3. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Written by John Hughes when he was close to the end of his dominant 80s streak and starring Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold, Christmas Vacation is a riotous screwball comedy of one man trying to put on the best family Christmas he can despite whining neighbours, unexpected visitors and the odd lightbulb problem.
Full of laugh out loud moments – from a tree falling through the neighbour’s window to Clark sliding out of control on the super sled, all the way to the cat burning through the floor after electrocuting itself – the small things are surprisingly what are most important here, from Chase and Randy Quaid’s rapport in the supermarket, to the nuances of grandparents being in your house. It makes for a very observant film that warrants repeat viewings.
The message of family and attempting to get through a festive holiday in one piece is the ambition of Clark in this film, and Christmas Vacation’s conclusion is joyous in that a little victory can shine as brightly as your Christmas lights – the film remains pound for pound the most comedic Christmas film.
‘Bill Murray is taking on the ghosts. But this time its 3 against 1’. That is what the tagline on the VHS release of Scrooged, which stars an in-form Bill Murray very much playing on his Ghostbusters history in this very modern take on “A Christmas Carol”.
Murray plays Frank Cross, a television executive and president who is overseeing a live adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic on Christmas Eve. His thirst for success has led to him living a bitter, resentful and unhappy life. A Jacob Marley-like figure warns him to change his ways or he shall end up as dead as he is; the three ghosts appear and in flashback show Frank his life through Christmases when he was glued to the television, and when he ended a relationship full of love and companionship for the sake of career ambition.
Directed by Richard Donner (Superman; Lethal Weapon), Murray is let loose for much of the film, ad-libbing the majority of his performance but rounding it up into a neat Christmas bow when he proclaims on live television the error of his ways. His speech to camera is direct, heartfelt and filled with remorse as he pleads his case for a second chance to the people he employs on Christmas Eve and the viewing public of his network. The power of Murray’s delivery could easily have slipped into hysteria yet comes across in high spirits, the ‘God bless everyone’ line likely to draw a tear from even the hardest of souls.
5. The Muppet Christmas Carol
Not only is The Muppet Christmas Carol probably the best Muppets film, it is the best adaptation of Charles Dickens’ immortal classic and features a Top 5 Michael Caine performance to boot.
The tale is as old as time, yet the Muppets’ take is so cleverly done, utilising all the key players in not so much primary roles (even if Kermit does play Bob Cratchit). Here, the film rests on Gonzo as Dickens the Narrator – in this instance he is earnest and highly likeable, the rapport between him and Rizzo being key to the film’s narrative flow.
Caine said in an interview that he played the role as if he was in RADA, and he acts terrifically straight opposite the absurd puppeted telling surrounding him. On Christmas Day morning, with new spring in his step, he heads to the Cratchit household, a joyous rendition around the dinner table reminding us not only of Michael Caine’s inate acting abilities but more importantly reminding us of the friendship and love that makes Christmas such a celebrated time of year.
Recommended for you: 10 Excellent Non-Christmas Films Set at Christmas
Which Christmas movies with happy endings do you enjoy the most? Let us know in the comments and be sure to follow @thefilmagazine on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Written by Jamie Garwood
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