Jamie Reviews: Christmas Films

🎢It’s that time, Christmas time is here🎢

For those of you who do not know, I live Christmas! I love the food, the parties, the gift giving, the carols, everything. Of course, this year is not going to be quite the same as usual, but I am still looking forward to the season. Our tree is up, several mince pies have been consumed, and the presents are in the loft waiting to be wrapped. On the day there will be family visits (within the rules of course) before the wife and I sit down for turkey and all the trimmings followed by pudding and board games.

One of the things which really makes the season is the Christmas Movie. We have already started working through the usual collection, and have a few new offerings as well. There is nothing to get in the Christmas spirit like a slightly cheesy Christmas film on a cold, dark evening.

Given my love of Christmas films, I thought it would be a good idea to review some of the best available, and hopefully give you some ideas of what to watch yourself this Christmas. If you were reading the blog last year you will know I reviewed a selection of Mince Pies, and I intend to do something similar with this post.

As with mince pies, I have criteria I judge a good Christmas film against. Firstly, and obviously, it must have something to do with Christmas. It does not need to have Santa and elves, but it would certainly need to be set around Christmas. Secondly, it needs to have some humour in it. Christmas film plot lines are fairly generic, so I’m not expecting Shakespeare, but a joke or two does not go amiss. Finally, we need a warm, happy ending. Christmas films are shamelessly feel good, and ending on a downer is just not in keeping with the season. Once I have considered the films using these criteria, I shall be awarding them a Ho Ho Ho Rating from πŸŽ…πŸ» to πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ» (with a 1/2 score possible too, though I’m not prepared to cut the Santa’s in half…).

Family favourites

To begin, I present some of the Christmas films my family and I have loved over the years. These are films we return to year after year, so as you will probably guess they are fairly highly rated.

Arthur Christmas (2011)

Although a firm family favourite, we only discovered Arthur Christmas a couple of years ago. Very much rooted in the Santa story, but with a modern take and plenty of gags for mum and dad as well as the kids. With a great cast, graphics and story, this is definitely a film to watch this year.

Ho Ho Ho Rating: πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»

Christmas with the Kranks (2004)

I had never heard of Christmas with the Kranks before meeting my wife, but as it is her favourite Christmas film it is certain to get a viewing year on year. Based on the book Skipping Christmas by John Grisham, it follows a couple who attempt to skip Christmas for a cruise, but with their neighbours out to stop them, farce ensues. I’m not the biggest Tim Allen fan, but even I could not stop laughing at his Botox scene.

Ho Ho Ho Rating: πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»1/2

Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

This might be a controversial choice, as generally the original 1947 film is the more popular choice, but for me any film with Richard Attenborough and Matilda in it is the film for me. While not scoring paritulalrly highly in comedy value, it certainly has the feel good ending we all expect from a Christmas film. Miracle is definitely one for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Ho Ho Ho Rating: πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»1/2

Muppet’s Christmas Carol (1992)

There are countless Christmas Carol interpretations (not surprising given Dicken’s is credited with creating many of the traditions we associate with Christmas) but the Muppet’s version is the only film to make it into my list. I love this film. The gags are brilliant, the story surprisingly faithful to Dicken’s book, and it gives us what I believe is the greatest line in film history; No cheeses for us meeses. This is the perfect family film for the Christmas season.

Ho Ho Ho Rating: πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»1/2

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

We come now to my favourite Christmas film of all time. Yes it is dated, and some of the jokes are a little close to the mark, but it still has me roaring with laughter each time I watch it, and is the reason I check the tree for squirrels each year. If you only watch one film this year, it has to be this one.

Ho Ho Ho Rating: πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ» (I know what you’re thinking…)

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)

This is almost certainly going to be a controversial entry, specifically whether this is a Christmas film or not. Yes, Santa makes an appearance, there is plenty of snow and it usually makes an appearance on TV at Christmas, but it is not your typical Christmas film.

Having said all that, this is my list, so it stays. I lived the Narnia films (and the books, though no so much the author or heavily religious themes) and was disappointed when they stopped making them. TLTWATW is definitely the best of the three films, and should be on everyone’s viewing schedule this Christmas.

Ho Ho Ho Rating: πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»

The Polar Express (2004)

I’ve got to admit this is not high on my list of Christmas films. It’s a well made film with a great cast, but I find it drags a little, and can never decide whether I am supposed to like Tom Hank’s character or not. Having said this, my wife loves it, so it makes an appearance each year, and if you have little ones to keep entertained for 1h40 then this is a good option.

Ho Ho Ho Rating: πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»

The new additions

So far, we have seen some of the classic and modern classics which we watch year after year. In this next section, we take a tour through some of the newer offerings which have been released in the last year or two (or at least films I have only just seen for certain in the last year).

Christmas Inheritance (2017)

A fairly predictable Hallmark-like Christmas film, which the wife enjoyed much more than I did. It is saved a little, at least on my list, by the setting and decorations. You have never seen so much festive all in one place, and if you are looking to watch a film which requires little emotional or mental investment, then this is as good a choice as any.

Ho Ho Ho Rating: πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»1/2

Holidate (2020)

The wife and I started watching Holidate after only nine minutes of a shocker of a film which was so bad I am not even including it on this post as a warning. My expectations were pretty low at this point, but do you know what? Holidate is actually pretty good. Predictable at times, but it had us laughing (the most awkward father-daughter dance was top of the laugh-o-meter) and was an entertaining hour forty-five. I am still in two minds as to whether this truly is a Christmas film (yes it starts and ends at Christmas, but there is a lot going on in between), but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt, and go so far as to say it will be added to the yearly watch list!

Ho Ho Ho Rating: πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)

Released just a couple of weeks ago, I watched Jingle Jangle for the first time last night. The steampunk vibe is strong in this film, and although not directly about Christmas, it is certainly Christmassy. While the action is fun, the songs are not the most memorable which has kept the rating lower than it might otherwise have been.

Ho Ho Ho Rating: πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»

Let It Snow (2019)

I had fairly low expectations going into this film when we watched it for the first time last year. The blurb was not the most exciting, and I did not recognise any of the actors listed in it. How wrong I was. This film is brilliant, so much so it was the first Christmas film we watched this year. If you want your Christmas movie to have slow-speed car chases, bleeding nipples and an apology pig, then this is the film for you!

Ho Ho Ho Rating: πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»1/2

My Christmas Inn (2018)

This film is, to put it mildly, terrible. The plot is predictable, the acting atrocious, and the chemistry between the actors so poor I would not be surprised if they spent the whole film trying to poison each other. If you want to AVOID a Christmas film this year, make it this one!

Ho Ho Ho Rating: 1/2 (and that is being generous)

The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

Somehow we missed this film when it came out in 2018, but I am glad I have discovered it now. The plot is a little disjointed at times (and according to the wife lacking a plot entirely), but the performances are great and the comedy is there. To make things even better, The Christmas Chronicles 2 has just been realised for another wild festive adventure.

Ho Ho Ho Rating: πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»1/2

The Holiday (2006)

I think I have seen this film a few years back, but could not remember for certain, and my wife had definitely not seen it, so we gave it a whirl this year. I’ve got to say for what on paper is a reasonably impressive cast, the film is a bit meh. It has the odd heartwarming moment and cheap laugh, but it is not one likely to make it to the regular viewing list.

Ho Ho Ho Rating: πŸŽ…πŸ»1/2

Honourable mentions

Before we finish this list, there are a couple of Christmas delights I love to watch year upon year which are not quite feature length films, but should definitely find a place on your TV this Christmas.

All Aboard! The Sleigh Ride (2015)

Slow TV was a big thing a couple of years ago, and with the madness and chaos of the Christmas season, it can be great to have a chance to slow down. Following a traditional reindeer sleigh crossing the artic in real time, this is a great show to have on in the background while you are peeling carrots or building Lego sets with the kids. I have it on each Christmas Eve before bed, and it is the perfect way to unwind.

Ho Ho Ho Rating: πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»1/2

The Gruffalo (2009), The Gruffalo’s Child (2011), et al.

My wife and I have a long standing debate as to whether The Gruffalo (as well as the Gruffalo’s Child, Stick Man, and the myriad other short films based on Julia Donaldson’s books) are Christmassy. I am very much on the side they are (there is snow, and they are on a Christmas). My wife disagrees. Regardless, they are great family fun and something to watch year after year. Obviously some of the stories are better than others (The Gruffalo being the best) so I have rated them as a group, and leave it up to you to decide which you want to watch (hint, watch all of them…)

Ho Ho Ho Rating: πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»

The Snowman (1982), The Snowman and the Snowdog (2012), Father Christmas (1991)

The final offerings in this list also come as a group, with TV shorts based on the work of Raymond Briggs. I’m sure you will have all seen The Snowman, and many of you will probably have been outraged when the Snowdog came out (at the risk of alienating some of my readers, I like it), but if you have somehow managed to get through life without seeing them, then you need to make the time this Christmas. They are fun, the music is great, and for some reason you get an introduction from David Bowie at the start of The Snowman. What more could you want?

Ho Ho Ho Rating: πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ…πŸ»

The End?

So there we have it, a list of films to watch (and a couple to avoid) this Christmas. What do you think of the ratings? Do you agree, or would you score them differently? Let me know in the comments below. And let me know if you think there are any great films I have missed out (I know many people would have had Die Hard on this list, but I just could not do it, not to mention the first 2 Home Alone movies, the Santa Clause franchise (Tim Allen, argh), The Nativity films, Love Actually (great?) and The Grinch. Maybe I need a second review post…). Who knows, there might be a Christmas gem out there yet to be discovered by the Richardson household!

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