Christmas movies – must sees and must avoids.

From shining stars to rotting turkeys, Christmas movies cover it all.

Christmas is a time of giving but it’s also a time of indulging. Stuffing your face, champagne at breakfast and watching some truly turgid movies about Christmas.

The best Christmas flicks are those that don’t take themselves too seriously. No nauseating preaching or uplifting rubbish, just good old fashioned laughs. And/or action. That’s all we ask for.

The Brits understand this and there has been a Bond film on ITV every Christmas Day since 1978. Whether you like Bond or not isn’t the point. It’s a time to switch off the brain and fumble for another glass of beer/wine/rum or whatever.

Many people can’t wait until Christmas Day or Eve. Watching a Yuletide classic from mid-December can really get you in the mood for the festive season.

It can also make your teeth grind, so it’s all in the choice.

Here’s a selection with a corresponding Ho Ho Ho or Bah Humbug rating.

Elf

Will Ferrell as a middle-aged man in elf tights raises a smile and keeps ‘em coming. Elf pulls off the oh-so-tricky feat off appealing to adults and kids. We get physical comedy as Ferrell’s elf peppers bullies with snowballs. Perfect gross-out stuff with him belching for 10 seconds at the dinner table and plenty of other silly gags.

Crucially, Elf keeps the nauseating levels to a minimum and simply aims for laughs.

Verdict: Ho Ho Ho

Santa Clause

Anyone who’s watched their share of clunkers knows to avoid a movie with a pun in the title. It’s usually the cleverest thing about the movie and in the case of Santa Clause, the bar is set very low. Below ant-level low.

Tim Allen is the cynical Scrooge dad with no time for Christmas goodwill, too busy to care…etc. But when he’s magically transformed into Santa himself it all changes. The only remotely amusing parts are when Allen insults some greedy brats, early in the piece.

Then begins the vomit-inducing journey that ends with Allen discovering the true meaning of Christmas.

He’s wrong. The true meaning of Christmas is avoiding this excremental stocking filler.

Verdict: Bah Humbug

Die Hard

Now this is more like it. Wisecracks, explosions and terrorists being flung from skyscrapers. With a Christmas hat thrown in for some festive spirit.

Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman take us on a merry old ride inside the Nakatomi Plaza. Rickman is the greedy, bah-humbugging terrorist and Willis the foul-mouthed Saint Nick with a badge.

We know it’s Christmas from the outset when the streetwise limo driver treats us to some of Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis” rap. Not clichéd, so we approve.

Rickman’s grumpy terrorist knows it’s Christmas when one of his henchmen is killed and then dressed up in a Santa hat with “Ho Ho Ho” written in his blood.

We applaud and our cheeks are filled with rosy Christmas cheer.

Verdict: Ho Ho Ho indeed

It’s a Wonderful Life

Nominating this cherished but cloying throwback will likely result in a lifetime ban from the US of A but we’ll take our chances.

Surely there are some folks in that great land that secretly think It’s a Wonderful Life is overly-sentimental and well…overrated.

Jimmy “Man of the People” Stewart is George Bailey, a decent family man down on his luck. George considers topping himself, only to be saved by a guardian angel who talks him out of it.

Even if you’ve never seen it, you can guess the rest. No, George doesn’t ditch his family to start a new life in France as a ventriloquist.

Christmas is not the time for serious pondering and soul-searching. We’ve got 364 other days for that, thanks Mr Stewart.

Verdict: Bah Humbug

Trading Places

Not an obvious Christmas movie but this razor-sharp 80s comedy brings joy to the world if you have a sense of humour.

First of all, it’s got nothing to do with giving. Trading Places is all about the getting part, which to be honest is the best part of Christmas.

Privileged Louis Winthorpe III is left destitute and desperate by his dastardly employers. He exacts revenge by dressing unconvincingly as Santa and crashing the Christmas party. Louis lightens things up by stuffing a salmon down his shirt and getting gloriously hammered.

He enlists the services of a street hustler and a lovable prositute for some richly deserved Christmas treats.

Certainly not sickly sweet and certainly funny.

Verdict: Ho Ho Ho

Jingle All The Way

Where to start?

The good news is that it stars Arnie. The bad news is that he’s not decapitating people or throwing kidnappers off cliffs.

No, he’s a busy dad who forgot to buy his kid some stupid toy. The fact of the matter is that the kid is a whiny and spoiled little dropkick who’s already got more toys than he needs.

Not unlike the tiresome Santa Clause, Arnie goes about discovering the real Christmas and why it matters to cave in to the tantrums of a brat.

He and another father embark on an allegedly amusing series of capers in trying to find the last toy in town. The inevitable goo at the finish will have you struggling to keep your Christmas turkey down.

Verdict: Bah Humbug

Home Alone

Tom n Jerry with Humans does come perilously close to cheesy but just manages to stay silly. 8 year-old Kevin has the mind of a 50 year-old criminal psychopath and thoroughly enjoys dishing out slapstick violence to a pair of burglars. That about covers it.

We get the Christmassy vibe with Kevin’s street decorations, the family Christmas tree and the soundtrack. Home Alone almost goes over onto the sickly side with a boring minor side story but on the whole is mindless fun.

Verdict: Ho Ho Ho

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Not even the most hard-core Jim Carrey could look you in the eyes and say this was one of his better moments. For a start, he doesn’t look or act like Carrey. No over the top, rubber-faced antics which lead people to either love him or loathe him.

No, this time Carrey is a hairy, green creature who lives in the dark and despises the world. What on earth were they thinking?

Grinch is a misguided attempt to provide us with a deeper, darker and duller Christmas experience. A sweet little girl sees the good in Grinch and we assume he’ll lighten up and see some good in the world.

We assume because we don’t know or care and turned it off way before the finish.

Save the poorly-conceived weird gloominess for a better time – 2am on a Tuesday in April, perhaps.

Verdict: snore…Bah Humbug…

Lethal Weapon

Lethal Weapon?! What the …?

“Oh no, come on – you just had Die Hard…” we hear you say. “What about Love Actually?”

Not even close. Lethal Weapon is slick, fast-moving action with just the right amount of Christmas flavor to qualify.

It gets off to a great start by opening to the ole toe-tapper “Jingle Bell Rock”. A song much more Christmas-spirited than the insufferable Mariah Carey dross that’s inflicted on the public year after predictable year.

Lethal Weapon’s dialogue is smart, snappy and funny. Mostly bad people are shot and blown up. This is what we want – escapism at its finest.

The Christmas reminders continue. Mel Gibson’s undercover cop shoots some drug dealers while buying a Christmas tree. Rest forever, ye merry gentlemen!

The movie ends with a rowdy Christmas dinner. Nobody needs to discover the true meaning of Christmas. They’re too busy downing beers and shouting over the top of each other.

Just like we all do.

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