How do we return `gift' of bad holiday movies?

November 09, 2007|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,Sun Movie Critic

Bad ideas seem to skip generations when it comes to making holiday movies. Today's hectic farce-spectacle Fred Claus replicates the key mistake of the 1985 dud, Santa Claus: The Movie. With the potential of Santa's wonderworks at their disposal, all the filmmakers come up with for a plot is the peril of measuring toyshop productivity.

In Fred Claus, the villain is Kevin Spacey's efficiency expert, who threatens to shut Santa's operation down if he can't meet children's increasing demands. In Santa Claus: The Movie, it's John Lithgow as a tycoon, who competes against St. Nick with the unwitting help of an elf with a yen for assembly lines. At one point, the tycoon threatens to institute a sequel holiday: Christmas II. At times, Fred Claus might as well be Santa Claus: The Movie II.

The recent ratio of good holiday movies to fiascoes is embarrassing. For every inspired Nightmare Before Christmas, there seem to be a dozen groaners like Deck the Halls.

Maybe pundits are partly to blame for demanding new and topical ingredients for Christmas fables. No writer was ever newsier than Dickens, but in A Christmas Carol he conveyed Christmastide's aura by using timeless spirits to stress the importance of generosity and kindness. You can find the hands-down best Carol in the 1951 British production just reissued on DVD from VCI Entertainment. It leaves you with the genuine euphoria of Tiny Tim's "God bless us, every one!"

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