It’s that time of the year, folks: the time when ABCFamily, Hallmark, Lifetime, and others devote large swaths of programming time to cheesy holiday movies.
They feature just about every actor you can imagine, picking up some cash during off years. Neil Patrick Harris and Rob Lowe have done a bunch, including the one they appeared in together.
If the Jesus isn’t your thing (and it definitely isn’t mine), don’t worry. Even the options with “Miracle” and “Angel” in the title rarely feature that dude. He gets a mention sometimes in the ones with dying kids, but otherwise you can weed out the religion with a brief glance at the summaries.
Mostly, they are of the magnificent cheese variety. Love Actually, while an excellent film on its own, has a lot to answer for. These clumsy imitations feature mediocre writing, phoned-in acting by big-name cameos, and location fudging that makes ER‘s “Brownline Subway” look like high art.
My holiday confession: I’m addicted to them.
As with most B movies, they come in a number of standard varieties. Here are some of the most common:
- Let’s teach children/adults the true meaning of Christmas
- Romantic comedies thinly disguised as Christmas movies
- Far too many adaptations of A Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street, etc.
- Comedies with a Christmas theme
- Santa Claus and Family
- ____ is dying. Let’s give them the best Christmas ever!
- Evil corporate goons are trying to shut down my small-town ______.
- Movies about nearby holidays (Thanksgiving, New Years, Hanukkah, etc.)
Most of the better ones pick from at least two categories. The Big One, in which Shannen Doherty has to grow a giant pumpkin to save her grandfather’s farm, draws from 2, 7, and 8. The Once/Twice Upon a Christmas set with Kathy Ireland as the magical daughter of Santa fit 1,2, 5, and 7.
While I can’t actually recommend any of these, you may want to flip through a couple just to see what your favorite 80’s and 90’s stars have been up to for the last ten years. You’ll discover, among other things, why James Van Der Beek decided a career making fun of himself would be less painful than trying to be a dramatic actor.
Now, not all holiday movies are awful. There are some genuinely heart warming films in the bunch. Dolly Parton’s Smokey Mountain Christmas is one. Vanessa Williams’ A Diva’s Christmas Carol is not.
Still no matter how ridiculous they get, there are a few themes that span nearly all of them:
- Life is short
- Stuff isn’t everything
- Find joy where you can
- Be kind and generous
- Family is what you make it
When there’s a choice of what to have on in the background while I work, I will choose the holiday fluff over the relentless negativity of reality TV every day.
Plus, where else do you find a movie with Tori Spelling, William Shatner, and Gary Coleman?