Well, tomorrow is Christmas and even a Jewish-half-Puerto-Rican like myself is getting swept up in the spirit. I just saw Santa ride by on the back of a fire truck in my neighborhood (don’t ask) and I’m pretty ready to start watching some Chr
istmas movies and get this over with. Honestly, I’ve been avoiding the Christmas of it all, but now that it’s right on top of me, I thought I might share a few Christmas flicks from my youth in that strange and far off decade of the 1990s. It was a simpler age when movies about children being left home alone, and a boy who vowed never to grown up would resume his vow after growing up; an age when men dressed as bats could have movies set at Christmas…then again…that is every age. An age when Christmas would be so well marketed that its Christmas movies might have almost no Christmas in them at all. So, without further delay, here is a list of a few Christmas winners from the decade of my learning everything I’d ever need to know–THE 90s.
Yup I started here. Of course, many things started here; not the least of which is my desire to hit burglars with paint cans and not kill them. Believe it or not, this is the first movie I ever saw Joe Pecsi in, and I had only known the voice of Daniel Stern from “The Wonder Years.” Catherine O’Hara I knew, of course, from Beetlejuice, and Michael C. Maronna I would later know very well from “Pete and Pet”e–but enough about my childhood and more about Christmas. In this loveable tale, marking the fall of John Hughs, young Kevin McCallister manages to wish his family away in a glaring oversight of parental responsibility and is left, ahem, Home Alone at Christmas. In a flurry of over sleeping, his parents manage to get a whole buttload of extended family into a set a vans and on their way to fly to a Christmas destination vacation with jerky Macaulay Culkin left behind to fend for himself for a few days. While he runs amok shaving, grocery shopping, watching gangster flicks (keep the change ya filthy animals), and generally having a really sad Christmas party with cardboard cutouts, the Wet Bandits aka Tommy DeVito…wait..I mean Harry and Marv, rob the neighborhood blind and leave their water running. Bastards. Only the sly eight-year-old and his house full of cleverly planned non-lethal (though in real life totally lethal) traps stands between the bandits and their Christmas success. What’s the deal with the creepy neighbor? Who else always thought that the gangster movie was a real movie until they were an adult? Was this actually John Candy’s last movie appearance? Did anyone stare at the traps map poster that came with the VHS on their wall for endless hours daydreaming as a kid? All these questions and less answered as you watch the trailer for this iconic 90s smash hit! (ALSO THE SCHOLASTIC BOOK NOVELIZATION AND TERRIBLE VIDEO GAME ADAPTATIONS! Just sayin’)
Yes, the sequel to Tim Burton’s Batman is a Christmas movie, if only in the most basic way: it is set at Christmas time. This movie did quite a bit for defining some traits for the Penguin for many years via Danny DeVito’s portrayal of him and does have an awesome scene in which his father–Pee Wee Herman–casts him into a freezing river. And really what’s more Christmasy than that? Having the movie set in the context of of the Yuletide really, to my recollection doesn’t do much put provide a backdrop for the Penguin to have many penguins marching down the street with missiles and other forms of artillery strapped to their backs. I mean, yes there are some elements to it like the aforementioned baby in the river, and the Penguin plotting to kill the first born male of every aristocrat in Gotham that make this move very
Passover Christmas appropriate? I dunno. I know that Christopher Walken is in it and he owns a Department Store…and Catwoman blows it up? And that’s a metaphor for something? Also, I guess, the movie spawned a lot of action figures (LIKE THE BATMAN FIGURE WITH THE GLIDERS!) and that is the most seasonal trick of all! Incidentally, this was also the first movie I saw any of these actors in as well–except for Michael Keaton whom I knew from the first Batman (and Beetlejuice of course). (ALSO THE SCHOLASTIC BOOK NOVELIZATION AND TERRIBLE VIDEO GAME ADAPTATIONS! Just sayin’)
In another move of marketing skill, this work from the mind of Steven Spielberg starring Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman asked the question: What if the Boy Who Never Grew Up grew up? A great concept, honestly, and in this case placing a movie at Christmas provided the perfect context for Peter Banning (nee Pan) to visit Granny Wendy with his wife and kids after a long absence from London Town. This movie is full of the magic and wonder one might expect from a Spielberg joint–and many of the inconsistencies as well. Regardless, the movie has a formidable main cast with the addition of Julia Roberts and Dame Maggie Smith (who, lets be honest, is just the spirit of Old English Lady). Honestly, I watched this movie just two days ago, have seen it dozens of times, and saw it four times in the theaters as a kid. The whole concept of Peter Pan is really attractive to me–as even as a grown up, I have refused to do so (read some of my posts for proof). The movie has its fair share of cameos including Glenn Close, Phil Collins, George Lucas, and Carrie Fisher. It has long left me with a sense of wonder and imagination from bangarang, to imaginary rainbow food, to desiring a golden sword. The element of Christmas in this movie is the perfect set up for rekindling strong family togetherness, rediscovering your inner child, and again lots and lots of merchandising. Honestly, I can say again that without a doubt I knew none of the actors in this movie until I saw it (with the notable exception of Bob Hoskins whom I knew from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?). It’s a lot of fun, but really doesn’t have much to do with Christmas proper. (ALSO THE SCHOLASTIC BOOK NOVELIZATION AND TERRIBLE VIDEO GAME ADAPTATIONS! Just sayin’)
And well, there are others. I mean, I could have written about The Santa Clause, Jack Frost, All I want for Christmas or any number of other crapfests from the 90s Christmas Season, but these really stick out to me as particularly iconic Christmas movies of the 90s for a few reasons. The biggest reason of all being that they really don’t have much to do with Christmas, but do have a hell of a lot to do with marketing. With the exception of Home Alone, these fims use Christmas as a non-essential backdrop to the plot, and probably all could have really done without it and gotten the similar effect. They all had a buttload of money tied in to them in merchandise, toys, and tie-ins though and that’s what thew 90s was all about: building franchises. So, as the franchise of American Christmas descends upon us, let us all remember to buy the Scholastic Novelization and the Crappy Video Game Adaptation of our own family gatherings–regardless of our particular beliefs because in America Christmas is about spending money…and all peoples can get behind that!
(All humorous cynicism aside, Happy Holidays everyone. Enjoy your families when and if you celebrate, and be safe and happy no matter what you do! And of course, a Festivus for the rest of us.)
Written by: Brandon Melendez