By Julian Cornell
From overt manipulation to mawkish sentimentality, the worst Christmas movies have it all.
New York Times film critic Glenn Kenny recently observed that there are innumerable Christmas-themed movies, but most of them “aren’t very good.” Though many movies perennially televised in December or released theatrically each calendar year are well thought of—even treasured—there exists a noticeable dearth of high-quality, acclaimed masterpieces. As Kenny contends, “Holiday Classic almost never equals Actual Classic.”
Critics are often unkind to the holiday cheer of the Christmas movie; indeed, many titles today considered classics received mixed or negative reviews upon release. Kenny suggests that “conventionally beloved,” when used to describe Holiday Classics, is a euphemism for “widely disparaged.” It’s A Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story were considered artistic failures and underperformed at the box office; more recent titles like Scrooged and Love, Actually were popular amongst fans but garnered mixed, predominantlynegative reviews. It’s too soon to tell, but this year’s crop of Almost Christmas, Office Christmas Party, Bad Santa 2, Collateral Beauty, and Why Him? seems destined to suffer the same fate of consignment to the trash heap of cinematic history.
Despite this dim view, it’s a mistake to see Christmas movies as little more than intentionally—one might say cynically—sentimental rubbish. Closer inspection reveals those beloved classics of the season to be quite ambivalent. Beyond mawkish sentiment, one more often finds a tension between a utopian wish—home, hearth, and community—and a fraught negotiation of life’s challenges to have animated the genre’s classics…(catch the rest of the article with the link above)
*Note–I haven’t been in the holiday spirit so much this year. Yes, my tree and lights are up. But the lights have only been on a handful of times. Most of the gifts are wrapped and under the tree. But I have yet to watch A Christmas Story or Elf or National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or Polar Express or Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer or A Charlie Brown Christmas…I’m not in a funk or anything. I’ve just not felt the same spirit this year. Maybe it’s because my son is college-age now and there are no small children to wake me up groggy-eyed on Christmas morning. Maybe it’s because the year came crashing through the watershed in a not so good way this autumn. Maybe it’s just me being more reflective. Regardless, I will still enjoy a traditional Italian Christmas Eve with my brother, sister-in-law, and her family. I will still enjoy watching my son open his gifts. I will still enjoy eating all that chocolate. And I will most assuredly enjoy the run up to our NYE party. May you all have a blessed holiday–and pull out your favorite Christmas movie, even if it is bad. I’m thinking of watching Elf, just so I can practice belching with Buddy.