Okay, we’ve got our Grinches, Peanuts, and Muppets, plus a workshop’s worth of other Christmas classics that we enjoy throughout the month of December (and November, if we’re being honest). But what about those from the island of misfit films? Here’s just a handful of the underrated Christmas movies I break out every December 1.
I’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS (1998)
I rewatched this Saturday and was once again blown away by how, well, BAD it is. Yet it’s become sort of a weird favorite for ‘90s kids. For starters, it stars Bethlehem’s own Jonathan Taylor Thomas. (Seriously, did you know he was was born and raised—until he was four—in Bethlehem, PA?) Then it also stars two 7th Heaven castmates, one of whom is now Mrs. Timberlake. But it really doesn’t have anything to do with Christmas at all. The entirety of the movie takes place in the desert, on the road, or in various stops along the way as Jake tries to make his way home by Christmas Eve at 6 p.m. to get the Porsche his father promises him. Jake’s kind of a jerk, the dialogue is incredibly cheesy, and most of the acting is cringe-worthy. But heck if it doesn’t make me want to break into a rousing chorus of “Oh Marjorieeee!” every time anyway.
THE HOLIDAY (2006)
Again, not technically a Christmas movie but just so happens to fall within the season. Two women escape their miserable love lives by swapping homes with each other. Chic Californian Amanda, Cameron Diaz, trades places with sweet English Iris, Kate Winslet—a rustic cottage for an LA mansion (sign me up for either one). The plot plods along at times, but it’s a really cute movie that displays, without cheeky exploitation, what it truly means to gain perspective by living in another’s shoes, er, house.
Ye olde cult classic about cute and cuddlies that turn violent after a midnight snack and wreak havoc across a small town on Christmas Eve. I don’t remember how I was introduced to this film (probably through my father), but I found it more funny than scary. I may or may not have a stuffed Gizmo sitting in my Amazon wishlist (I totally do). Who didn’t want their own little mogwai? The story is bizarre and definitely only something Steven Spielberg could get away with.
MICKEY’S MAGICAL CHRISTMAS (2001)
Disney Channel‘s House of Mouse only ran for two years, but it was an innovative way to expose new generations of kids to the classic Mickey cartoons that their parents and older sibs fell in love with. Mickey hosted viewing parties of said cartoons for all his friends (characters from Walt’s brilliant animated movies). As a huge fan of classic Disney (we have a ton on VHS), one of my favorites was their Christmas collection. Mickey is hosting a lavish Christmas Eve party for all his friends at the House of Mouse when they all discover that they’re snowed in! What to do? Watch more cartoons, of course. While Donald stews in an anti-Christmas mood more suitable to that of his uncle, Scrooge McDuck, Mickey tries to get him in the Christmas spirit with some of Disney’s best Christmas-themed shorts, including “Donald On Ice,” “The Nutcracker,” “Mickey’s Christmas Carol,” and my personal will-always-hold-a-special-place-in-my-heart favorite, “Pluto’s Christmas Tree.” The cartoon dates back to 1952, when Mickey was at his cutest. He and Pluto go out to chop down a Christmas tree and inadvertently bring Chip and Dale into their house, where the two chipmunks wreak havoc and drive the poor pup up the wall. When I was younger, I used to lie beneath our Christmas tree and wonder what it would be like to be tiny enough to explore one from the inside—is that a weird thing for a kid to think about?—and in came Disney, bringing yet another dream to life. I just love it.
JUST FRIENDS (2005)
I laughed so hard the first time I saw this movie. I wasn’t really a Ryan Reynolds fan yet, but I was by the time it was over. He plays a womanizer forced to go home for the holidays and face his demons, namely the girl-next-door (Amy Smart) whose rejection turned him into that womanizer in the first place, his former best friend and object of all his adolescent affections. Too bad he has a complete psychopath tagging along in the form of an absolutely hilarious Anna Faris. All my favorite scenes—the toothpaste!—had her and his little brother (Chris Marquette) in them. Again, not much to do with the actual holiday of Christmas besides the snow, decorations, and caroling.