Underneath my hardened shell of faux-adult amiability and seriousness there is a little kid’s heart, and it is beating with joy at seeing all the Christmas lights in these movies.
Jingle All the Way (1996)
Wait… is that Anakin Skywalker? Yeah, it’s Jake Lloyd, but just a bit younger than he was in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. There are moments when he puts on this whiny voice and all I hear is Anakin Skywalker, but overall he isn’t really bad in this film. He’s just being a kid.
What’s great about this movie is that it is a satire of consumerism. Schwarzenegger’s nemesis the postman, who is played by some kind of comedian named Sinbad who might have been better known in the 90s, anyway, he makes a speech about how commercials indoctrinate kids, so that adults have to buy toys. Showing that the movie is quite self-aware in a cynical way.
I love how almost everyone is an asshole in this movie. The adults are all fighting each other and the Christmas spirit is totally absent.
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
Wait… is that Rob Schneider? Yeah, this was one of his first roles and then it all went down the drain with his career.
The moment the title card comes up, John Williams’s magic music takes over and transports me back to childhood. It’s one of his better scores. Also back for this second installment are the same writer and the director Chris Columbus, and that surely helped to make this a proper sequel with the same general tone as the first movie. I heard that the third movie is an abomination but I never saw it.
The comedic lines for Kevin (Macauley Culkin) are quite good and his delivery is as good as you could expect from a kid. At that age, he was a much better actor than Jake Lloyd. The film is faster than the first, which is nice, and has a higher budget that is visible in the locations. I think this one has a higher rewatch value than the first film, but, it takes a really long time before the traps and the falls happen.
But maybe the highlight of the film is the amazing smirk of Tim Curry.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
So it is not in the 90s, I don’t care. It’s a classic Christmas film from the same era. The best thing about the Griswold family is that they are so recognizable. They are this typical suburban family where everything always goes wrong. The movies are made for everyone who was ever embarrassed for their parents.
And boy, so much can go wrong with Christmas. There’s snow… trees… lights… family… Happiness and misery are magically dancing together. Isn’t it wonderful? Wait, let’s stop the sarcasm and remember to be a child. One reason I liked this movie as a child is because of the insane amount of Christmas lights in this movie. And it only takes them half the movie to get them glowing.
The Santa Clause (1994)
It doesn’t have the iconic status of Home Alone, nor the brand recognition of the Griswold family, nor the inventive premise of Jingle All the Way. In fact, it doesn’t have much more than a mildly entertaining Tim Allen who plays another dickish father who needs an injection of that Christmas spirit. Compared to the other movies, it falls rather flat.
The special effects are horribly dated. The reindeer are clearly puppets, but that’s not so bad, but the flying sequences look very flat and pasted on the screen. Not to mention when Allen as Santa gets sucked in and out of chimneys.
The film grows in magic as it goes along. The opening scenes are all a bit sullen and cold, then the first trip of Allen as Santa is sort of ok, and then as he physically starts to change it gets more interesting. It just takes a while for the film to find its footing.