It is widely accepted that the late 1940s films Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life, are everlasting Christmas classics which have withstood the test of time. Over the decades, various films earned the honour of being called a Christmas classic such as A Christmas Story (1983), Elf (2003) and the Polar Express (2004). Even the contentious choice of Die Hard (1988) garners enough favouritism to earn the title of Christmas classic. Rarely are new films put out that disrupt this delicate list of classics. However, Hollywood churns out multiple films each year, branded as Christmas films, in the hopes that they will make a quick buck. Maybe they think that they will hold up as the years go on, earning the honour of being dubbed a Christmas classic? So, in the last 10 years how can we determine whether we have watched any Christmas classics in the making?
Christmas films released in the last 10 years are sequels or remakes that no one asked for or they follow a cliché formula that ensures success in terms of the bare minimum. Rarely do we get an original story that gives us a greater appreciation of the Christmas season. Often, we are introduced to an archetypal Scrooge who needs to learn a particular lesson through latching onto the people closest to them and therefore learn the meaning of Christmas. Another favourite formula is that the character is a down on her luck woman who finds love just around the holidays. The stories are the same, predictable and offer little to Christmas cinema. When you think about movies such as Last Christmas (2018) it combines both cliché formulas with the result being a mediocre film that does little to ignite any sense of Christmas wonderment. An irreverent comedy with a huge rager at the centre of it is becoming a trope often seen in comedies and was poorly done in an attempt to fulfil all office employees dreams in Office Christmas Party (2016), this movie had its Scrooge and in the end was all flash over substance, hoping that the more Christmas junk they threw on screen the more the viewer would think to themselves they were watching a Christmas movie.
Netflix seems to be the worst offender as it not only produces these cash grab Christmas films but releases them in sequel after sequel. When films like The Princess Switch (2018), The Princess Switch 2: Switched Again (2020) and The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star (2021) or A Christmas Prince (2017) and A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby (2019) get released through the platform the effort seems low as does the production, script and directing. This is commercialisation at its finest and truly sucks the magic out of the Christmas season. Looking past Netflix, the recent remake of the Grinch (2018) turns the short made-for-TV film and extends its length, adding unnecessary story which at times strips the eponymous anti-hero of his depth and character.
Now, what do all these films lack? It’s true heart and a sense of the Christmas spirit. It is clear what the aim of the films are as you sit there and watch them, and it is not to fill your heart with Christmas cheer. It is to capitalise on Christmas because these stories offer nothing new; they are mediocre retellings of the classic tropes. However, Christmas films from the last decade such as Arthur Christmas (2011), Klaus (2019), Krampus (2015) and the Night Before (2015), stand a better chance at becoming future classics.
Danielle DerGarabedian – Political Correspondent