Son of a Nutcracker! We’ve passed the half-way point of the Showdown’s initial elimination round but have we shifted any hearts and minds in our search for the Ultimate Christmas Movie? It’s true many classics have already fallen by the wayside but there are so many more favourites yet to come.
Today’s first match up spotlight chaotic Christmas comedies that take us from a battle for the toy of the season to an annual Christmas Eve mission to find the best party in New York City. Then we take time to celebrate two very different takes on the child-like joy of the season Elf and Home Alone.
Read up on all four films below then weigh in and vote for your picks!
Jingle All the Way (1996)
By all accounts, Jingle All the Way should not work as well as it does. The film focuses on a workaholic dad (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who wants to save Christmas for his son by getting him a Turbo Man doll. While the hyped up consumerism is more reflective than it is aspirational, there is a certain charm in turning one of America’s more embarrassing holiday traditions into comical fodder. Watching Schwarzenegger battle it out with Sinbad, Phil Hartman, and Jim Belushi elevates this above other disposable Christmas comedies into the realm of classics. – Deirdre Crimmins
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 15%
The Night Before (2015)
Let’s be honest: There hasn’t been a movie made in the last decade that anyone in their right mind actually considers a so-called Christmas classic. Many movies try and fail to be counted among the true Cinéma du Noël, like so many of the other films on this list. They need to stop. Everyone needs to stop now. The Christmas canon is full.
As recent studio comedies go though, The Night Before comes pretty close to making the cut, but does so more as a love letter to Christmas movies past. It’s undeniably a Christmas movie—three lifelong friends, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, and Anthony Mackie, hit the town on Christmas Eve in search of one last night of epic holiday cheer—but the most memorable things about it are its Rankin/Bass inspired title sequence and the scene-stealing presence of Michael Shannon at his most Michael Shannon. I couldn’t really tell you much else about it five years on.
But am I selling The Night Before short? Are the movies we hold up as Christmas classics only considered so because of that hallowed holiday tradition of watching them on TV? Would The Night Before have enjoyed that same status if it were blasted out onto the end of year airwaves on seemingly infinite repeat the way A Christmas Story and Home Alone were by channels like TBS? Or if it were seasonally mandated event television like How the Grinch Stole Christmas or A Christmas Carol? Maybe? No, probably not, but a genuine attempt was made and that’s gotta count for something on Christmas. – Will Perkins
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%
Voting ends December 6 at 11:59 EST.
Home Alone (1990)
Before Schitt’s Creek immortalized Moira Rose as the best-worst mother on television, Catherine O’Hara won hearts as Kate McCallister. Leaving her son home alone while the family goes on vaycay seems very Moira. But David and Alexis are only minor hellions compared to the delightfully mischievous Kevin McCallister. Macaulay Culkin’s iconic prankster first rejoices in having the run of the place in the absence of his parents (ice cream for breakfast, etc.) and he soon learns the perils of being on his own when the neighbourhood bandits (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) target the McCallister’s stately abode. In a lark that surely inspired a generations of young viewers to wreak havoc on babysitters worldwide, Kevin thwarts the bandits with booby traps, toys, and creative genius. The holidays often inspire us to get on Santa’s good side, but Home Alone is a fun reminder that being naughty sometimes feels nice. – Pat Mullen
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 65%
Maybe I just saw Elf at the right time but it felt like an instant classic when I saw it in theatres. Even as I rewatched it more recently, I found myself saying “this might be even funnier than I remembered.” While Elf even managed to make my mother, a noted Will Ferrell hater, smile and laugh, I think its real super power is the fact that Buddy the Elf (“What’s your favourite colour?”) is kind. He doesn’t get jaded or cynical like everyone else around him nor does he make people’s lives harder with his careless whimsy. He just wants what’s best for people, as long as they don’t lie about Santa. It’s really nice to watch that type of genuine kindness persevere in a modern movie. – Daniel Grant
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%
Voting ends December 6 at 11:59 EST.
The elimination showdown runs from December 1 until the 23, with the Ultimate Christmas Movie being unveiled on Christmas Eve! You can vote here, on Twitter, or on Instagram. Find out if your favourites are in the running below, then tune in tomorrow for two new face offs…