‘Tis the season and all that, so I thought I would try and catalogue the five worst attempts by the motion picture industry to capture the magic. If this comes across as a little Scrooge-esque – why not the five best Christmas films then? – I will answer back that there is no fun in trying to be positive on this count. The five best Christmas films is bloody straightforward: some combo of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, your favourite “Christmas Carol” adaptation and “Miracle on 34th Street” and you’re there. The worst ones? There’s where a joyous conversation can begin. Here’s my picks:
5. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) – so to be clear, we’re talking about the Jim Carrey re-make of the fabulous 1966 Boris Karloff animated version
I loved the “Grinch” when I was a child: Karloff’s brilliant narration, the Grinch’s poor, put-upon canine, Little Cindy Lou who was no more than two…..the only competition it had for getting holiday cheer from me was possibly “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, but even then I’d have to give the prize to the Dr Seuss’ creation. So when I heard that a feature length, live action remake of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” starring Jim Carrey was in the works I recall feeling a little weary – was this going to be “The Mask” with a patina of holiday cheer smeared on top? I needn’t have worried about it being like other Carrey movies: turned out it was far, far worse than Carrey at his worst had previously been.
I’d love to know who exactly watched the ’66 version or read the Dr Seuss story and went – “This is great, but you know what it’s missing? An hour of boring and pointless back story.” Calling the first two-thirds of this film superfluous is doing it favours it doesn’t deserve – the biography of the Grinch’s miserable upbringing actually detracts from the whole thing, meaning that when we finally get to the bit that is essentially a soggy remake of the cartoon, our brains are fried.
4. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1998)
The thing that you will be saying to yourself or someone nearby after the first five minutes of this film has elapsed is this: they seriously made this for cinematic release? It is cheap and nasty looking for a Saturday morning TV cartoon in the 1970s, never mind a film made with the intention of having people forking out real money and leaving the house to watch it, a mere two years from the turn of the last century. The budget clearly went on the ridiculous voice cast, which includes Whoopi Goldberg, Eric Idle and John Goodman. The least they could have done is to try and get the dialogue to synch with the mouths of the characters a little.
3. Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)
The fag end of several people’s careers, including Dudley Moore’s and the Salkind production team. Like watching a once brilliant trapeze artist lying in a pool of his own pee for ninety minutes. One of the most depressing movies ever made.
2. The Family Stone (2005)
Holy shit this is terrible. Worse, it’s several really awful movies going on at once, like a cinematic version of a Charles Ives composition, if Ives had been an untalented moron. Essentially a Sarah Jessica Parker vehicle, it has SJP as a Manhattanite fish out of water in rural America. Only she’s the uptight one while the hicks are camp as Christmas liberals! Ha! Has this whole bit involving Diane Keaton and breast cancer that jars really badly (even by this film’s standards) with most of the other plots flying around at the same time.
1. The Christmas Card (2006)
The only entry on the list that is actually offensive, this made for Hallmark film is one of the worst things ever made by humans. It is about a marine fighting in Afghanistan who gets a Christmas card from a strange woman as part of some programme and decides to try and find her once his Tour of Duty is complete. He does so only to find she’s a). just his cup of tea and b). engaged to another man. But no problem, the woman’s family conspire to squeeze the fiancé out of the picture. Not because he’s a prick to her or anything, but simply because…..he’s a New York liberal. Who trades in European wine (this predilection is treated like paedophila within the film). There’s a key scene in which the fiancé brings a crate of white wine for the family to try, causing the father to wrinkle his nose and declare, “I’ve always preferred a French fry to a French wine!”, which then causes the family to laugh mockingly at the man.
The worst element of all of this is that they cast the fiancé as someone well, Semitic looking in racial composition. That’s what takes the whole thing over the top: this weird Aryan proto-couple, whom nature is pulling together like corresponding magnet ends, all to the detriment of the Jew who should realise he has no place in this “real” American setting.
I close on a stat to make you depressed: “The Christmas Card” is apparently the highest rated show of all time on the Hallmark channel. Homo sapiens are doomed as a species.