Disrupted travel plan. Cancelled family dinners. Separation from friends. Needless to say, this Christmas is unlike any other. With lots of free time at home, Christmas movies can turn out to be a great way to hype up the holiday spirit.
To make your life easier, the sophomore Humanities class complied and reviewed a number of Christmas movies as a guide for your next movie night. Let's get started!
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Rated: Something Special
By David Shin
There is a lot about Christmas media that I just personally dislike. Some of it I find tolerable, mostly due to nostalgia, and at worst I absolutely despise them. From stories pandering to silly Christmas ideals too some of the most poorly made cash-grabs on the planet *cough* *cough* The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause *cough* *cough*, I found that my view towards these Christmas-themed works leaned towards cynicism about their actual quality.
So when my dad told me that his favorite movie of ALL TIME, was this old movie made in 1946 called It’s a Wonderful Life, I was skeptical to say the least. An old-timey Christmas movie with a title talking about how wonderful life is that my DAD likes? This couldn’t be a movie for me!
WELL I WAS WRONG. OKAY, I DIDN’T WANT TO ADMIT IT BUT I WAS. IT IS A REALLY GOOD MOVIE AND I REALLY ENJOYED IT.
So, with all that out of the way, here it is. A review of the 1946 Christmas movie by Frank Capra, based on the short story “The Greatest Gift” by Philip Van Don Stern, It's a Wonderful Life.
It’s a Wonderful Life has long been credited as one of the best Christmas movies of all time. The story follows one George Bailey, played by James Stewart, first through the eyes of an angel named Clarence. George, ever since childhood, has always wanted to leave his small town of Bedford Falls to go and explore the rest of the world. However, through events out of his control he ends up sacrificing his dream for others, usually against the dastardly machinations of a Mr. Harry F. Potter. Our second-class angel, Clarance, learns about the intricacies of George’s life and how he reaches his lowest point of desperation during one 1945’s Christmas Eve, and is told that he needs to help George to win his wings.
So I do have a few things about the story that I need to address. Granted none of them take away from the story but they are worth mentioning. Firstly, the pacing of this movie is not perfect. The movie’s runtime is over 2 hours long, and half of it is the backstory of George before Christmas Eve. However, this personal gripe of mine is excusable because I do not know how else to so intricately explain George’s situation to the audience, and I think it was a necessary sacrifice of time for the best experience of this story. Secondly, the sense of comedy of this movie could be weird to modern audiences. Personally, I didn’t really mind it being more interested in the actual story, but I can see some people being weirded out by this older sense of Hollywood comedy. That said, it’s scarce throughout the entire movie and honestly really shouldn’t devalue it.
I’m going to be forward, George is really the only character in the movie with development and in most cases for me that would be a detrimental flaw. Sure a movie with a strong, developing lead is good, but without a good level of development in other main or supporting characters it can bring a movie down. Luckily, the plot of the movie makes that all forgivable.
As the story involves the “wishes I was never born” situation, not fully developing these characters didn’t really bother me because it was George’s view that mattered the most. The movie is about George and his impact on others and in order to see the clear difference between these versions of the supporting characters too much development could have been a little bit much. The characters themselves are still likeable and very distinct and human, which honestly is what the story needed.
There isn’t much to say about George’s development, despite being the main character as his development is quite obvious as the story is literally all about his change of view on his own life’s worth. I will also say as someone who has been through several experiences of depression and losing self-worth, it was comforting to see a character come to terms with that, despite the fantastical way he got over it.
Overall, this was a movie that I really did not expect to be so unique in a way that I rarely find in movies, let alone Christmas movies. The idea of the “wish I was never born” was something that, as an avid consumer of TV and movies, I was used to. I had never heard of the original and I never considered it until looking up the premise of It’s a Wonderful Life. And while this story did not completely cure my cynicism towards my own views on Christmas or my own self worth, it did impact me in that area that only one other movie has ever been able to do in my entire life.
As such, after looking over the movie’s story, characters, production, and my personal overall enjoyment of the film; based on the Rating Scale created by myself, I have the pleasure of giving It’s a Wonderful Life a recommendation of “Something Special”. The recommendation itself really is in the name; as I truly believe that, despite how many times the story has been adapted, it is a work that can be enjoyed by anyone at any time, especially during the holiday seasons. So do yourself a favor and sit down with the family to enjoy one of the all time classics.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Rated: Something Special
By Jaclyn Steenstra
Miracle on 34th Street (1947) can be found on many of the Christmas classic movie lists. Some even as far up as #2, partly due to the 96% positive review from Rotten Tomatoes, but I’d say mostly for its feel-good family qualities. Now available in the original black and white or color, viewers always seem to come back to this film every Christmas season.
At the beginning of the movie, we get to see how a lot of the characters interact with each other which is one of the best ways to start. We see Mrs. Walker-a single mother who is in charge of the parade-get to know Kris Kringle-the Santa Claus replacement for the parade who claims he is the real Santa-at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Then we see Susan-Mrs. Walker’s daughter who doesn’t believe in any sort of fairy tales-sitting and watching the parade with Mr. Gailey-the Walker’s neighbor, lawyer, friend of Susan, and interested in getting to know her mother.
The main premises of the movie comes from Kris Kringle’s claim to be the real Santa Claus. After being in the parade, Kris starts to work for Macy’s until Mrs. Walker fires him for such outrageous claims. Susan befriends Kris and he starts teaching her how to imagine, as her mother never encouraged it. Susan is still skeptical if Kris is the real Santa Claus, as is her mother and the people a Macy’s. But Mr. Gailey is on Kris’ side as this issue is taken to court. Susan claims she will be fully convinced if Kris can give her her only Christmas wish.
Can Mr. Gailey convince New York that Kris is the real Santa Claus, or will it drive his closest friends away, including Mrs. Walker? Will Kris deliver Susan’s Christmas present, or will she stop believing in fairy tales? Watch this 9/10 rated film to find out.
Home Alone (1990)
Rated: Highly Recommended
By Noah Chae
Home Alone is one of the most renowned, classic films of all time, blending in family fun with an engaging story, memorable characters, and hilarious comedy. This movie, being made 30 years ago, never gets old and is considered one of the best Christmas films of all time. The story follows 8 year old Kevin Mcallister, played by Macaulay Culkin, who is left behind on a family vacation trip. He soon is met with two burglars, and must set clever traps to protect his house. The character development of Kevin that takes place is great to watch, as he begins as an ungrateful and dependent child that doesn’t know how to pack his clothes, but learns how to become independent and is grateful to see his parents when they come home. The most memorable scenes of this film were the trap sequences where little Kevin amusingly outsmarts the big grownups using whatever tools he had on hand.
Although this is not the only point of the film, there is an important message that family is what really matters to a child, or to anyone, and having them home for the holidays is better than wandering a huge house all by yourself. While the plot and storyline are amazing, the acting is subpar in my opinion. Macaulay Culkin is not at his best in this film playing an 8 year old child but is still iconic as a character. However, the two bandits play their roles perfectly, blending pain and humor perfectly.
All in all, Home Alone is one of the best Christmas movies to rise out of the film industry in the last thirty years. It seamlessly blends humor, pain, emotion, human instinct and some great booby-traps all into one little bundle. This film has greatly withstood the test of time.
A Christmas Story (1983)
Rated: Highly Recommended
By Samantha Garcia
The classic Christmas movie, A Christmas Story, released in 1983, would effectively go under the category of a “highly recommended” movie to watch during the holidays. It’s about a young boy named Ralphie Parker, who is in awe of the “Red Ryder'' air rifle and spends his few days before Christmas, convincing his parents that it’s the perfect Christmas gift for him. But not only are his parents not convinced, but neither is his teacher. Ralphie is assigned to write a paper on what his idea of a perfect Christmas gift would be to him, and of course he writes about his “Red Ryder''air rifle. When Ralphie turns his paper in, he tells his teacher the masterpiece he has written and gives a big smile. But when he receives back his paper, there’s a big fat C+, and a comment saying, “you’ll shoot your eye out.” But this was not the only problem in the movie. Ralphie encounters the big bully of his town, Zach Ward, who is always annoying Ralphie and his brother on their way home from school. But then one day, Ralphie shows Zach who’s boss by commencing a physical fight and ending Zach’s title of the big bully in town, never again messing with Ralphie and his brother. But as a result, Ralphie instead of receiving victory, receives punishment because of his actions. As the days approach Christmas Day, Ralphie has lost hope towards his perfect Christmas gift and feels ashamed hurting Zach. Viewers will now start to think that Ralphie’s Christmas is ruined, but not for long. The most hilarious and marked scene of the movie is when Christmas has finally arrived and Ralphie receives a bunny onesie from his mom that his aunt sewed for him. Here, viewers start to crack up as they see Ralphie’s disappointment in getting a onesie, rather than his air rifle. As the movie comes to a close though, Ralphie’s father had a hidden gift for Ralphie. As Ralphie opens the gift, his eyes glisten towards the beautiful air rifle he has been in awe for the longest. Immediately, Ralphie tries it out to see how awesome it works. But instead of awesome, it caused chaos. Ralphie really does “shoot his eye out” as he tested the air rifle. Here, Ralphie realizes that he doesn’t need an air rifle to be his perfect Christmas present because it ended up not being the perfect Christmas present after all.
In my opinion, what was good about the movie, “A Christmas Story,” is that it contains hysterical scenes and ones that viewers can imagine themselves into. It fills the crowd with bursts of laughter and big smiles on their faces. What I loved about this movie were the characters and their different personalities and the plot idea to bring viewers laughter because together, it's what made the movie one worth watching. Also because it is a family movie. Honestly, nothing could’ve been better for this movie.
Polar Express (2004)
By Rebecca Eshius and Matt Vander Wall
An (unnamed) young boy goes on a riveting journey on a mystical train to the North Pole. On this train, he makes new friends, enjoys hot chocolate with a capturing performance, and wonders if Santa is real. Upon arrival to the North Pole, the boy and his friends explore Santa's workshop and stumble upon their gifts.
This movie is an icon of Christmas movies. It radiates pure Christmas energy and has become a staple in the Christmas film industry. It has hilarious moments (such as the elk scene) and wonderful songs (the hot chocolate song). The Polar Express is perfect entertainment for old and young and everyone in between. However, it does remain a fact that this movie is slightly over-used, in our humble opinion. At some point, it blends in with all the other Christmas movies out there. But, for this very reason, it remains a wonderful movie to watch curled up in a blanket with a mug of hot chocolate with (real or imaginary) snow falling outside.
The Princess Switch (2018)
By Nayoung Lee
How can a baker from Chicago and a duchess relate? The answer is a distant cousin. Because they look exactly look alike, it allows Stacy, a baker from Chicago, to swap places with a duchess while the two are both in Belgravia because experiencing a “normal life” is the last thing the duchess Margaret wants to do before she dutifully marries Prince Edward, the Crown Prince of Belgravia.
Netflix’s The Princess Switch is a romantic comedy Christmas movie that was published in 2018. It stars Vanessa Hudgens as a Chicago pastry chef named Stacy and Vanessa Hudgens as a duchess named Margaret. In order to make the audience out of the confusion, the director used different accents between Stacy (American) and Duchess Margaret (British). Therefore, she basically plays four roles because Stacy and duchess Magaret swapped the places; therefore she had to remember acting as an American, as a Brit, as an American pretending to be British, and as a Brit pretending to be American. The use of different accents was really helpful in following along. The plot of The Princess Switch is unrealistic, but interesting at the same time. As a lover of romance movies, I found the movie successful. Starting from the casts of the movie, they all looked lovely together. Also, the romantic lines from the movie really made me focus on the movie and made my mind warm. Finally, the ending was very nice.
If you are a romantic lover, I recommend this movie very much. Even though you are not into romance, this movie can be watched with your family when you are tired of classics. Despite the film's minor shortcomings, The Princess Switch is very romantic, creative, and festive, and well worth your 1 hour and 42 minutes. Watch this movie first, then be prepared to continue the characters’ journeys in the second movie.
Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever
Rating: Not Recommended
By Peter Visser
I truly recommend that no one ever watch this movie. Unless one is four years old and loves cats, they should never watch it. It is about grumpy cat, one of the greatest meme sensations, who lives in a pet store in a mall. All of the animals there want to be taken, but the owner of the store is behind on his payment. Fortunately the owner happens to have a million dollar dog and a buyer. However, there are two criminals who are trying to steal the dog. Crystal, a twelve year old girl, can communicate with grumpy cat and together they stop the criminals and save the store. The plot is slightly more complex than that, involving other characters like the landlord, and George, the mall cop. The movie has the overall appearance of being made on a budget, but not well. It does have some mildly humorous scenes, only because of how dumb they are, but overall, this movie is quite horrible. On a scale of five stars I would maybe give it one half.