TGIF, friends! How are you do—wait, what? WHAT? Six days until Christmas?! When the heck did that happen?! The big day is sneaking up on us, my friends, and I certainly hope you’ve got your shopping done! Think of me—I have to brave the crowds for a few last-minute things this weekend. Gulp. Anyway, now that I’ve completed round one and round two, I’m back here today with a third round of Christmas films for my 12 Films of Christmas series. So come over here by the fire and nibble on some gingerbread and let’s discuss!
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
Synopsis: “One year after Kevin was left home alone and had to defeat a pair of bumbling burglars, he accidentally finds himself in New York City, and the same criminals are not far behind.” –www.imdb.com
In a Nutcracker’s Nutshell: When I reviewed my first batch of 12 Christmas films last year, Home Alone was one of my top-rated choices (and you can read that review here), but it had been a long while since I’d seen its sequel. A lot of people have qualms with Home Alone 2: Lost in New York because they claim it’s the same film all over again. And, well, yeah…it is. Like, exactly. But you know what? Even knowing this and being kind of annoyed by it, I still enjoyed this film. I hope that doesn’t mean I lose what little movie reviewer cred I have. Macaulay Culkin is still a cute, cheeky, amazingly clever and resourceful little protagonist. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern are still the dim-witted and gloriously slapstick burglars we all loved in the first film. Kevin’s (Culkin) family is still delightfully crazy. The music is still magical. The lesson of the importance of love and family during the holidays still hits home. Oh, and we have the addition of Tim Curry and Rob Schneider, so that’s fun (the positive influence of Schneider might be debatable, but I actually like him here). And it’s in New York, so that’s a fun setting. But it all boils down to that nagging problem: it’s the same movie—just in a different place. It’s like everything all of the characters learned before has been utterly forgotten in the span of a year, and that feels a little cheap. But if I’d never seen the first Home Alone, I think I would love every bit of this. So in that spirit—the spirit of Christmas, I guess—I’m being generous with my grade. Home Alone 2 is a carbon copy of its predecessor, sure. But, hey, why mess with success?
My Glad Tidings: B+
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Synopsis: “When a nice old man who claims to be Santa Claus is institutionalized as insane, a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is the real thing.” –www.imdb.com
In a Nutcracker’s Nutshell: Is it weird that I hadn’t seen this until I watched it for this series? Somehow, Miracle on 34th Street just never found its way into my family’s Christmas lineup, and even when I became old enough to seek out my own movie choices, I never really cared whether or not I watched this. And now that I’ve seen it…I don’t feel any different. Is that bad? Am I awful for being underwhelmed by such a classic? There are definitely some things to admire here—namely a fantastic performance from Edmund Gwenn as jolly old Kris Kringle. And the premise is really fun, blurring the lines between the real world and the question of the existence of Saint Nick. Plus, there’s a good ol’ message about the importance of kindness and love during a time of year that has unfortunately become associated pure commercialism and even greed. The scenes in Macy’s are nice (and particularly funny to me since I once worked at a Macy’s during the holidays), and the fact that everything ends up in a courtroom is interesting. It’s just…meh. The film dragged a bit for my taste, plus I didn’t really care one way or the other about whether or not Doris (Maureen O’Hara) and her daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) ever got bitten by the Christmas bug. Also, though I liked Fred (John Payne), I found his initial interest in Susan pretty creepy and his forwardness with Doris kind of off-putting. So, no, I’m afraid this has not become a holiday favorite for me. Nonetheless, for Gwenn’s performance and a unique Christmas story, it’s worth a watch.
My Glad Tidings: B
Batman Returns (1992)
Synopsis: “When a corrupt businessman and the grotesque Penguin plot to take control of Gotham City, only Batman can stop them, while the Catwoman has her own agenda.” –www.imdb.com
In a Nutcracker’s Nutshell: To any of you who have been with me for awhile, it’s no secret that I’m a pretty big Batman nerd. But you know what’s kind of embarrassing? The fact that I have hardly paid any attention to the Michael Keaton Batman films. I mean, neglecting the Val Kilmer and George Clooney films is one thing, but for a whole bunch of people, Michael Keaton will always be the Batman (and also Birdman). Now I’d seen his first film before, but I’d never really sat down and taken in Batman Returns. It’s maybe a stretch to call this one a Christmas film, but with Gotham decked out for the holidays and plenty of snowy scenes, I think it’s still enough to make you feel holly jolly. At the very least, you’ll have fun. Frankly, I think it’s impossible not to have fun with Keaton under the cowl and such ridiculously entertaining villains. Danny DeVito brings Penguin’s creepiness to a whole new level with his flipper hands and strange grumbling/squawking. And no offense to Anne Hathaway, but I think in a Catwoman showdown, Michelle Pfeiffer wins. She’s crazy, sexy, sassy, and just perfect. As for Christopher Walken as scheming businessman Max Shreck…I mean, can you ever go wrong with Walken? On top of all that, Keaton is a great Batman/Bruce Wayne. The story and some of the performances can get super silly, but all of that silliness leads to an army of penguins invading Gotham, and that could very well be the cutest and most wonderful thing ever—even if it is the exact opposite of threatening. Batman Returns is a pretty quirky Christmas choice, but I definitely recommend it. Gees, does anybody else have the Batman version of “Jingle Bells” stuck in their head now?? 😉
My Glad Tidings: B+