“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, with duds breaking down every door…”
Okay, I’ll begin by saying I love Christmas films. They’re magical through the eyes of a child — or through the eyes of having had too much eggnog — and come stocked with cheesy ideas, trope-filled stories with flat characters as thick as gingerbread men, and are generally good fun. The life lesson towed in behind the sleigh at the last minute also has its merits.
But when they jump the shark — or maybe “Santa the chimney” is more fitting here — there’s only so much Christmas chump one can take. In all fairness, there aren’t any “bad” Christmas films (that’s like complaining about fat in fast food), but the ones below have a few plot holes that are too many for this Grinch’s liking.
To celebrate the holiday season and pre-order myself a lump of coal this year, I’ve listed five terrible Christmas movies you should avoid (or, if you’re feeling masochistic, subject yourself to).
5. Santa with Muscles
Alright, brother! It’s Hulkamania himself, Hulk Hogan!
But no matter how much his 24-inch pythons work, this 1996 film is a lovable dud. It ticks all the boxes of a good Christmas film: orphaned kids, a bad guy called Frost, an icy heart that melts into good! Add in a dash(er) of amnesia trope and really, this should be a winner — except it’s all over the place. While the acting isn’t that bad, the plot is another story: it’s A Christmas Carol meets Die Hard meets Finding Dory.
Arrogant millionaire Blake Thorn (Hogan), muscles his way from mall, to orphanage, bell tower, then garbage truck. Eventually, we’re taken underground to discover why Frost and his henchmen are ruining Christmas (spoiler: magical crystals are involved).
I’m not sure Rudolph would guide this sleigh, but he doesn’t need to — Hogan’s muscles lead the way in his sawn-off (sleeveless) red coat as he spouts jolly one-liners like it’s Christmas Eve.
4. Falling for Christmas
This film is good in the way that being stuck in traffic is good — at some point, it ends.
This Scrooge-inspired flick sees Lindsay Lohan playing Sierra Belmont, the spoiled daughter of a hotel chain owner. Oblivious to normal people, the only way she’ll understand real, everyday life is with a case of amnesia — and falling for a bearded single dad who’s also a widow and hotel owner. That’s essentially the film.
In addition to learning how to do daily chores, Sierra realizes there’s too much room at the inn, meaning foreclosure is on the horizon, which is unthinkable under her father’s business. But don’t worry, Christmas spirit saves the day and Sierra’s memory returns as the hotel books out for the season. It’s not the greatest Christmas film, but Lohan’s return to acting is what dazzles most here.
3. Jack Frost
Think Speed at Christmas — except instead of a bus that will explode unless it continues speeding, you’ve got a snowman that will melt unless he repairs his relationship with his son.
Michael Keaton plays Jack Frost, a wannabe musician who forfeits family Christmas for a gig he hopes will give him a shot at the big leagues. Just as the realization that he’s not there for his family dawns on him, he dies in a car accident, stopping him from doing anything about it. A year later, he’s brought back to life as a snowman and given the chance to be there for his family before he melts. Tick tock.
Grief is a big theme here, but it’s never fully broken open. I mean, the biggest character change occurs within the school bully, who promptly stops picking on Jack’s 11-year-old son Charlie because he lost his dad too (“Snow dad’s better than no dad.”). In a bumpy way, acceptance turns out to be the whole point of this experience. Then winter ends.
2. Love the Coopers
This film’s got it all: an ensemble cast, dysfunctional family troubles, Christmas hijinks up the wazoo — it’s National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation crossed with Love Actually, except any deeper character wants and motives here are piped on like the icing that adorns decorative cookies.
The acting isn’t bad, and the film itself isn’t really bad either. It’s more that it feels like someone skipped a few of their writing classes while penning the script. The Cooper family’s issues are solved by having conversations with one another after the family elder, Bucky, has a heart attack. While at the hospital, with a delicious cafeteria Christmas dinner in front of them, the Coopers finally find a way to fix their family.
You’ll eventually realize that Steve Martin is somehow the family dog, but by that point, you’ll probably be ready to start going by the name Ebenezer.
1. Any Home Alone since 1 and 2
There, I said it.
Home Alone 1? Classic.
Home Alone 2? Chef’s kiss!
The same but different.
Any Home Alone films besides the ones I just mentioned?
Different but the same… you know what I mean?
Maybe it’s because the ’90s were a simpler time: widespread internet was most definitely not a thing, cardless pay systems were for the future, and leaving a kid behind because you had to arrive at the airport hours ahead of schedule was an actual possibility. (I’m aware that Home Alone 3 was released in 1997, but I’ll stay on my high horse, thank you very much).
The obstacles, both physical and internal, of John Hughes’ scripts felt more believable (or, well, as believable as needed). And while the reasoning of the dysfunctioning families and criminals in the Home Alone franchise’s first two films are silly, the four preceding installments go down a rabbit hole of “and then this happened, and then this happened, ad nauseam” without any thicker justification than “just because.”
If you’re thinking of watching one of the films on this list to kickstart your Holiday season, maybe grab that extra mug of eggnog on the way to your seat. Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals!
Rhys is a writer for Reedsy. When he’s not watching his favorite holiday movies (which include Klaus and Fred Claus), he’s busy showing others how to find a ghostwriter and how to better shape book ideas with a good book template.
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