'Tis the time of year to be jolly and bright and filled with festive cheer.
Unless you watch one of these awful Christmas movies, in which case you'll be kicking over snowmen and wishing pneumonia on everyone.
N.B. For the sake of narrowing the field, only films that received a cinema release have been considered. The Christmas TV movie is a whole other deal.
When bad weather derails their Christmas getaway plans, Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon have to visit all four of their divorced parents in the space of Christmas Day. Each of the visits is dimly written and lacking in laughs, while the leads have all the spark of a wet Christmas cracker.
Jingle All The Way
Perhaps the nadir of Arnold Schwarzenegger's career, although obviously you can argue Batman and Robin if you feel sufficiently passionate. He plays a father who wants to find a sold-out doll for his kid and is no good at comedy. Conversely, the film is also the high point of Sinbad's career.
Christmas With The Kranks
The cinematic equivalent of finding coal in your stocking. Really old coal. With dog poo on it.
All I Want For Christmas
So many kids in movies seem to ask Santa for their divorced parents to get back together for Christmas, with little regard for the fact that this will result in screaming and likely infidelity by New Year. Such is the case here with Thora Hird as a little girl praying for her mum to ditch her annoying boyfriend and take back the husband she clearly still loves. But everyone's so irritating you wish them very little happiness. Even Leslie Nielsen as Santa can't save it.
Another Vince Vaughn festive entry, this one playing off the idea that his arrested development is still charming in his late thirties. He plays the hapless younger brother of Santa Claus who has become feckless and cynical as the elder becomes saintly. There are too many plots vying for space and there is nothing in Vaughn's cocky sarcasm that inspires Christmas warmth.
Eight Crazy Nights
With neither the balls to be a proper Adam Sandler comedy with all the grubby comedy that entails, nor the heart to be a proper Christmas movie, this weird animated film seems made only for Sandler. It looks cheap and boils down to just a lot of irritating noise, like something you might give a small relative you don't really know.
The cast is so promising that there's very little excuse for just how shouty and humourless this comedy is. It has James Gandolfini, Ben Affleck, Catherine O'Hara and Christina Applegate. They're all good. Usually. Here Affleck plays a rich, lonely lawyer who pays people to spend Christmas with him. Then everyone starts shouting at each other. Because everybody's favourite part of Christmas is when everyone gets irritable with each other.
Wouldn't it be so cute if your father who died in a snowstorm came back and possessed a snowman and tried to be your friend and completely stall your grieving process? Wait no, horrifying. Horrifying is the word. And this is a film made for kids. It's not helped by some really bad 'man in a snowman suit' stuff that has the vibe of a cheap horror movie.
I’ll Be Home For Christmas
Jonathan Taylor Thomas, aka 'That Kid From Home Improvement' or 'The Voice of Young Simba From The Lion King', plays an entitled pillock who has to get home in time to win a Porsche from the father he's been a douche to for years. It's not Thomas's fault that the convoluted trek home feels such a slog but it finds very little comedy in searching out different modes of transport. The only point of interest is that it features a pre-fame Jessica Biel as the girlfriend.
Deck The Halls
It seems so often that lessons in Christmas movies can only be learned after the learner becomes completely hateful. You can't just be a little misguided and then have a revelation. You have to be the absolute worst you can be until finally the joy of the season melts your crappy little heart. In this movie Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito try to outdo each others decorating efforts in more and more obnoxious ways. The audience have gone full Scrooge before either of them sees the light.
An update of a popular 1974 movie, this is a potentially interesting spin on the Christmas movie, attempting to impart not a warm feeling but a deep chill as a slasher stalks a sorority house over the Christmas break. Neat as the idea is, the execution is woeful and boasts less tension than a Deal Or No Deal festive special.
Home Alone 3
The first two movies in the series are Christmas perennials. You have Macaulay Culkin, whose genuine talent smooths over his precociousness, and Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern becoming Looney Tunes villains made flesh as the burglars. The third film has none of these things. It has Alex D. Linz, who is no Culkin*, some forgettable villains and an unnecessary plot about a secret microchip. The plot of Home Alone must only ever be 'Oh no, my parents are neglectful and oh look, burglars'. NB: Home Alone 3 only makes hints at being set around Christmastime. This in itself is a travesty. Christmas is central to the Home Alone ethos. Yes, Home Alone has an ethos. A Christmassy one.
(Linz now looks like this. Congratulations, you're old)