by Jeff Maehre
Christmas traditions are fun. Sure, you can try to find an open fire over which to roast your chestnuts, but wouldn’t it be easier to keep Christmas traditions alive through movies? Here are five Christmas movies that are worth passing along to your little helpers.
1. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
You might as well cancel Christmas without this one. It’s a bit fuzzy and not nearly as vibrant as modern animation has spoiled us with; however, kids and adults won’t mind it as the stop-motion style they used adds character.
This quaint animated flick from 1964 unites the misfit Rudolph (“his beak blinks like a blinkin’ beacon”) and the epic-fail-elf Hervey, who’d rather be a dentist. From there, it’s off to the The Island of Misfit Toys. The movie contains all the Rudolph mythology: not being able to play in the reindeer games, not being part of Santa’s A Team, Mrs. Claus having to calm a grumpy hubby. It’s sure to stir the soul of your little one after a long day of whatever kids do in grade school these days.
Hervey: Hey, what do you say we both be independent together, huh?
Rudolph: You wouldn’t mind my red nose?
Hervey: Not if you don’t mind my being a dentist.
Did You Know?
- Reindeer games make your antlers grow.
- Billie Mae Richards, who voiced Rudolph, was a female voice actress credited here as Billy, which she did when she wanted to come off all male-like.
2. A Christmas Story
Don’t let your kids grow up not knowing where “You’ll shoot your eye out!” comes from. They’ll need it when they enter the workforce and are forced to engage with us old people. It’s like this: if Santa kicks you in the face, if your dad calls you a deranged Easter bunny, if your family ends up at the Chop Suey Palace for dinner, if your glasses weigh as much as the rest of your body, and if the guy directing is also responsible for Porky’s, you must be Ralphie, and it must be A Christmas Story.
Ralphie is an All-American kid in the 40s who wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, but who runs into “the classic mother BB gun block.” The rest is cinematic history.
Even if your kids can figure out on their own not to stick their tongues to a flag pole, they do need to learn that not all guns are controlled by Wii paddles.
Ralphie (adult narrator): Only one thing in the world could’ve dragged me away from the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window.
Did You Know?
- Peter Billingsley, who played Ralphie, would later get downgraded to a bit parts in Elf and 4 Christmases.
3. Home Alone
When you think Christmas, you might not automatically think Joe Pesci and the narrator from The Wonder Years (Daniel Stern). But Home Alone is a classic and it takes place on Christmas. You could probably convince your kids that Macaulay Culkin is a live-action Charlie Brown, but in reality they probably don’t have a clue who Charlie Brown is!
The movie hits all the themes: kids feeling like misfits and being left out on the holidays, grinches trying to steal the festivities, and realizing the murderer next door is really a swell guy. Well, Forget that last one.
Kevin: Can I sleep in your room? I don’t want to sleep on the hide-a-bed with Fuller. If he has something to drink, he’ll wet the bed.
Buzz: I wouldn’t let you sleep in my room if you were growing on my ass.
Did You Know?
- Robert DeNiro was originally offered the role of Harry, the dumb burglar.
- The concept of the movie came from a scene in Uncle Buck that involved Macaulay Culkin interrogating a babysitter through the letterbox.
- Paying homage to Uncle Buck, John Candy filmed his scene in a single 23 hour day. His story about once leaving his own son at a funeral home was completely improvised and unscripted.
At about six-two, Will Ferrell fights the stereotype that elves are way short. And he also creates the proper Christmas spirit in this hysterical comedy with his innocence and childlike charm. Ferrell plays a guy who as a orphan human baby ended up in Santa’s sack to live as an Elf on the North pole. As an adult, Buddy the Elf sucks at being an elf (much like Hervey from Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer). Buddy journeys, still in tights, to NYC to discover his true origins.
You get dance scenes, physical comedy, Peter Dinklage (the angry elf), and a blonde Zooey Deschanel singing in the shower. Ahh, Christmas!!!
One day, when Will Ferrell is sixty and playing brooding, sensitive types in films directed by Swedes, your kids will be happy they saw his classic comedies, and Elf is right up there!
Santa (to Buddy, about his trip to New York): You see gum on the street, leave it there. It’s not free candy. And if you see a sign that says ‘Peep Show,’ that doesn’t mean that they’re letting you look at presents before Christmas.
Buddy (to Dept. Store Santa): You sit on a throne of lies.
Buddy: I just like to smile, smiling’s my favorite
Did you know?
- Buddy was originally going to be played by Jim Carrey. Whew! Close one!
- Peter Billingsley, Ralphie from A Christmas Story has a tiny role as an Elf named Ming Ming.
- Leon Redbone, who played Leon the snowman, sang at Adam Sandler’s wedding.
5. The Nightmare Before Christmas
If your ten and eleven-year-olds are feeling a bit too grown up for the usual Christmas kids’ movies, Tim Burton’s oddball 1993 creation might be up their alley. It’s a gorgeous stop-animation movie, with its own brand of sugar-plum faeries and magical lands for a slightly older child audience. It’s creepy and kooky, starring scary Jack Skellington as the Mayor of Halloweentown. He stumbles upon Christmastown and tries to become the next Sandy Claws. Not quite the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, he’s the Gimp Who’s Turning it Goth.
Jack: Forgive me, Mr. Claus. I’m afraid I’ve made a terrible mess of your holiday.
Jack: (singing) There’s children throwing snowballs / instead of throwing heads / they’re busy building toys / and absolutely no one’s dead!
Jack: The job I have for you is top secret. It requires skill, craft, cunning, mis-
Shock: And we thought you didn’t like us, Jack.
Santa Claws: Haven’t you heard of peace on Earth and goodwill toward men?
Lock, Shock, Barrel: NO!
Did You Know?
- In Tim Burton’s previous flick, Beetlejuice, Jack’s skeleton head (though to me it looks like a baseball) appears on a skeleton James encounters.
- The NAACP lodged a protest against the character Ooogie Boogie, since the villain sounded Black.
- The story’s first version was a 1982 Tim Burton poem which would later appear as a short film.These are the five movies that I’m keeping as a tradition. Which Christmas movies are on your list?