I didn’t bother asking for the best because, duh, it’s obviously Die Hard. But what’s the worst? To make it interesting, I am going to disqualify Santa Claus Conquers The Martians, because that’s too easy.
Is it Santa Claus: The Movie, with Dudley Moore as an elf? Is it A Christmas Story, which I used to love until cable TV wrecked it by showing it a million times? Is it anything with Tim Allen?
I’m ruined for this question, because I read Connie Willis’s essay and there’s no going back after that. I can no longer appreciate It’s a Wonderful Life as a Christmas movie because it is a marvelously shitty Christmas movie. The bad guy gets away with everything and there’s not really any miracle to speak of.
However, Capra’s other Christmas movie (Meet John Doe) is actually pretty decent.
This one gets muddled because there are just dozens of direct-to-DVD Christmas movies put out every year. I’d be willing to bet that in Disney’s hyperintelligent golden retriever-based ‘Buddies’ series there’s at least two*. So there’s just way, way, way too many candidates for worst Christmas movie to count. Though if you want to go purely theatrically released, I guess you can still divide this up between Christmas Movies Aimed At Kids (Santa Claus: the Movie, Prancer, The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause) and then Christmas Movies Aimed At Adults (Four Christmases, Christmas with the Kranks.)
Overall, I can definitely see giving it to Santa Claus: the Movie. It’s so deliriously fucked up that you really have to wonder what in the hell the people who wrote, produced and ultimately released it were thinking. The only good thing about it is John Lithgow’s delightfully over the top performance. Someone said to him ‘don’t just chew the scenery, mouthfuck it’ and he did. Oh God, he did.
He disqualified that in the first line. He probably should also disqualify the equally disgraceful and MSTworthy Santa with Muscles starring Hulk Hogan.
*Holy shit, I wasn’t even wrong. 2009’s Santa Buddies: the Legend of Santa Paws and 2010’s The Search for Santa Paws. And this is assuming that Snow Buddies isn’t also a Christmas movie. I’ve never seen it. I will never see it. Goddammit. The original Air Bud has been dead longer than the core audience of this series has been alive.
Can you really pick a “worst” Christmas movie, though? I mean, all the truly terrible ones have a dozen direct-to-video sequels that are bound to be even worse but that none of us are likely to have seen.
Oooph. We might have a winner on that one. Edmund Gwenn is Santa Claus and Bobby Donald has never been anything but irritating. That Miracle remake scores points for being both unnecessary and terrible.
The problem is that a LOT of really bad movies have been made for Christmas. Most of them are sappy family-driven fare that is meant to neither offend grandma nor stress the producer’s budget. You’d probably do better asking which Christmas movies aren’t awful.
I’ll let Wikipedia’s summation of the exciting resolution to Santa Claus’s trial do that for me:
Just as the judge is about to make his decision – and it seems he was going to rule against Kris – Susan walks up to the judge with a Christmas card containing a $1 bill. On the back, the words In God We Trust are circled. The judge realizes that, since the U.S. Department of Treasury can believe in God with no hard evidence, then the people of New York can believe in Santa Claus in the same way. This leaves the elated judge no other choice but to declare that Santa is real, thus freeing Kris.
Makes sense. Here’s a bonus:
Dorey and Bryan ask her what the last part of her Christmas wish was, and she triumphantly announces that it was a baby brother. Dorey and Bryan both look at each other, shocked, before glancing down at Dorey’s stomach. The film ends with the belief that Susan has now gotten all she asked for.
Creepy and disgusting on so many levels. Just think it over, re-read it a couple of times, and lete it really sink in. Ugh.
Also, my folks have always been fond of One Magic Christmas, though I’ve never quite been sure why. On paper, it amounts to one of the worst Christmas films ever, dealing as it does with such themes as: Soul-crushing poverty; kidnapping; armed robbery; and crises of faith.
Spoiler alert: Mary Steenburgen’s husband is shot dead during the bank robbery, and then her kids plunge with the robber off of a bridge and into an icy river.
But then the Christmas angel, Harry Dean Stanton, rescues her kids from certain death and brings them to Santa Claus, who helps the kids restore their mother’s Christmas spirit, which somehow turns back the clock and allows her to prevent the tragic events of the day by being nice to the bank robber, or something like that.