OK, with a name like "Weinberg," I wouldn't blame you for questioning my expertise in the arena of "Christmas." But I've been a big fan of the holiday, the season and (yes) even the music since I was old enough to ask my parents "Why don't Jews believe in Santa Claus?" (I stumped her on that one, I think.) And one of my very favorite things about Christmas are the traditional movies. (In my house, "traditional" Christmas movies include Scrooged, A Christmas Story, Gremlins, Die Hard, Black Christmas, Bad Santa and Christmas Vacation.) So when the newest crop of Xmas flicks hits the scene each year, I try to keep an eye out for the solid ones -- and then yesterday I saw a trailer for something called Deck the Halls.

Now, obviously one cannot judge a film without having seen the thing, but -- holy moley does this thing look like a cinematic abortion of the loudest and most hellaciously obnoxious order. Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick play a pair of neighbors who'll stop at nothing to prevent each other from having the flashiest Xmas-house on the block. Expect 79 minutes of horrible slapstick schtick by hateful characters and 11 minutes of warmed-up seasonal "warmth" that fits into the movie about as well as a tongue-kiss fits in at the dentist's office.

So anyway, the Deck the Halls trailer reminded me -- hey, there's been a whole BUNCH of really rotten Christmas comedies over the past few decades! At least seven, anyway! Which brings us to the list; all naughty, no nice. p>

Ernest Saves Christmas (1988) -- OK this one earns the #7 spot because I've always had a real soft spot for the late, great Jim Varney, but this is paper-thin material all the way -- and for every gag that works mildly well, there's two or three more that hit the snowy ground with an audible thud. To be fair, though, Ernest's second big-screen adventure (following Ernest Goes to Camp) is a whole lot less obnoxious than his later exploits. My apologies to those who can't get enough of Ernest Goes to Jail, Ernest Scared Stupid, Ernest Rides Again, Slam Dunk Ernest, Ernest Goes to Africa and Ernest in the Army. And yes, those are all actual movies. I know because (god help me) I've seen most of 'em.

The Santa Clause Series (1994, 2002, 2006) -- OK, the first one had a mildly clever concept and I haven't yet seen the third entry, but hoo BOY I'd like to know who it is helping these flicks to make so much freakin' money. When you're not being assaulted with Tim Allen's shameless mugging and the screenplays' endlessly ham-fisted comedy, you're swimming through seasonal treacle that has nothing to do with heart and everything to do with commerce. The second chapter is particularly bad, and that's the one that has Aisha Tyler in it!! I love Aisha Tyler! Still, it's nice to know that Judge Reinhold can collect himself a solid paycheck every few years.

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) -- There simply aren't enough adjectives in the English language to describe how much I loathe this empty, obnoxious and entirely soulless piece of sequel-time garbage. Take everything that worked in the original, amplify it to ear-smashing levels, suck out the few small traces of warmth and sincerity, and throw in a lot of extra pratfalls. And the thing has about as much to do with "the Christmas spirit" as Paris Hilton has to do with "the human race." The thing holds a place of dishonor right next to Ghostbusters 2, Caddyshack 2 and Blues Brothers 2000. Yeah, I hate it that much.

Christmas with the Kranks (2004) -- Based on a John Grisham story (cuz if Grisham is known for one thing, it's ... holiday comedy), this shockingly unpleasant lump of cinematic coal stars Tim Allen (what, does he HATE Christmas?) and Jamie Lee Curtis as a married couple who decide to avoid the conformity and commercialism of the holiday season and take a vacation during the Christmas break -- only to cave in and become desperate troglodytes when their co-ed daughter returns to the roost. Listless, lifeless and lazy in every sense of the word, this one's got to be one of the least appealing Xmas comedies of all time. (And here's something for your stocking. The complete directorial credits of Joe Roth (former head of Fox, Disney and Revolution) are as follows: Streets of Gold (1986), Revenge of the Nerds 2: Nerds in Paradise (1987), Coupe De Ville (1990), America's Sweethearts (2001), Christmas with the Kranks (2004) and Freedomland (2006).) Joe better hope Santa Claus isn't a big movie buff.

Santa with Muscles (1996) -- I guess it's kind of a cheat to include a John Murlwoski movie that stars Hulk Hogan and is called Santa with Muscles, but hey it's my list. And I once caught this movie on TNT and simply couldn't peel my retinae away from the vicious, gaping maw of its unrelenting awfulness. (Seriously though: "Santa with Muscles??" THAT'S your title?) Written by three first-time scribes who never worked again, featuring the humiliated visages of Garrett Morris, Ed Begley Jr., Clint Howard and a young Mila Kunis, "SWM" is precisely what you'd expect from a Christmas comedy directed by the guy who did Amityville: A New Generation, The Secret Agent Club and Terminal Error. (Although to be fair, I did enjoy his Black Cadillac.) The story of a grinch turned good is so freakin' rotten, it almost makes a Mr. Nanny / Suburban Commando double feature sound appealing. (I said almost.)

Surviving Christmas (2004) -- It took twowholewritingteams, the director of Deuce Bigalow, and the combined disinterest of Ben Affleck, James Gandolfini and Catherine O'Hara to deliver 2004's second piece of heartless and casually soul-deficient Christmas "comedy." The gag here is that a lonely millionaire would pay a lot of money to spend the holiday season with an average American schmo family. And get this: There's dysfunction, slapstick and pap on the menu! Dig in! It's like Meet the Parents, Kinda! Although Affleck took much of the blame for this fiasco, he seems to be the only one with half an interest in the thing. And to waste the little-seen skills of comediennes like O'Hara and Christina Applegate... Ugh, too depressing to dwell upon. But yeah: Gandolfini in a comedy. Great choice.

Jingle All the Way
(1996) -- Only the man who directed Problem Child 2, Beethoven, Snow Dogs, Are We There Yet? and both Flintstonesmovies could mount such an astronomically wrong-headed and hate-filled "Christmas" farce like this one. I don't know if the screenwriter did it on purpose or not, but Jingle All the Way just might be the most venal, mindless and distasteful movie to ever be affiliated with the yuletide season. (And yes that includes Silent Night, Deadly Night and its quartet of wretched sequels). With its endless deluge of horrifcally bad physical comedy, childishly half-baked swipes at consumerism and a schizophrenic tone that actually promotes what it's trying to lampoon, I'd call Jingle All the Way one of the very worst comedies I've ever seen -- and I once sat through that Jerry Springermovie! Pathetic, false and literally painful to watch.

Happy Holidays to all, including all of the filmmakers who helped to create the aforementioned films.

categories Features, Cinematical