After the runaway success of last year’s Top 11 Essential Christmas Films list, there was an outcry across the internet for a follow-up. How on Earth could I top perfection? Well, it became quite clear when I slowly realised that most Christmas films are actually utter shit. Therefore I felt that it is my duty to inform the world which ones are the worst of the bunch. Christmas is a busy period and we don’t have time to waste sitting in front of worthless tales.
Number 10: Love Actually
Love Actually, like all of Richard Curtis’ films, is beloved by audiences who find themselves too tangled up in the web of idealist, romantic nonsense to realise that the films are actually fairly toxic. Love Actually is an overly sweet mixture of intertwining stories that favours a quantity over quality approach. Curtis throws a mass of mediocre, forgettable and, in the worst cases, very uncomfortable stories (I mean Andrew Lincoln telling his best friend’s new wife that he loves her is just a terrible thing) into one pot along with an all-star cast and wraps it up in tinsel to create a Christmas movie that audiences would lap up without question.
As dream-worthy as this cast list is, I will never warm to a film that not only places Alan Rickman in the role of sexy adulterer but also makes Emma Thompson cry. That’s not Christmas. That’s not even Easter.
Number 9: Nativity/Nativity 2
To discuss why these are bad Christmas films I need only type two words: child actors. Urgh. Any film that allows young children the chance to show-off their questionable talents for over 90 minutes is something that doesn’t really sum up my idea of the holiday spirit. I think we can all agree that Christmas isn’t really about children. Please let’s go back to that Victorian sentiment of “children should be seen and not heard”.
Also, I would be remiss if I failed to point out that these films are just generally bad. A pair of childish, over-the-top and unrestrained family films that shove their tired and uninspired plots into the audience’s faces with enough gusto to attempt to hide their lack of creativity. I’m sorry but the relentless buffoonery of Marc Wootton isn’t something that I long to see whilst my chestnuts roast on an open fire.
Number 8: The Polar Express
A lovely tale about a boy’s struggle to believe in Christmas and adapted (in other words padded out) from a much-loved holiday children’s book: surely this must be a modern classic full of festive spirit? Festive spirit that is, according to Robert Zemeckis, all about dead-eyed motion-captured children frolicking about on a magic train. This film is too fucking creepy to be an enjoyable Christmas film. Although, strictly speaking, The Polar Express isn’t a complete disaster. There are some lovely visuals on display and Zemeckis always has a fairly tight hold on the reigns. However, for a film that was hailed as the start of a new era of CGI, the completely unrealistic and creepy human characters just draw all attention away from the otherwise slick look.
Number 7: The Holiday
The Holiday is another of those films that take a rather uninspired and unoriginal story and put it in a Christmas setting to make it seem sweeter and more magical. What we actually have here is four people, that it is really difficult to connect with, coming together in the most contrived of manners and taking much longer than necessary to realise they should be together. Considering the film stars Jack Black and Kate Winslet, two of Hollywood’s most charming and lovable actors, it lacks any real heart or sentimentality.
Also, for those reading my Twitter feed recently, may have noticed that I am somewhat opposed to all of Cameron Diaz’s storyline. Not only is she awful in the role (alongside the already mostly awful Jude Law) but her whole character flaw is so dull and annoying that I get angry even thinking about it. We’re well into the 21st century now, do we still need high-powered businesswomen who have sacrificed emotions for success? No. We’re better than that.
Number 6: Fred Claus
Vince Vaughn stars as Father Christmas’ loser brother who must work in his sibling’s workshop to redeem himself of his past crimes. This ends up as another lame holiday film that promises something with its cast list that it just can’t deliver on. Fred Claus constantly crosses the line between farcical family comedy and sentimental holiday film without ever really succeeding at either. Unable to fill you with Christmas cheer or feed your cynical ‘bah humbug’ attitude. This run-of-the-mill festive film just ends up showing us that the simple and flexible idea used so effectively in the likes of Elf can, in the wrong hands, appear utterly deplorable and uninspired.
Number 5: Christmas with the Kranks
A film based on a John Grisham novel where Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis chose to forgo Christmas and go on a Caribbean cruise instead. What follows is an insane plot where the neighbourhood, led by Dan Aykroyd and that little kid from Malcolm in the Middle, start a hate campaign against this anti-Christmas attitude. Christmas with the Kranks is an utterly joyless and in-your-face film, which desperately tries, and ultimately fails, to force comedy on the audience in any way possible.
Number 4: Four Christmases
Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon play an awful couple who lie to their parents about doing charity work but spend every Christmas abroad to avoid their families. One year, bad weather keeps them at home and, thanks to an unfortunate television interview, they are caught out. Their four divorced parents then demand a visit over the festive period. With an all-star, Oscar-winning cast, Four Christmases suffers from a terrible script, annoying leads and an awful premise. There is nothing festive about watching Award-winning actors Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Jon Voight and Mary Steenburgen lowering themselves to base comedy.
Number 3: Deck the Halls
Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito get all uppity about Christmas lights in this dire Christmas film. Hardly instilling the ideas of Christmas cheer and togetherness, this bitter and mean-spirited comedy comes across as desperate and underwhelming. Nobody wants to see Broderick and DeVito warring over who can make their house bright enough so it is visible from space; especially when the aforementioned film is thoroughly lacking in humour or sentimentality.
Number 2: Jack Frost
Nothing sells Christmas quite like the heart-warming tale of Michael Keaton dying and coming back as a snowman to help his son avenge his bullies and stuff. What follows is a dull and pedestrian plot presented in the laziest of manners. Hoping to survive on its overly schmaltzy and emotional premise this film falls flat thanks to its performances and presentation. If you ask me, I’d much rather watch the alternative Jack Frost where a serial killer-turned-snowman takes revenge on the police officer who caught him. It’s an altogether more joyful experience.
Number 1: Surviving Christmas
Without a shadow of a doubt, this film is one of the most uncomfortable examples of Christmas viewing in the history of cinema. Ben Affleck is a lonely advertising mogul who offers James Gandolfini and his family $250,000 to pretend to be his family for the festive period. Not only is it truly cringe watching a grown man calling a complete stranger mum but the script is lacklustre and completely uninspired. At only about 90 minutes in total, it is at least 85 minutes too long. The fact that it took all of my effort to make it through the opening scene was a poor sign of things to come. Affleck offers nothing endearing when it comes to his portrayal as the unhinged Drew and Jennifer Morrison is just an assault to all senses as his super annoying girlfriend. Rather than feeling thoroughly festive once the credits rolled, I just felt ashamed and dirty.