The Grinch (2018)

A grumpy Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) plots to ruin Christmas for the village of Whoville. (IMDb)
The decently enjoyable lightheartedness of the first two acts (pleasant animation and voicework provide some chuckle-worthy gags and fun sequences) grows by three sizes in the third as the Grinch’s redemption arc is completed with a refreshing and poignant childlike straight-forwardness (“It was me. I stole your Christmas. I stole it because I thought it would fix something from the past. But it didn’t”). Doesn’t break any new ground but it sure broke my tear ducts wide open in the end.
6.5/10 (Alright)

Elf (2003)

After discovering he is a human, a man raised as an elf at the North Pole decides to travel to New York City to locate his real father. (IMDb)
Light on plot (feels like the climax in Central Park was the first major event), and the “Christmas spirit” motif feels a little shoehorned in on top of the family/redemption arc, but Ferrell’s goofy and (syrupy) sweet fish-out-of-water schtick is infectious (answering the phone: “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favourite colour?”) and is complemented by a good smattering of other delights (see Newhart’s matter-of-fact Papa Elf and the rest of the solid supporting cast; stop-motion North Pole).
6.5/10 (Alright)

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

The Martians kidnap Santa Claus because there is nobody on Mars to give their children presents. (IMDb)
Never quite lives up to its outrageous, straight-forward title, sadly; creepy constantly-chuckling Claus does no conquering and weirdly seems kind of content on Mars (ham-fisted anti-automation sermon aside), while the amiable kidnapping Martians (sinister Voldar aside) are neither villains nor heroes (good thing jolly Dropo could take over). Poorly acted and made, but could’ve been an enjoyably campy romp (see the effects of the freeze ray) with a tighter edit (less stock footage, for example).
3.5/10 (Awful)

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

christmas-vacation-movie-poster

The Griswold family’s plans for a big family Christmas predictably turn into a big disaster. (IMDb)
Something about this Vacation installment’s family Christmas/home for the holidays premise grounds and glues it together unlike any of the others, and puts it a step above. Finally solid acting for Russ and Audrey helps too-and with Chase in his best turn as the ambitious and high-strung Clark, and D’Angelo solid again as his pacifier, the family has consistently humourous chemistry dotted with some great quirky cameos that makes great use of the relatable Christmas chaos setting.
7/10 (Good)