The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

December 13, 2012

Some holiday movies perfect for whole family, others better after bedtime

By Joe Hadsall
Globe Features Editor

JOPLIN, Mo. — Movies are just as much a part of the holidays as presents, meals and family. When we asked readers on Facebook which movies got them charged up for Christmas, they responded with a variety of films that are part of their holiday traditions.

We sifted through them, added a couple and came up with the following list for a variety of different families:



Undisputed champion

If there is any movie, in any genre, that deserves to be played over and over again (like cable station TBS usually does), it's Bob Clark's "A Christmas Story." From the fuzzy, pink bunny suit to the "major award" leg lamp, the movie is filled with scenes that have embedded themselves in our collective Christmas psyche.

The movie is based off the stories of Jean Shepherd, and is about Ralphie Parker's desperate Christmas wish of getting a Red Ryder BB gun as a present. Loosely bound by his scheming, the movie is remarkable for happening around Christmas, not because of it.

Even though the movie is set in pre-World War II America, the story is timeless and recognizable to kids of all ages.



Modern-day Scrooge

We could list a number of classic adaptations of "A Christmas Carol," but "Scrooged" is one of the best -- mainly because of Bill Murray.

Frank Cross is a cutthroat TV producer who is visited by three Christmas ghosts and, like Dickens' Scrooge, shown the error of his ways. A great ensemble of actors, from Bobcat Goldthwait to Carol Kane, help him along the way.

Because this is almost the definition of an '80s Christmas movie, some might not get the jokes behind cameos of Mary Lou Retton, Robert Goulet and Buddy Hackett. But for those who like a little edge to their Christmas movies, yet still want to watch with their kids, it doesn't get much better.



Present of puppets

The Muppets, from Kermit and his crew to the Sesame Street gang, are pretty recognizable. Emmet Otter, not so much. But "Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas" features a heartwarming helping of Muppet magic and seasonal spirit.

The story is a twist on O. Henry's "Gift of the Magi," where Emmet and his Ma pick out the perfect presents for each other. The presents are too expensive, but they both see a talent show (and its first-place cash prize) as a great way to get those presents. Unfortunately, they have to sell critical parts of their livelihoods to enter the contest.

The show pushed creative boundaries: The story's Frogtown Hollow is beautifully portrayed in detail unmatched by any other Muppet project at the time. The unforgettable music and wonderful story make this a must-see.



Christmas with Chevy

'Tis the season for slapstick. The gags roll fast and furiously in "Christmas Vacation," the third movie featuring the Griswolds of National Lampoon's "Vacation" series.

As Christmas approaches, Clark is anticipating a bonus from his boss. But then family starts showing up, and as soon as the Griswold's well-lit house gets crammed with kin, Clark's notoriously bad luck gets even worse.

Plenty of profanity and adult situations means this is one for the "big kids" after bedtime. But the laughs and one-liners are worth the wait.



Newspaper's Noel

A relatively new offering for the holidays, "Yes, Virginia" is a fictional story behind one of the most legendary letters to the editor ever received by a newspaper.

The "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" letter, penned by Francis Pharcellus Church in the Sept. 21, 1897, edition of The New York Sun, provided the setting for this story of an 8-year-old girl trying to get straight answers about the existence of the jolly old elf -- because "if you see it in the sun, it's so."

The computer-animated feature is short, but it's a great watch for kids who might start to get suspicious about Santa's existence. The last few minutes feature Church's words spoken by Alfred Molina, whose delivery helps the message of believing in something bigger. This may even rekindle the fires of some non-believers.



Rom-com night

If a family happens to end up with a girls' night-in over the holidays, "Love Actually" may be the perfect movie.

Ten intertwined tales of love set around the holidays are told throughout the movie, which features everyone from Hugh Grant to Rowan Atkinson and Emma Thompson to Laura Linney. Mapping the characters' connections required a complicated flowchart. But the stories themselves are simple, romantic and endearing.



Honorable mentions

It's hard to go wrong with any of these other holiday classics:

"It's a Wonderful Life"

"Elf"

"White Christmas"

"Die Hard" (technically this is a Christmas movie, but not for kids)

"How the Grinch Stole Christmas"

"A Charlie Brown Christmas"

"Home Alone"

"Miracle on 34th Street"

"Eight Crazy Nights"