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11/18/2021 • 3 min read
There are more Christmas and holiday movies than we can count, but only a few of them rank as the best holiday comedies. Many are grand blends of drama, comedy, and even musical elements while other feature wonderful Christmas sequences but aren't really Christmas movies — we're thinking of a studio classic like MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, in which Judy Garland turned the song "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" into an instant standard.
There's room under the tree for every kind of movie! We'll unwrap the best holiday drama movies another time. Here are the Christmas movies that make us laugh all the time, every time.
It's not much of a vacation this time for poor beleaguered Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), who toils away at work right up until Christmas, hoping the whole time for a bonus that will salvage his financial future. Meanwhile, he's hosting a wide array of semi-welcome family members, including his wife's good-natured but slovenly redneck brother-in-law (Randy Quaid). CHRISTMAS VACATION exaggerates so many familiar annoyances — work, family, neighbors, frustrated ambition — that it almost had to be a hit. Thanks to Chase's comic timing and the way every other actor goes just enough over the top, this is a present we love to open every holiday season.
This star-making hit for young star Macaulay Culkin happened in part because director Chris Columbus didn't get along with Chevy Chase. Bounced from CHRISTMAS VACATION, Columbus was given the script to HOME ALONE by writer John Hughes, who also penned the first three VACATION movies. HOME ALONE is funny and heartfelt, and Culkin makes for a magnetic star as he's thrown into intense family dynamics, a solo act, and the movie's trademark Looney Tunes home invasion sequences. As good as it all is, the genius of Hughes and Columbus was to know just when to throw Old Man Marley into Kevin's path — and to cast the great Roberts Blossom as the broken-hearted elder.
Charles Dickens might have known that "A Christmas Carol" would become a classic, but he probably never considered that it would be updated to look anything like SCROOGED. Bill Murray stars as Frank Cross, a cynical television exec who pushes his network's live version of the Dickens holiday tale into some not-exactly family-friendly territory. Encounters with the three ghosts of Christmas lead Frank to a reunion with his lost love, Claire (Karen Allen), and a Scrooge-like rekindling of the holiday spirit. Murray's mostly-improvised monologue rant at the end of the movie is the sort of performance that shouldn't work, but he does it so well that we challenge anyone to refuse the movie's sense of goodwill.
Is it cheating to feature two adaptations of the same story here? Look past the fact that Gonzo plays Charles Dickens and focus on the fact that Gonzo's script is one of the more faithful movie adaptations of the writer's actual text out there. New Muppets appear as the ghosts of Christmas, while familiar Muppet faves play roles great (Kermit as Bob Cratchit) and small (Miss Piggy as his wife Emily, much to her chagrin) and the great Michael Caine appears as Scrooge himself. This is a funny musical with a huge heart that will appeal to kids while keeping adults laughing with the wry meta-humor laced through every big Muppet production.
Will Ferrell has made a career out of playing relatively normal characters in very big ways, but there's nothing quite normal about Buddy, a human raised as an elf in Santa's workshop. The second movie directed by Jon Favreau has all the fairy tale qualities that made him a perfect director to launch the Marvel Cinematic Universe a few years later with IRON MAN. ELF is like a kooky Christmas shaggy dog story, with gruff and endearing characters (James Caan plays Buddy's real father, while Zooey Deschanel was at her most endearing as Jovie) and an ever-escalating sense of wacky humor that keeps every audience entertained even as Ferrell's charms work to make us believe in Buddy's plight.
All images courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures, 20th Century Studios, Paramount Pictures, New Line Cinema, and Walt Disney Pictures.
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