as their ref (and the man holding them hostage). He isn't trying to help anyone but himself, but when he takes Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis captive he gets much more than he was expecting which leads to an outrageously hysterical verbal battle of wits. With most of the film taking place in a single home, much of the film is highly dialog based with everyone shooting insults and other very colorful verbiage towards one another that just might feel to familiar for comfort for some. While the chemistry between Leary, Spacey and Davis would be enough to fuel an entire movie, things get even more out of control when the relatives arrive and we see multiple confrontations spring up thanks to Leary's unwanted presence. Add in the clueless police, Leary punching Santa, a ridiculous dinner ceremony and some well placed cat urine and you got yourself one of the funniest Christmas movies that isn't really about Christmas ever made.

Holiday Humor: 6/10




Tenth Day: The Santa Clause

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Before you say a thing, just take a second to listen. Yes, Disney's The Santa Clause isn't exactly in the same realm of madcap tomfoolery as the rest of the films on this list and falls a bit too much into the sappy and sentimental Hallmarky side of Christmas movies (even for me). However, unlike it's extremely family friendly and safe sequels, the 1994 Tim Allen starring vehicle The Santa Clause has a bit more bite to it than most give it credit for. First and most importantly, this film starred the Pre-Disney-fied Tim Allen who wasn't just willing to be a certified ass, but relished in it. But coming in a close second is the deceptively f**ked up premise to the first film which is essentially about a man who has lost his Christmas spirit and then regains it after inadvertently KILLING Santa Claus and then being FORCED into becoming Santa. Yes, this isn't your typical family friendly Disney romp.

Yes, that is a dead as a doornail Santa laying there.
What most would consider the saving grace in the eyes of families everywhere is the film's second half where Tim Allen slowly goes from sarcastic, self-centered Christmas profiteer to the Santa Claus we all know and love from our childhood memories. While he thankfully retains a semblance of the Tim Allen who likes to make us a laugh, he does eventually turn into a full fledged Santa Claus by the end. Part of the charm of the film though is watching the cynical Tim Allen father figure transform both physically and mentally into Santa Claus and seeing him turn into the man his son has always wanted him to be. Other yuletide touches such as a visit to the north pole, elves with jetpacks, flying reindeer with flatulence issues and of course seeing the magic of Christmas turn skeptics into true believers helps delivery the holiday cheer as well.

Holiday Cheer: 8/10


As he becomes more like Santa, he sadly becomes less funny.
Unlike most films about somebody becoming Santa, this film is in a category all its own with the first ever killing of Santa and watching the replacement fight tooth and nail against the promotion. While the way Allen's character is in the beginning of the film is just set up for his ultimate redemption at the end when he learns the true magic of Christmas, it doesn't stop those early moments from being the best parts. There is a sadistically funny comedy hidden underneath the veneer of mistletoe and egg nog, starting with the aforementioned killing of Santa which is just kinda hysterically depressing in its own special way. But the moments with pre-Santa Tim Allen threatening kids to go sleep and begrudgingly tossing gifts under strangers trees whom he doesn't give two shits about is all great stuff as well for anyone looking for a Christmas comedy with a bit of bite to it.

Holiday Humor: 7/10





Ninth Day: A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas

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Not only does this Christmas comedy featuring the weed loving duo of Harold and Kumar have the dubious honor of being the second buddy Christmas comedy on this list, but it is also one of the more recent films as well being released just a scant three years ago. While during its release its lampooning of how popular (and ridiculous) the 3D format was getting got the most attention, with a couple years of reflection will show anyone who wisely decides to revisit its silly fantasy world where drugs are just harmless fun that its lampooning of the Christmas season is even more on point than its attack on 3D. Between this and Friday After Next, it would seem that other buddy comedies would do well to make a Christmas themed third installment because it has paid off brilliantly for both of those franchises.

Harold and Kumar get animated.
As much as A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is about weed, getting high, partying, sex and getting high, it is also about remembering those we love, being true to ourselves and to those around us. While the overbearing drugs-are-fun theme is a bit much sometimes, it never fails to come full circle back to the idea that Christmas is a time for giving and receiving as both Harold and Kumar scurry all over town in search of a Christmas tree to appease Harold's father in-law who is scary into Christmas. But there is no denying that the film is more about taking holiday cheer and having fun with it than it is about giving a meaningful and merry Christmas message. What is there though works just fine in the grand scheme of things, just don't expect to start showing this at family Christmas get togethers (unless you want to shock them) anytime soon. Although, series regular NPH does a great Broadway number that will certainly get everyone watching into the Christmas spirit.

Holiday Cheer: 6/10

I don't think that is a candy cane Santa is smoking.
No doubt, this is one of the best films to ever take Christmas and its cherished rituals, throw it in a bong and smoke it up. It isn't so much anti-Christmas traditions as it is anti-prudes who have a stick up their ass and can't take a joke. Whether that works for you or not is anyones guess, but there is no denying just how hysterically on point the results are. Between Danny (Machete) Trejo as a Christmas loving in-law with his tragic Christmas tree story, an adorable syrup shooting waffle making robot, a rendition of "White Christmas" as a bag of cocaine explodes all over the room, Patton Oswald as a drug dealing mall Santa, a spectacular homage to stop motion animated Christmas classics and Santa Claus hitting up a bong, you will have trouble finding a movie with equal amounts good will, mischievous behavior and Christmas comedy gold as this.

Holiday Humor: 8/10




Eighth Day: Elf

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Although most of this list is consisted of Christmas themed comedies that don't get a lot of attention during holidays, Elf gets a pass because for one thing it is one of the only modern Christmas films to become as recognized as some of the other classics and simply because of just how darn funny the thing is. Every comedic actor eventually makes that movie that even their detractors like (Jim Carrey in the Truman Show, Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop) and this is that movie for Will Ferrel. Whether it is how perfectly he hits that childhood glee or his adorably clueless approach to actually believing he is an elf, there is just something about Elf that hearkens back to a more innocent perspective on Christmas and our views on it as adults that has made it a modern holiday classic.

All Buddy wants to fit in and be an Elf like everyone else.
This is without a doubt THE cheeriest Christmas movie ever made. Buddy the elf is one of the most hopelessly happy individuals to ever be put to film. Buddy's festive energy will give any grinch out there enough reason to forgo their cynical ways and partake in the celebration. While just about any moment in the film with Buddy can be singled out as an example as to how much holiday cheer he exudes, some standouts include Buddy's decorations for the department store, his over zealous excitement towards learning that Santa is coming to the store and how he is able to turn a miserable mail room environment into a very festive dance off. Add in the always adorable Zooey Deschanel as a quirky store elf, Ed Asner as Santa, Bod Newhart as Buddy's adoptive father elf and a group of strangers singing "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town",and you have a movie that generates enjoy holiday cheer to power Santa's sleigh for years to come.

Holiday Cheer: 11/10


We all feel this way about someone being too happy sometime or another.
As much as Buddy generates the holiday cheer, the reactions from those around him to his unbridled joy for everything Christmas are responsible for all the laughs. Yes, Buddy is the catalyst for their reactions, but as much as his excitement over seeing Santa at the store is hysterically over the top, it is Faison Love's totally unemotional reaction with complete disdain for his enthusiasm that takes it over the top. Proving even more effective is James Caan's often dumbfounded reactions to Buddy's continued insistence that he is an Elf from the north pole. While Caan's constant confounded expressionless looks of dismay are comedy gold on their own, only when he receives Buddy's Christmas present consisting of a single piece of sexy lingerie will anyone watching likely lose their cool and breakdown into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. If Buddy's Christmas spirit isn't enough to convert the grinches out there into the holiday spirit, then at the very least he will make them laugh. Plus there is a pre-Game of Thrones Peter Dinklage who gets accused of being an Elf!

Holiday Humor: 10/10





Seventh Day: Friday After Next

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Ice Cube's Friday trilogy doesn't get nearly as much love as it deserves. The reason being is that unlike most comedy sequels out there, somehow each new entry was just as funny (if not more so) than the previous one. While fans wait in anticipation of the long rumored fourth film in the series, we can at least enjoy what we have which includes this Christmas themed third Friday. Ghetto Claus is out and about in South Central on Christmas Eve, but he isn't delivering gifts...he's stealing them! As luck would have it, he decides to step through the window of Craig (Ice Cube) and Day-Day's (Mike Epps) apartment and make off with not only all their rent money (which is due that day), but also their Christmas presents. Craig and Day-Day now must spend the rest of their Friday finding a way to pay their rent while also starting their first day of work at the local strip mall as rent-a-cops.

Getting robbed by Santa in downtown L.A. is sadly not unexpected.
There aren't too many movies that take place in downtown Los Angeles that evoke happiness or any sort of cheer for that matter, let alone being set during Christmas. That is why Friday After Next is such a breath of fresh air, where usually we find gunfire, gangs and criminals as something to be feared, here they are mostly played up as being somewhat silly and almost cartoonish. The argument can be (and has been) made that making light of these often terrible subjects is somehow celebrating them, but in reality all Ice Cube and company are doing here is providing a bit of levity, not unlike that family member who jokes about things that should not be joked about. But unlike the other two films before it, this third Friday has the benefit of the Christmas asethetics such as a rather fun animated intro, some fun Christmas tunes and a general yuletide feel.

Holiday Cheer: 2/10


Damon just wants a hug for Christmas...and maybe something else.
The Friday movies always poke fun at the stereotypical personalities found in the 'hood' and Friday After Next is no different. Packed full of crazy characters such as weasely pimps, homosexual ex-cons, sexually deprived superintendents, shady strip mall owners, a thieving Santa Claus and of course Craig's dad played by the always hysterically inappropriate John Witherspoon, there is never a dull moment. While most of the humor is derived from the usual assortment of nefarious acts, the addition of a thief dressed up as Santa Claus terrorizing the neighborhood, seeing thug kids threaten mall Santa's into buying them what they want for Christmas and ghetto Christmas carolers will make you so jolly that you'll want to slap your momma! Best of all, for anyone worried about the humor being too harsh for the kids, the film is surprisingly free of extreme vulgarities for the most part (unlike some other films on this list).

Holiday Humor: 6/10




Sixth Day: Ernest Saves Christmas

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Jim Varney made an entire career out of playing the fictional character Ernest P. Worrell. Starring mostly in television commercials during the 80's and then making the switch to the big screen in a number of films, Ernest became a sort of cult comedic icon. Much like other actors/comedians such as Pauley Shore and Larry the Cable Guy, Ernest had a small but very loyal fanbase. While most of his films were questionable when it came to quality, the one film he made that seems to be universally accepted by even non-fans is Ernest Saves Christmas. While Ernest was still the same Ernest the public came to either love or loathe during his heyday, the film itself was harmless enough and invoked just the right balance between holiday cheer and wacky fun to become a holiday classic for those willing to give it a chance.

Ernest takes flight...but can't seem to figure out how to land.
Despite Ernest headlining the film, it is actually more about the man in red and his misadventures trying to find a replacement. The actor playing ole Saint Nick, Douglas Seale, has a very jolly presence that helps make him easily identifiable in the role. Along with him is also a general warmth to the whole production with even the more broad comedic bits being played more for fun than general laughs. Heck, even the opening credits full of classic drawings featuring Santa give the film a certain holiday warmth missing in a lot of holiday features . Ernest Saves Christmas is probably one of the least watched holiday films out there (thanks mostly to the limited appeal of the Ernest character), but it has surprisingly become a cult holiday favorite for a lot of folks out there and continues to grow more appealing for those looking for a bit of harmless holiday fun as the years pass.

Holiday Cheer: 6/10


These guys have their hands full...with reindeer.
It often isn't as cut and dry as this, but if you like or at the very least can tolerate the Ernest character chances are the humor will work for you and that humor is played extremely broad and very big by Jim Varney. Sadly most of Ernest's playtime revolves around his usual schtick instead of creating new holiday centric characters. We get Ernest as an old woman, a snake wrangler and a smarmy politician type and as you might guess, they all have absolutely nothing to do with Christmas. Luckily though there are some good fun holiday touches of humor such as Ernest getting a hold of Santa's sleigh and bag full of presents, but without a doubt it was the screwball antics between Ernest staples Gailard Sartain and Bill Byrge as a couple of airport storage agents who are forced to deal with Santa's reindeer that steal the show here. The humor will likely be hit or miss for most, but the entire production is just so good natured that you can't help but smile sometimes, know what I mean?

Holiday Humor: 5/10




Fifth Day: Scrooged

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A Christmas Carol is without a doubt one of the most beloved, cherished and remade holiday stories ever created. You can have it with Muppets, Mickey Mouse, Jimmy Stewart, Patrick Stewart, Mister Magoo, Bugs Bunny, The Flintstones, Big Bird, The Smurfs...you get the idea. But by far my favorite adaptation of the immortal tale is the one directed by Richard Donner and starring the one and only Bill Murray. There are many reasons why this particular vision of the story stands out, the modern setting, the slapstick humor and of course Murray being in top comedic form, but most of all is its heart. One can argue that Scrooged is the most emotionally effective version of the classic tale thanks to a number of great heartbreaking moments that are quickly countered by an often hilarious encounter of some sort and eventually concludes with a very joyous finale that will make anyone want to stand up and join in.

The ghost of Christmas past takes Frank back to his youth.
Are you kidding? This is THE holiday cheer movie experience. Scrooge, the ghosts of Christmas' past, present and future, redemption, second chances, a new found appreciation for life all the while learning to love again, every single facet of this story is what Christmas represents for many of us. As for this particular version of the story though, other than not actually featuring Ebeneezer Scrooge (Murray's misguided television programming executive is named Frank Cross), it stays true to the story as it is known by most. Frank gets visited by the ghosts one by one and is shown the error of his ways, but as he slowly begins loosing his mind, he also begins to remember just how special his life was without all the money and power he has accrued. While this version's Tiny Tim isn't quite as effective as it could have been, we get plenty of other moments for Frank to discover the value of life and unconditional love through other new characters such as the loveable homeless Herman, the comically depressed Eliot played by a tamer than usual Bobcat Goldthwait, but most of all through his attempt to rekindle the relationship he destroyed years earlier with his soulmate claire. Plus they have mice with antlers!

Holiday Cheer: 10/10


Frank Cross just wants to put a little love in your heart.
This is arguably the funniest adaptation ever done for A Christmas Carol. Now, comedy is already a difficult thing to get right, but mixing comedy with a classic story while also trying to stay true to its overall themes and iconic characters is an impossibly difficult task, and one that both Richard Donner and Bill Murray just completely nail here. The supporting cast is to be commended as well, Karen Allen, Alfre Woodard, Carol Kane, David Johansen, Michael J. Pollard, Robert Mitchum and the aforementioned Bobcat Goldthwait all do great comedic work here and tug on our heartstrings when needed. But none of it would be possible without Bill Murray and his trademark cynicism.

How he dismisses people without a second thought and his general unpleasantness make him the perfect pick for Frank Cross' idiosyncrasies and his eventual redemption. How Donner plays around with modern day tropes is a lot of fun too, especially stuff like Robert Goulet's Cajun Christmas or the even more amazing fake movie "The Night the Reindeer Died" starring Lee Majors. All of that combines to make a fantastically funny Christmas tale that people of all ages can enjoy equally. Plus they have mice with antlers!

Holiday Humor: 10/10





Fourth Day: Just Friends

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The friend zone, not a place any guy likes to find himself in regards to a female counterpart that they have feelings for. Yet that is exactly what happens to Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds) in this holiday comedy romp. Years after getting over the sting left by his proposed feelings towards his then teenage BFF Jamie (Amy Smart), Chris is now a successful business man and as a result of his embarrassment has also grown into a chauvinist pig. Part of his business is taking care of musical artist (and exceptional airhead) Samantha James (Anna Faris) who he must escort across country just a few days before Christmas. After a mishap with the onboard microwave grounds their private flight in Chris' hometown, he is forced to face his feelings for Jamie once again, this time with no intention of landing in the friend zone.

Samantha James is a very special kind of crazy.
The first third of the film isn't too reliant on anything holiday related, but as soon as Chris and Samantha get stranded in his hometown the gloves come off and this routine romantic comedy becomes one of the most overlooked holiday comedy classics in recent memory. Being that the majority of the film takes place in a small time you know there will be a lot of quaint holiday charm and those looking for the usual holiday trimmings will not come away disappointed. In addition to the local bar and diner decking their halls, Chris' childhood home has plenty of that sit-by-the-fireplace-warmth with its decorations, but it has nothing on Jamie's home. The tree topper to this holiday treat is when Chris' high school nemesis Dusty (Chris Klein) plays some Christmas tunes for Jamie's entire family which is quickly followed up by a rendition of "Deck the Halls" as he leads everyone through the house and out to the winter wonderland in an old fashioned conga line style.

Holiday Cheer: 8/10


Chris is having a rather disastrous Christmas.
Fans of Ryan Reynolds will already know what to expect from the famed comedic actor, which is a lot of snark, bite and a lot of wit. But in a turn of fate, this also happens to be one of his few performances where he ends up the butt of the joke which is responsible for most of the film's biggest laughs (love his melt down in the car). Such events include him constantly being upstaged by the devilish charms of Dusty at every turn, being beaten by a bunch of little kids in a hockey game which lands him in an ambulance and let's not forget his mother's (played to perfection by Julie Haggerty) constant need to jump on the phone to embarrass him. However as great as Reynolds is, nothing tops yet another cluelessly crazy performance by Anna Faris (being at the top of her game here) as the fly in Reynold's ointment. Her pop songs are to die for, but the moment when she believes that she is being punked after their flight is forced to land and then cries out for Ashton to show himself is just comedy gold.

Holiday Humor: 7/10




Third Day: Trapped In Paradise

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Here is a holiday comedy that is the epitome of the obscure and forgotten film. Why is it considered forgotten? Well it isn't due to a lack of star power (or maybe it is in hindsight) with a pre-crazy, pre-horrible career decisions, pre-hairloss Nicolas Cage in the type of role that he had excelled at for years playing it light, just a tad bit zany with just a pinch of sentimentality. The reason he got to play such a grounded character though is because his co-stars, SNL alumni Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey who play his two bumbling siblings get to play it so broad, especially Carvey whose speech impediment takes about half the movie to get into. But what really sets the film up as this sort of forgotten holiday romp is just how easy going and good-natured the whole thing is. While the story of 3 brothers who rob a small town bank on Christmas Eve may not sound like much of a heart-tugger, it proves to be a highly effective, if just a little bit too Hallmark-y for its own good, bit of holiday fun.

It's hard to steal from those so willing to give.
Not until the Firpo brothers actually enter the small town of Paradise, Pennsylvania do we get hit over the head with the fact that this is indeed a Christmas movie. Paradise is that typical small town that you see in countless other films where the good nature of the townsfolk melt the hardened hearts of the criminals who sought out to steal from them and with it being Christmas Eve you can bet that every member of the community is out to prove just how carefree and benevolent they actually are. From the copious amounts of snowfall to the elaborate decorations that adorn the streets, homes and businesses, the Christmas spirit is alive and well in Paradise which gives the film what I like to call that Hallmark quality but without ever crossing that oh-so fragile line into sappiness. If you want a film that has those Hallmark aesthetics but can't stand how overly perfect everything and everyone usually is those types of films, Trapped in Paradise is a perfect pick.

Holiday Cheer: 9/10


The Firpo's try to keep a low profile in Paradise.
Here's where things get a little bit off track because despite starring two former SNL members and featuring the always perfect Richard Jenkins as an FBI agent who is simply miserable and depressed by the fact that he is chasing bad guys on Christmas Eve, the film doesn't have much in the way of big laugh out loud moments. There are plenty of scenes that will make you grin or even chuckle, but for a film that is labeled as a comedy, it has a hard time being one. The idea of 3 crooks who just robbed a bank and are now forced to stay with the very same people they stole from as they attempt to escape the town should be ripe for comedic gold, but seeing them fail over and over again while using every form of transportation available (car, bus, boat and even a horse and sleigh) becomes almost yawn inducing. If it weren't for the general overall pleasantness of the film, the holiday trimmings and the warmth all the actors bring to the table the film wouldn't raise more than an eyebrow.

Holiday Humor: 3/10




Second Day: Home Alone

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While it isn't a secret that this Chris Columbus directed blockbuster classic takes place during the holidays, it surprisingly doesn't get much love during Christmas time, not even as much as the second film. The story of a boy (Macaulay Culkin) being stranded at home during Christmas while fending off two robbers (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern), affectionately calling themselves "The Wet Bandits", captured the hearts (and money) of everyone when it was released in 1990 and has gone on to spawn many inferior sequels (yes, even the second one), but none of those films or any of its imitators were ever able to match the perfect balance of zany humor, heartwarming sentiment and festive holiday atmosphere. This isn't really a forgotten classic, but more or less one that doesn't seem to get much attention as many of the other overplayed (ahem...Christmas Story) holiday classics get.


Kevin is ready to deal out some Christmas spirit.
The idea behind the movie, a kid left home alone for Christmas, is quite possibly one of the most deviously simple premises ever conceived of and as it happens, one of the richest when it comes to exploring the one thing most of us take for granted during the Christmas season...our family. Sure, seeing Kevin McCallister run around and live out every kids dream is fun and his face off with the robbers during the finale brings the whole thing to a rousing and hilarious end, but it is when he discovers that without his family Christmas just feels empty. It may be a bit on the nose and heavy handed with its themes, but there is just no denying that it works. Of course though, it is all imbedded within the confines of a finely tuned comedy that makes those moments not only easier to swallow, but actually appreciate.


Holiday Cheer: 8/10


Harry and Marv have had enough torture.
OK, this is what everyone remembers Home Alone for. The entire film is nothing but one giant build up to the eventual attack on the house by the robbers on Christmas Eve and unlike many films it delivers on that promise. While the journey to that finale is fun for the most part, it is nothing compared to watching Kevin outsmart his attackers using some of the most cartoonish and over the top traps ever devised. Using every possible thing at his disposal such as fireworks, an iron, heated doorknobs, nails, Christmas ornaments, paint cans and even his older brother's pet spider, Harry and Marv are the victims of some of the funniest booby traps to ever get sprung on a home invader and responsible for some of the biggest gut laughs I have ever had. That moment when Kevin places the spider on Marv's face and his resulting high pitched scream still gets me today and that is why Home Alone still stands a great comedy on top of it being a great Christmas movie. Its humor and its themes are universal enough for everyone to enjoy even 2 decades after its release.

Holiday Humor: 10/10




First Day: Bad Santa

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Bad Santa won't win any awards for the "feel good movie of the year" or ever be labeled as a "family holiday favorite", but what it lacks in those more traditional categories it more than makes up for with offensive, degrading and absolutely hysterical comedy gold. Never before has such outright hateful material been fused together with one of the most joyous holidays but one cannot argue with the results which is in thanks mostly to its outstanding (and very game) cast which includes some truly off beat and original choices.

While most would immediately credit Billy Bob Thorton's turn as the title character as being the true standout (which it most certainly is in most senses), but if not for the supporting work by Tony Cox, Bernie Mac, John Ritter (in his last film role), Lauren Graham, Cloris Leachmen (uncredited) and Brett Kelly as the Kid Thornton takes advantage of, his dirty deeds wouldn't be nearly as effective. An way you wrap it, Bad Santa stands tall as proof positive that even the most offensive holiday film of all time may not make it on every families must watch list during the holidays but can still find a way into our hearts.

Santa is all about decorating the Christmas tree.
Despite having Santa in the title and having the main character dress up as the title character, this story of a mall Santa, his helpful (and extremely foul mouthed) elf assistant and his Vietmanese mail order bride who rob the malls they work at each year is as far from holiday cheer as the Middle East is from peace. But Christmas trimmings are still abound all throughout mostly in thanks to the Kid that Thornton uses for bed and lodging. The kid's naive perspective about Thornton's despicable mall Santa being the real Santa Claus, while hilarious, is also kind of endearing which makes the final act of the film all the more effective, even if it does get a little soft at the end. Overall, there is just enough holiday presence to make the film's more dubious nature a bit more tolerable.

Holiday Cheer: 4/10

Uh oh, looks like Santa sprung a leak.
You really have to have an open mind for just about everything in order to appreciate the humor in Bad Santa. It doesn't just attack the Santa Claus mythos with vigor with Santa pissing himself and beating the crap out of plastic reindeer in front of children, it even goes after dwarves (apparently they prefer to be called little people), overweight women, homosexuals and bartenders who like to sleep with men dressed as Santa Claus. Add in the over the top vulgar language delivered perfectly by Tony Cox as the evil elf  and the often hilarious interactions between Thornton and the Kid (Thornton's explanation about Mrs. Claus and having joint custody of the reindeer is beyond priceless) and you get yourself one of the most offensively funny holiday movies ever made, but one that will likely offend just as many people as it entertains.

Holiday Humor: 9/10


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