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Busted Tees

The ones that just didn't make the cut...
by Noel Wood

In selecting the top ten movies for this holiday season, there were several films that just didn't make the final cut. I figured that rather than just let these films go unmentioned, I would give them all a brief glossing over to pay them the little bit of tribute that they may or may not deserve. So here's a sampling of other holiday favorites, some of which you can still catch in theaters now.

Oh, and for those of you keeping score and possibly trying to guess what might be in the top couple spots, here's a good way to weed out a few possibilities.

HOME ALONE (1990, Chris Columbus)
HOME ALONE 2 (1992, Chris Columbus)
At one point, HOME ALONE was one of the top three biggest-grossing films of all time, behind only STAR WARS and E.T.. Pretty big feat for a Christmastime movie powered by a tricycle motor, then prepubescent Macaulay Culkin. In the last 12 years, many movies have knocked it out of that place all the way down to #16 in the U.S., but it still remains a milestone as far as huge surprise hits go. Its sequel also was a pretty big grosser, pulling in some 170 million upon its release. Both of these movies play upon the premise that Culkin's character Kevin is abandoned at Christmastime by his parents and has to fight it out with baddies Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. The first time, he's stuck in his own house. Second time, he's stuck in New York City. The first one is something I've seen a dozen times, never really got the appeal of it, and is generally kind of an afterthought when pondering Christmas movies. I don't think anyone I know even saw the second one, which is why it baffles me that it pulled in 170 mil.

SANTA CLAUS: THE MOVIE (1985, Jeannot Szwarc)
As a kid, this was one of my favorite Christmas-themed movies. But as you grow older, sometimes you have to leave some movies behind. While a lot of your favorite kiddie movies grow up with you, some just die a painful death. However, I have to be grateful for this movie, as it is the film in which I discovered the great John Lithgow. SANTA CLAUS: THE MOVIE is one of many films from the 1980's that embodied the typical little-man-versus-corporate-empire plotline, this time featuring an elf played by Dudley Moore (yes, you read that right) who leaves Santa's employ to do business with a greedy evil toy company executive, played by Lithgow. Unfortunately for this movie, it sucks. Sucks bad. It's not funny, shows its age, and should generally be left behind when discussing memorable holiday films.

PRANCER (1989, John D. Hancock)
Okay, here's the one that bugs me. No, I've never seen PRANCER, but it still bugs the shit out of me. This was a little after my time, you see. I was about 14 years old when this came out, so it wasn't something I was really interested, being kid-themed and all. I guess you could say it was "after my time". And I never really thought much of it until the first Christmas I spent working in the video store where MCFTR originated. Every Single Christmas I worked there, which was a total of four, we couldn't keep this friggin' movie on the shelf. And parents would go absolutely bloodthirsty trying to get a hold of our one single copy of the movie. Little kids would cry in the aisles, " I Want Prancer! I want Prancer!" to the point that I almost snapped on numerous occasions. There was no alternative for these PRANCER-starved nuts either. The Muppets, Barney, Elmo -- you'd think one of them would be able to keep them satisfied, but NO. It was PRANCER or nothing. I never saw it before, and as a result, never saw it after. And I'm okay with that, really.

SANTA WITH MUSCLES (1996, John Murlowski)
In case you wondered why "Hulk Hogan" was listed as an option for favorite holiday movie, here is the film that is the reason for his involvement with the season. That's right, Terry "Hulk Hogan" Bollea, star of such classics as MR. NANNY and SUBURBAN COMMANDO, also made this overlooked 1996 holiday spectacular. Hogan plays a rich playboy who one day puts on a Santa suit while fleeing from the cops, but whacks himself in the head and wakes up thinking he's good ol' Saint Nick. Suddenly Santa Hogan is off foiling robberies and saving orphanages and redeeming himself from the terrible rich man he was before. It's a message we can all live with. Unfortunately for the Hulkster, this movie came out at the same time as Arnold's JINGLE ALL THE WAY, and therefore was quickly forgotten.

THE SANTA CLAUSE (1994, John Pasquin)
THE SANTA CLAUSE 2 (2002, Michael Lembeck)
If there's any one reason to despise this movie, or as it stands now, pair of movies, it's because of the influx of people spelling the name "Santa Claus" with an extra 'E' at the end ever since their releases. You see, folks, the "Clause" is a pun, and probably one that is going to go over the heads of the children whom these movies were targeted toward. Unfortunately, it's not little kids who are misspelling the guy's name. The big fat guy who lives at the North Pole and steals your cookies every year is Santa Claus. For the initiated, these movies star Tim Allen, who plays an average everyday schmuck who is selected to replace Saint Nick himself. I saw the first one shortly after its release, and left it running in the video store quite often to appeal to our little family environment, but I see about as much reason to make a sequel to the film that I did with THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. I guess the first one wasn't bad in a cutesy-for-kids sort of way, but I still scratch my head when the thought of a convicted felon and a formerly very dirty comedian is now a huge kids' movie star.

MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947, George Seaton)
MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1994, Les Mayfield)
I guess I could make a separate listing for the 1947 classic and the 1994 remake, but it's pointless since they're pretty much the same movie, and both are only being listed here because they're not on my big list. While the original is definitely a classic, it just kind of misses the long-term rewatchability of Frank Capra's IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, which came out only a year before. Oh yeah, plus, I was forcefed this movie every year by my parents, and I guess I'm still just kind of bitter about that whole thing. MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET is about a man who runs around saying he's the real Saint Nick, but is ridiculed and institutionalized for his claims. Of course, thanks to a child who believes and a lawyer with a heart of gold, he is defended as being the real thing, and has to convince the public that in fact he is the real McCoy. This movie is notable also because it was one of the first films to feature the drunken Santa Claus stereotype. That does count for something, but it still barely misses my top ten. I mean, it's no SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT, ya know?

HOLIDAY INN (1942, Mark Sandrich)
WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954, Michael Curtiz)
I lump the infamous Bing Crosby Christmas musicals together, because after seeing both many years ago and not once since, they kind of run together and I can't remember for the life of me which is which. I know that WHITE CHRISTMAS is the one where, as Clark W. Griswold once put it, "Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny Fucking Kaye". That's about it. I guess they're holiday classics, much like MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, but much like that film, they're just not on my list of favorites.

May Jim Varney rest in peace. Because somewhere far beyond his portrayal of lovable rube Ernest P. Worrell lied a great comedian that got stuck in one of the biggest ruts in film history. Don't let first impressions fool you -- Jim Varney, between Ernest films and other mindless pablum like THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, had a handful of great comedic performances under his belt. From his voiceover work with Disney in stuff like TOY STORY and ATLANTIS, you know the guy had potential. It's just too bad he'll always be remembered as Ernest. The man made NINE features as the character, not to mention his countless TV specials and commercial work as the character. As the title implies, in this particular installment of the ongoing saga of Ernest, he saved Christmas. Did I see this one? I think so. Many years ago. I remember some part where he stops the sleigh in midair and then looks at the camera in typical Ernest fashion and says "air brakes". I was thirteen years old at one time, sue me. But this won't make my top ten, regardless of how much of a retard Ernest is.

FRIDAY AFTER NEXT (2002, Marcus Raboy)
This is in theaters as I speak. I have not seen it. I haven't even seen NEXT FRIDAY, because a FRIDAY sequel without Chris Tucker just doesn't appeal to me. This is the Christmas-themed sequel, and it looks about as funny as LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. Ice Cube is back as Craig, John Witherspoon is back as Craig's dad, but I'm not back as a viewer. Sorry, folks.

EIGHT CRAZY NIGHTS (2002, Seth Kearsley)
Also currently in theaters, this is the reason why Adam Sandler should have never gotten so much pull in Hollywood. I've always had a soft spot for Sandler, having seen BILLY MADISON, HAPPY GILMORE, and BIG DADDY, but he isn't infallible. THE WATERBOY, LITTLE NICKY, and MR. DEEDS prove that fact. Oh, and then there's animated Adam Sandler, starring in one of the first major motion pictures with a Hanukkah theme. Sandler wrote the story and does about half the movie's voicework, but the animation looks terrible, and it just doesn't look like it's going to be, you know, good. And you know, Adam, I thought the first Hanukkah song was funny, and even downloaded the second one when I heard it, but three? Come on, man, that horse is dead. No need to beat it.

JINGLE ALL THE WAY (1996, Brian Levant)
You knew it was only a matter of time before Austria's favorite Republican import made himself a Christmas movie, right? Of course, he didn't make one where his size and muscularity come into play, he made one where he plays your typical All-American baseball and hot dog family man. Makes plenty of sense, right? Well, it's not that bad of a movie, but it ain't top ten worthy either. Based on the phenomena of hot toys at Christmastime (see: Cabbage Patch Kids and Tickle Me Elmo), in this one Ah-nuld makes an effort to procure the year's hottest toy, Turbo Man, for his son. Of course, this is no ordinary son. It's Jake Lloyd, who would one day grow up to become Darth Vader, so dad is especially determined to get a hold of one, lest the power of the Dark Side befall him. Comic hijinks ensue, as Ah-nuld does everything outside of breaking his neck in order to grab the elusive Turbo Man figure. Sinbad, James Belushi, and the late Phil Hartman also try and make this movie a winner, but even they can't keep it up to top ten levels.

BATMAN RETURNS (1992, Tim Burton)
This almost made my top ten, but I just deemed it "not Christmassy enough" right as I was finalizing the list. It takes place at Christmastime, but it's not really part of the story. Plus, after the last time I watched this Batman sequel, I decided that while it wasn't Schumacher bad, it's not nearly as good as I defended it as years ago. I guess it still has kind of a cool comic feel, and Christopher Walken just rules the planet (and is the REAL villain in this movie, not Penguin or Catwoman), but something has to be said about those giant penguins with missiles strapped to their backs. I mean, I know Tim Burton is kind of out there, but that was just absofrickinlutely rigoddamndiculous.

I'm not talking about the classic animated version that has graced our television sets for many a fine holiday season, but the live-action film adaptation that Mr. Opie Cunningham himself, Ron "my next film won Best Picture, suckers" Howard. You know, I never bothered seeing this, partly because I hate Jim Carrey almost as much as I hate Mr. Howard, but moreover because Dr. Suess is dead, for Christ's sake, leave his stuff alone! This movie made a lot of money; however, it was not generally well-liked by most moviegoers. But whatever, it's not on my list, so I couldn't care less.

REINDEER GAMES (2000, John Frankenheimer)
Didn't see this one, but I have employed a friend to review it for me for this holiday season. If he doesn't get to it soon, I may have to borrow his copy and do it myself. Alls I know is that Ben Affleck is in it, which means it's at least worth a laugh or two. And Gary Sinise is in it, so there's bound to be one overacted scene. And Charlize Theron gets naked in it, so, uh, I might want to make sure I'm watching it alone.

While not a feature film, this is definitely a Christmas must-see for all ages. As I mentioned before in the review of THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL, everybody loves Muppets, and this is one of the products of Jim Henson's Muppet Empire. In fact, the only thing that kept this thing off the top ten to begin with is the fact that isn't a feature film, but merely a 48-minute special that ran on HBO, originally in 1977. Every year it was re-run, and every year I sat glued in front of my television watching it. For the uninitiated, it's about a Emmet Otter and his ma, each of which is trying to do their best to get the other the perfect Christmas gift. Of course, both of them have to make sacrifices in order to do so, and unbeknownst to each other, they both enter the Waterville talent show, where they are trounced by some bad beasts from Riverbottom, who have a rock and roll band called the Nightmare. It's fun, completely enjoyable for kids and adults, and envelops the true Muppet spirit. Hey, I like the Muppets, so if you're expecting anything less than a glaring review of any of their shows, you'll need to look elsewhere.

THE STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL (1978, David Acomba & Steve Binder)
This, while technically not a movie, deserves its own article here on the site. This rarely seen gem ran exactly one time on television, specifically on November 17, 1978. After it aired, George Lucas allegedly destroyed every existing master copy of the special because it was one of the most horrible things that's ever been shown on broadcast television. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you want to look at it, some folks who had videorecorded its only airing made copies, and nowadays it's fairly easy to find on eBay or other online outlets, as well as at pretty much any fantasy convention you can think of. Basically, the majority of the special, which ran two hours long, involves Chewbacca's family waiting for him to arrive on their home planet to celebrate Life Day, the Wookkiee equivalent of Christmas. It's bad enough that a good half hour involves a bunch of Chewie's relatives who weren't in Star Wars, but it gets even worse that they converse in their language the whole time -- without the aid of subtitles. So basically, it's a bunch of grunts and growls and utter boredom, and then Chewy's father having cybersex with Diahnn Carroll. I'm not shitting you. Alongside appearances by Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill, it also has cameos by Art Carney, Bea Arthur, and Jefferson friggin' Starship. I will have to track down a copy of this again soon so I can review the whole thing one day, because it is truly unbelievable. It's also the first time we ever get to see everyone's favorite bounty hunter, Boba Fett, in an animated sequence that may very well be the only salvageable portion of the special.

And with that little nugget of Christmas goodness, I'll leave you to have a happy holiday of your own. Just make sure that your holiday viewing is chosen wisely, or else you might be stuck watching grunting Wookkiees or over-the-hill pro wrestlers or moronic rednecks. Oh yeah, I know I've missed some here as well, so no need to point 'em out for me.


All Material Copyright 1998-2006 Movie Criticism for the Retarded.

For questions, comments, or the occasional stalking letter, send mail to Noel Wood. Please give proper credit when using any materials found within this site.

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