Jingle All The Way (1996)

jingle-all-the-way

Director: Brian Levant Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Jake Lloyd

A father wrapped up in his work forgets to buy his son the one gift he wants for Christmas, leaving him only Christmas Eve to track it down. However, it turns out everywhere is out of stock and he’s not the only one looking for a last minute gift.

Another year, another addition to my seasonal Christmas Crackers series, this time featuring the thrilling combination of the Terminator and young Anakin Skywalker. Let’s just say T + AS does not equal GA (good acting). Having said that, literally no film ever made can be worse than The Santa Clause, last year’s Christmas horror, so it’s not all bad.

First things first, before whiney Jake Lloyd desecrated the Star Wars universe with his incessant moaning, his whinging actually makes him an ideal casting choice for this role- the classic demanding child growing up in a world of consumerism who only wants material objects to make him happy. There must be a Christmas lesson for him to learn in there somewhere! And there is. I don’t think it would be classed as a spoiler to say that by the end of the film both father and son learn that Christmas isn’t all about the presents, but about family.

Poor acting aside, I did laugh a few times in this film. It’s quite slapstick which produces a few amusing moments, plus I did laugh at the (unintentional) dry delivery from Arnie. It’s not a Christmas classic, but I didn’t hate it and if it was on telly on a free Saturday afternoon next December, I would probably watch it again.

This film gets no points for things like originality, acting or cinematography but it’s mindless and inoffensive, plus it’s Christmas and at this time year people will watch anything. Worth a go if you’ve already watched all the classic seasonal hits and need something else.

2 stars

The Santa Clause (1994)

Ⓒ Walt Disney Pictures
Ⓒ Walt Disney Pictures

Director: John Pasquin Cast: Tim Allen, Eric Lloyd, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson

Divorced dad Scott Calvin (Allen) accidentally kills Santa Claus, and due to a clause found on a business card in Santa’s jacket, he has to become Santa himself. Although reluctant at first, he gradually settles into his new role and enjoys the respect he gets from his son, the only person who believes that he is the real Santa. However, others (including his ex-wife) think he’s going crazy, leading to some difficult choices.

I don’t think I have ever despised a child in a movie as much as I despised the one in this, Scott Calvin’s son Charlie. He whines all the time and is unbearably spoilt- it’s no surprise Scott doesn’t relish looking after him. Yet somehow this annoying kid becomes the hero of the story, and manages to end up getting his own way. Add this to the generally crap storyline, and this is probably one of the worst Christmas films I’ve watched in recent memory. None of the parts of the story seems to flow into the next, nor does the setting: one minute we’re in America and the next we’re in the North Pole, with the same main characters but it’s like it’s a different film. I don’t know what it is, maybe the set design, the writing, or something, but none of it seems to fit or really make sense. The film isn’t funny, heart-warming, and it doesn’t teach a lesson- it doesn’t really fit into any of the usual Christmas film moulds. Not fitting into a particular mould isn’t necessarily a problem, but it is when the film ends up being unsure of quite what the point of it is.

I would not recommend this film. I like Tim Allen in general, and the few moments written for his character in the script make a small step towards saving the film, but overall it’s boring and the characters are annoying and pointless. There are many more far better Christmas films to watch this festive season.

1 star

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Ⓒ Walt Disney Pictures/Jim Henson Productions
Ⓒ Walt Disney Pictures/Jim Henson Productions

Director: Brian Henson Cast: Michael Caine, Kermit the Frog, The Great Gonzo, Rizzo the Rat, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear

The Muppets take on starring roles in the classic Victorian Christmas tale, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Narrated by Gonzo and Rizzo, Michael Caine is the miserable Mr Scrooge, a mean old money lender who during one night faces the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, who try to change his attitudes.

This is an absolute cracker of a Christmas film. A Christmas Carol is one of the most famous Christmas stories ever, with themes of redemption, forgiveness and generosity, and the Muppets add heart-warming comedy to a story that is already almost perfectly festive. With the perfect blend of a classic Christmas tale and family entertainment (with jokes kids will love mixed in with some more subtle adult lines), this is a great Christmas movie. In terms of a downside, I’d say it’s a good thing that Michael Caine has mostly stuck to acting over singing, but personally I think that adds to the comedy value of the film; as a whole, I can’t fault it.

Would I recommend this film? Yes, absolutely- I can’t think of a person who wouldn’t enjoy it, with audiences of all ages having enjoyed The Muppet Show in one form or another at some point in their lives. It’s funny, witty, and inoffensive, and also sticks to the original book almost to the letter. A lovely festive classic.

5 stars

Elf (2003)

Ⓒ New Line Cinema
Ⓒ New Line Cinema

Director: Jon Favreau Cast: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Bob Newhart, Mary Steenburgen

Buddy, a man who was adopted by Santa’s elves as a baby, finds out who his real father is and travels to New York to find him. He struggles to adapt to human behaviour and customs, and also annoys his biological dad no end. But when Santa crash lands in Central Park on Christmas Eve, only Buddy can help him.

Elf is probably one of the most popular Christmas films out there, and it is easy to see why. It’s a great family film, with humour that’s appropriate for kids but also with a few slightly more subtle adult jokes thrown in there. Elf is undeniably Christmassy, with adventures taking place in Santa’s workshop and New York (one of the best cities at embracing the festive spirit), and with the classic Christmas themes of family, friendship, and mean old scrooges being won over. But it also doesn’t take itself too seriously, and in a way makes a joke of itself, with Buddy’s ridiculously over-the-top love of the festive season.

For those who aren’t Will Ferrell fans, this might not be the best film to watch, since he plays a very similar character to many of his other roles. However, Buddy is probably one his more inoffensive or harmless characters, and there are enough other main characters to make the story not just about him; it’s enjoyable to see James Caan in a more family-orientated film, playing a less intense role.

If you’re feeling like you haven’t quite got into the Christmas season yet, Elf is a great film to start things off. It’s funny, amazingly festive, and easy to watch for all ages.

4 stars