A Christmas movie may include anything from Jesus Christ’s birth to the gruesome pressures of trying to please family members around the dinner table. It can involve the magic of time travel and flying reindeer, or the lack of magic when life is lonely. Either way, the Christmas movie absolutely has to involve these two things: It has to take place during Christmas, and it has to be re-seen at least ten times in a human life span.
(So, what I’m trying to say is Die Hard qualifies.)
Here are a few underrated Christmas movies specifically intended for THE FAMILY, THE KIDS, and ADULTS ONLY:
For THE FAMILY, I recommend About a Boy (2002), PG-13
You have your Scrooge: Will Freeman (Hugh Grant), a wealthy, self-absorbed hipster who passes himself as a single father to meet single moms in London. And, you have your Tiny Tim: Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), a lost boy bullied in school and overwhelmed by a dysfunctional single mom. No, the connection to the “Christmas Carol” setting isn’t exactly where I’m going with this, but if you’re looking for that good-old fashioned character transformation formula, this quasi Christmas dramedy pushes all the right buttons.
I revisit this small flick about once a year. I don’t know if I find Grant’s impeccable selfish to selfless conversion more captivating or the intangible bittersweetness of watching imperfect characters embracing each other to the music of Badly Drawn Boy. Somehow, what could have been a syrupy gag makes you cry tears of joy by the end. I think it’s because Grant does such a fine job playing a prick on the outside, and when Marcus and his mom (a fabulous – as per usual – Toni Collette) come into his life, all three of them organically melt into people we are and people we empathize.
Character chemistry, witty dialogue, and a killer of a soundtrack make this your go-to, feel-good Christmas flick.
For THE KIDS, there’s the forgotten Prancer (1989), PG
Christmas is all about nostalgia, right? Please don’t blame me for going down my own path into the past with this one. My dad and I saw Prancer in the theatre when it first came out, and, yes, we bought into the corny but enchanting story of a girl who heals an injured reindeer’s leg and comes to believe he is the official “Prancer” of Santa’s troupe. Even the audience is skeptical until good ole Sam Elliott, the apple farming father, starts to believe in the unbelievable as well. The heartwarming theme of faith and superior acting all around make Prancer my Christmas blast from the past.
For ADULTS ONLY, I recommend The Family Stone (2005), PG-13
Anti-Sarah Jessica Parker viewers (that’s me) and anti-Sex in the City viewers (that’s me, again) may be pleasantly surprised by this one. You see, not liking Parker and her character is the point of this movie. Parker’s character is the “newbie” fiancée to enter the eponymous Stone family during a Christmas reunion, but when mom (Diane Keaton) and sister-in-law (Rachel McAdams) sense a romantic mismatch, the feisty females attack, and awkwardly fun questions about each member’s intentions arise. Sentimental, scathingly funny, and full of realistic family redemption, The Family Stone is a go-to Christmas dramedy for the more mature peeps in the house.
Happy safe and movie-filled holidays, everyone!
Thank you for reading,