As much as I love the holiday season, today was one of those days when my good vibrations took a nose dive, landing somewhere in the trenches at the local mall as I bounced between walls of Crabby Appletons and Bah Humbuggers like a pinball on steroids while they elbowed their way through aisles of picked-over merchandise with ill regard to who got hurt in the process. Add to that, my very unladylike tumble into the world’s largest puddle as I lugged more bags than I could handle through a dimly lit parking garage, in search of a car that I swear was sitting somewhere in East Overshoe, and I was about ready to cancel Christmas and spend the rest of December drowning my bad attitude in a trough of heavily spiked eggnog.
I needed some comic relief, and fast. And I could think of no better way to inject myself with humor and good old-fashioned Christmas spirit than by sprawling out on the couch with a bucket of caramel-coated popcorn between my legs and watching a laugh-out-loud holiday movie designed to inspire, induce smiles, and most importantly, bust guts.
So, with that in mind, I’d like to share with you my Top Six Holiday Flicks: The Comedy Edition. You won’t find It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street on this list (though they are certainly wonderful films that I totally recommend). What I am about to highlight below are movies guaranteed to cause involuntary guffaws while reversing all cases of Yuletide Burnout.
6. Bad Santa
Iconic line: “What is it with you and fixing f-ing sandwiches?”
Good Lord, this movie is offensive on so many levels. Yet, in my opinion, that’s the draw and the gel that holds it together. If you’re easily put-off by things like an Anti-Santa Claus, vulgarity, and unsavory behavior, then perhaps this is a story you should take a pass on. But if you have more of an open mind, then sit back and watch as Billy Bob Thornton (of Sling Blade fame … an utterly brilliant movie, by the way) plays his con-manning, booze-binging, pants-peeing, cringe-worthy role to absolute perfection — and if he doesn’t totally win you over by the time the credits roll, then you can call me crazy for recommending what I consider to be a crudely hilarious and unexpectedly heartwarming cinematic experience, made all the more memorable by a superb supporting cast.
5. Home Alone
Iconic line: “Aaaahhhh!”
As far as I’m concerned, any film written by the late John Hughes automatically qualifies it as a must-see. Not to mention, the late John Candy appears in it, and the man is a legend. Speaking of which, if you haven’t seen Uncle Buck and Only the Lonely, I suggest you rectify the situation immediately.
I remember when Home Alone was all the rage back in 1990, and if memory serves me right, I saw the film no less than five times during its run in theaters. What’s cool is that now I get to relive the magic every year when I watch it with my daughters.
Macaulay Culkin is infectious as Kevin, the kid who is … well, home alone … forced to fend for himself after his family unwittingly leaves him behind in their rush to get to the airport to on time. Culkin’s adorbs factor and comedic timing is, in large part, what makes this movie so brilliant and side-splittingly funny. And though I’ll always connect Joe Pesci with the “Do I amuse you?” ruthlessness he exhibited to a T in Goodfellas, there’s no denying his working in cahoots with the talented Daniel Stern as a gold-toothed, dim-witted burglar equally showcases his knack for knee-slapping, over-the-top zeal.
4. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Iconic line: “Those aren’t pillows!”
Okay, you caught me — this story actually has Thanksgiving as its backdrop instead of Christmas. But hey, it’s close enough — and it’s a freaking great movie.
If the iconic line above doesn’t mean anything to you, then you probably haven’t experienced this cinematic display of belly-busting genius. If that’s the case, then do yourself a favor and add the flick to your Netflix queue. Trust me, you won’t be sorry.
Like Home Alone, this film was also written by the late John Hughes (seriously, go purchase his entire movie catalog … the man could do no wrong). And wouldn’t you know it, the late John Candy graces the screen to boot, in one of his finest starring roles. That, in itself, is reason to give the movie a whirl. Add co-star Steve Martin to the mix, and BAM … instant gold. Martin plays Neal, a man who desperately wants to go home for Thanksgiving, but when a snowstorm unexpectedly reroutes his flight to a distant locale in Kansas, he’s forced to bunk up with Del (John Candy), whose incessant chatter drives him to the brink of insanity.
As they navigate the madness of the holiday travel season in their attempt to reach their intended destinations, Neal and Del share some of the most impeccably uproarious moments in the history of the movies (in my humble opinion). Just their facial expressions alone are enough to cause laughter to the point of tears.
Iconic line: “Santa! I know him!”
This movie is destined to become a classic. First off, it stars Will Ferrell, and let’s face it, the man is awesome (Don’t believe me? Watch Anchorman, and then I’ll rest my case). Ferrell plays Buddy, a boy raised by elves who doesn’t learn he’s an adopted human until adulthood, at which point he journeys to New York City in search of his biological father, a work-obsessed, corporate bigwig played by the incomparable James Caan.
Oh oh ohhh … and Zooey Deschanel plays Buddy’s love interest Jovie, and I just looove her. Sidenote: If you haven’t seen (500) Days of Summer, then what the heck are you waiting for?
In one of my favorite Elf scenes, Jovie croons a rather impressive rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” while showering in a department store bathroom, only to be caught embarrassingly off-guard by Buddy, who later tells her, “By the way, I think you have the most beautiful singing voice in the whole wide world.”
This is one of those films that literally screams, “Christmas spirit!” Not only can Buddy rock a pair of tights, but his ultra-happy disposition, sugary-sweet innocence, good-heartedness and positive energy wrap him up into one endearingly amusing package. And I can personally attest to coming dangerously close, on more than one occasion, to dousing my spaghetti in maple syrup while polishing off an entire liter of Coca-Cola, merely because he makes it look fun and strangely appetizing. Though I suppose the resulting, ungodly belch wouldn’t earn me in any points in the Mature Adult department. 😉
2. A Christmas Story
Iconic line: “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”
I dare anyone to watch this flick and not burst out laughing while simultaneously contracting an acute case of Warm Fuzzies. Simply put, this is movie magic at its finest — a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. Its humor-infused flair for nostalgia leaves me wishing I could wind the clock back to my own youth, when things were simpler and being a kid was full of wide-eyed discovery, wonderment, and holiday hijinks.
The film stars nine-year-old Ralphie, played flawlessly by Peter Billingsley (who, coincidentally, has a cameo role in the movie Elf). His insatiable hunger for a Red Ryder BB Gun fuels his motivation to get the message out to Santa and just about anyone else who will listen.
What I love so much about A Christmas Story extends beyond its comic footing to the sheer authenticity exhibited throughout each scene. The director, Bob Clark (who, interestingly, also directed the first two Porky’s films) manages to show us with unmatched precision how a child truly experiences Christmas. Tell me there isn’t some brilliance in that.
The supporting cast is beyond superb, their well-meaning, yet often foiled holiday preparation efforts contributing to a Christmas that both rotates out of control and falls into perfect “Rah Rah Rah Rah Rah” synchronization where love and family togetherness abounds.
And, in case you were wondering … yes, I own a leg lamp. ☺
1. Christmas Vacation
Iconic line: “Sh*tter was full.”
To me, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas until I’ve seen this movie. It’s outrageously silly, it’s funny, it’s relatable — but what I like best is that it’s all about family. It stars Chevy Chase, inarguably one of the best comedic actors of the last several decades (see Vacation, Caddyshack, Fletch and Funny Farm and you’ll see what I mean).
Chase plays Clark Griswold (aka, Sparky) who is as goofy as he is lovable as he sets out to provide his brood with a fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. But alas, the poor bastard encounters one hilarious challenge after another. Enter: Cousin Eddie (played by Randy Quaid), whose faux turtle neck isn’t fooling anyone.
Cousin Eddie is, irrefutably, that leisure-suit-wearing, decorum-lacking, in-your-face laugh riot who gives new meaning to the word “tasteless.” But to me, it’s Aunt Bethany and her dementia-driven, scene-stealing quips that kick up the hysterics notch even higher. On Christmas Eve, when she squeaks the Pledge of Allegiance at the dinner table when asked to “say Grace,” it results in one of film’s most memorable, quote-worthy scenes, complete with Sparky’s clincher, “Amen.”
In fact, this movie is cram packed with quotables, my favorites being, “If you need any help, give me a holler. I’ll be upstairs asleep,” and “Can I refill your eggnog, get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere, leave you for dead?”
Ha! They slay me every time!
The film even treats us to the performances of two budding actors in their humble beginnings, before they went on to become household names. Johnny Galecki as Rusty and Juliette Lewis as Audrey deliver a powerful one-two punch as they bring uncanny realism to that teenage dichotomy of too-cool-for-schoolness/secret admiration for parental units.
What’s incredibly special about this story is that once you strip away all those zany comedic elements, what remains is a movie that captures the Christmas spirit as effectively as any holiday-themed movie ever created (in my humble opinion, of course).
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So, there you have it! If I didn’t still have so much shopping and gift wrapping left to do, I would have made this list even longer. Honorable mentions go out to: The Santa Clause, Christmas with the Kranks, and Trading Places.
What are some of your favorite comedic holiday films? Let me know in the comments below.
Oh, and Happy Holidays to you and yours! ☺
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