Home Alone 3 (1997)


Alex Pruitt, a young boy of nine living in Chicago, fends off thieves who seek a top-secret chip in his toy car to support a North Korean terrorist organization’s next deed. (IMDb)
Sure, there are a few glaring instances of lacking realism (see the super long range remotes) but on the whole this is a fun, tightly-scripted kid comedy that’s a criminally underappreciated entry in the franchise. The disguise-wearing villains are funny (dry-witted Earl especially) and actually scary at times (see Alice and hostage in garage), and Alex’s entertaining escapades go beyond just booby-traps (see the exciting toy car investigation). Bonus points for the hilarious crooning parrot.
7/10 (Good)


Home Alone (1990)


An eight-year-old troublemaker must protect his house from a pair of burglars when he is accidentally left home alone by his family during Christmas vacation. (IMDb)
Culkin’s cute and clever Kevin confidently carries this kooky Christmas classic, with help from Pesci and Stern’s easy-to-laugh-at bungling burglars. The slapstick comedy of the third act is the obvious highlight (“Why the hell did you take off your shoes?” “Why the hell are you dressed like a chicken?”) but solid writing engages you until then (see the grocery store scene; the subplot with Marley). The redemptive arc with the family didn’t hit home though (poor Kevin didn’t need to feel sorry).
7/10 (Good)

Christmas with the Kranks (2004)


With their daughter away, the Kranks decide to skip Christmas altogether until she decides to come home, causing an uproar when they have to celebrate the holiday at the last minute. (IMDb)
The story-writing is beyond sloppy (why is Blair all of a sudden coming home again?), there are obvious continuity goofs (Luther’s tan and Botox-ed eyebrows disappear quite quickly), and a lot of the acting is cringe-worthy, but Allen (playing his usual sarcastic guy’s guy) and Curtis (a Christmas-vest wearing and knitting mom’s mom) are both solid amidst the “crazy Christmas” comedy plot that has enough funny moments to make up for its cheap chintz (Santa makes quite an unnecessary appearance).
6/10 (Mediocre)

The Santa Clause (1994)


When a man inadvertantly kills Santa on Christmas Eve, he finds himself magically recruited to take his place. (IMDb)
Allen’s consistently hilarious adult-geared sarcasm throughout (“Dad, you’re flying!” “I’m used to it. I lived through the 60s!”) saves this film from being just another mediocre family Christmas flick by keeping it grounded and not suffocated by the typical tacky Christmas-spirit fluff you usually see in them. The whiny kid doesn’t help though, and the belief in Santa theme isn’t explicated on enough to at least be emotionally effective amidst its cliche-ness, bad SFX, and cheese.
6.5/10 (Alright)

Arthur Christmas (2011)


Santa’s clumsy son Arthur gets put on a mission with St. Nick’s father to give out a present they misplaced to a young girl in less than 2 hours. (IMDb)
A unique take on the Santa story that cleverly contorts it into the realm of realism; the high-tech vs. old school, productivity vs. personal touch themes that arise from this fun setting make the premise even more engaging (and hilarious; Nighy’s “back in my day” Grandsanta is a riot). A simple adventure plot is constructed from here with more than enough wacky humour and slapstick to keep you smiling, and with fairly nuanced family character studies thrown in to add some heart too.
7/10 (Good)

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)


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)

Jingle All the Way (1996)


A father vows to get his son a Turbo Man action figure for Christmas, however, every store is sold out of them, and he must travel all over town and compete with everybody else in order to find one. (IMDb)
It certainly does well in capturing that Christmas consumer craziness, with its over-the-top single-day plot filled with every-man-for-himself shopping shenanigans featuring the not-exactly-Academy-Award-worthy Arnold, his arsenal of awesome one-liners (“I’m not a pervert!”), and a couple of recurring antagonists. In terms of fitting in those Christmas spirit fuzzies, though, the film flops (Arnold’s redemption is almost all luck), the kid’s surprising and moving final act of generosity aside.
6/10 (Mediocre)