Books, Pop Culture and Political Humor from J.D. Rhoades, best-selling author, attorney, and award-winning newspaper columnist.
"Like [Lee] Child, Rhoades dishes out one airtight action scene after another, mixing in just enough character-building moments and holding our interest in a full cast of nicely developed supporting players."-Booklist
It’s Christmas week, folks, so let us put aside our political differences and get into heated arguments over the eggnog about something really important: Christmas movies.
You know how I love to create controversy, and if there’s any topic that’ll do it, this is the one. We all have our favorites; we all have the ones we love to hate. Here’s my own list.
1. Christmas Movie I Just Don’t Get: “Love Actually.”
I know quite a few people who will swear to you that this 2003 multi-plot-threaded rom-com is the greatest Christmas movie ever made. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that all of those people are female.
The movie certainly has a lot of eye candy for the female gender, what with having Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson — even Alan Rickman before he got all creepy in the Harry Potter movies.
To be fair, for the fellows, we also have Kiera Knightley, Emma Thompson, and the hot blonde from “American Pie” and “Scary Movie.”
But when a movie starts off telling you how romantic airports are, you know you’re getting farther away from reality than even a romantic comedy can justify.
And I’m sorry, but it’s not even all that funny.
2. Christmas Movie That’s Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be: “A Christmas Story.”
Yeah, I said it. OK, Darren McGavin’s a hoot as the creatively profane dad who wins the lamp shaped like a lady’s leg, and I’ll grant you that “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid,” is a passably quotable catch phrase — barely.
But plotwise, the movie’s a mess, stitched together as it is from several short stories by Jean Shepherd. The Chinese restaurant scene is flat-out racist. And that Ralphie kid is just creepy to me.
3. Christmas Movie I Love Even Though a Lot of People Hate It: “Four Christmases.”
Anyone in a so-called “blended” family should be able to relate to this tale of an unmarried but committed couple (Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon) who always leave the country for the holiday to avoid dealing with their eccentric parents, all of whom have divorced and started new lives.
However, when a historic fog grounds their flight and they end up being shown on the TV news story about stranded passengers, they find they can’t avoid spending a raucous holiday with each of their parents and their new families.
I love everything Robert Duvall’s ever been in, but his turn as Vaughn’s crusty, bitter father is one of his unsung gems — both hilarious and ultimately heartbreaking. Dwight Yoakam as the charismatic minister who inspires Vaughn to epic levels of overacting in the Nativity play is also not to be missed.
The movie got terrible reviews, but my friends and I get together and watch it every Christmas season if we can.
4. Flawed Christmas Movie That’s Still Destined to Be a Classic: “Elf.”
Hijinks ensue when Buddy, a human child raised by Santa’s elves, decides to return to the big city to find his birth father.
Will Ferrell plays yet another version of his hyperactive man-child character, and the whole “Central Park Rangers” plot feels like a tacked-on attempt to generate menace with a ripoff of the nasty black horsemen from the “Lord of the Rings” movies.
But the character of Papa Elf is Bob Newhart at his deadpan best, and I defy you not to get all misty when the entire city of New York, including a bar full of bikers, joins together to refuel Santa’s sleigh with Christmas spirit by singing “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” led in song by the just-plumb-adorable Zooey Deschanel.
5. The Greatest Christmas Movie of All Time, The One By Which All Others Are Measured and Found Wanting: “Die Hard.”
I really don’t see how anyone can argue with this. It’s the story of a man willing to risk everything and overcome impossible odds, just so he can “get together, have a few laughs” with his family at the holiday season. I mean, really, how heartwarming can you get? …
So that’s the list. Let the arguments begin! But play nice. After all, it’s Christmas.