Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

Now that the holiday season is here, TV stations are filling their line up with every holiday movie ever made.

The problem is, some of these movies are truly horrible.

The other night my kids were watching Santa Paws, one of the Air Bud sequels. I was only listening to the dialogue and it was grating. We declared bedtime and were able to turn off this clichéd mess of a movie.

Just because a movie is meant for kids, does not mean it has to be stupid. Just because advertising for a movie says it is family friendly, that doesn’t mean you have to watch it. When there is less demand for a movie, it slowly disappear from the TV landscape. That is what thankfully happened to Santa Claus Conquers The Martians (1964).

So what would I suggest?

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Let me give you my five holiday must see movies/special for kids.

5. Are We There Yet? stars Ice Cube and may seem like an annoying family flick featuring a guy who is not necessarily family friendly. But there is a message about what a family really is and how you have to understand that other people’s actions are not your actions.

The story is about a businessman who doesn’t like kids but falls for a woman with two precocious darlings who drive away every potential suitor. When she suddenly needs help getting the kids up to her work, the Cube willing says he can help. There are some funny moments and strange moments but also some sweetness and understanding.

4. Any holiday special put out by Bass/Rankin. They might be 40 years old but these specials, such as Santa Clause is Coming to Town and Rudolph the Red-nose Reindeer, are wonderful in their story telling and musical numbers. The animation is old fashioned stop-action figures but it feels substantial.

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3. There is one TV special that people make time for and that is A Charlie Brown Christmas. First shown in 1965, this show has been a classic ever since Charlie Brown tried to organize the Christmas play and needed a tree for the stage. It laments the advent of commercialism in the Christmas season and gives us the story of Jesus’ birth. It is 25 minutes of perfection.

2. My next two could be interchangeable, they are so good in their story-telling and acting. But let me throw out Miracle on 34th Street from 1947. This is the king of Santa movies, of Christmas stories, of finding hope and faith when common sense tells you not to do it. Edmund Gwynne plays Kris Kringle who replaces Santa at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. He continues on with his role during the holiday season, changing the company culture (long before the term was coined) in his kind and gentle way. But an idiot decides to get back at him and he is in Bellevue. Before you know it, he is in court trying to prove he is the real Santa Clause. This ensemble does such a great job it is not hard to believe that this movie was a big hit when it was released in the summer of 1947.

1. Granted, this movie gets shown all day on Christmas day and you might be tired of it. But A Christmas Story ranks as one of the best Christmas movies ever because ever vignette in this movie feels true. We all know someone who put their tongue on a metal pole. We all know about bullies and being incredibly wrapped against the winter’s cold and presents that are ridiculous but must be gratefully accepted. And we all know about the dream present – the one that keeps us up at night in anticipation.

The cast of Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon, and Peter Billingsley were absolute perfection. There was chemistry among them that made you feel as if it was a real family. I never get tired of watching this movie and that is the sign of a well-made flick.

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Now there is usually an honerable mention; a movie that did not make the list because it is a #6 but the reviewer still thinks it is worth watching. For me that movie is The Polar Express. The animation is gorgeous, the story telling is wonderful.

We follow a boy who is wavering on his belief in Santa and Christmas. Then, on Christmas Eve, the Polar Express stops in front of his house. He runs out and looks at the huge train in the street where no tracks had been placed. The conducter says to him “Well, are you coming?” And that is all we need to start a adventure.

 Next time I will list my favorite holiday movies for adults.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.