What do you think of when you hear the term holiday classic? Perhaps A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, or even The Nightmare Before Christmas for some of you. These are popular, beloved holiday films that many like turning to during the cold, cheery season. In 2018, three brand new Christmas films came to theaters. One was epic in scope, one remade another holiday classic, and one was just plain odd. Would this group of films bring to us a new, holiday classic for years to come?
Don’t know, but erring on the side of caution, probably not. At least, not because of their own quality. Let us venture forth into each of these films and give them a brief look.
Our first holiday film of the season was The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Now, we here at Adventures in Poor Taste! have already reviewed this film, so I won’t go into much detail here. I’ll keep my thoughts relatively brief and sum it up quite simply this way: This is what I like to call “Chronicles of Narina-lite” or “Diet Narina“.Nutcracker is about a young woman sometime before the turn of the twentieth century attending the Christmas Party of an old family friend. Her mother had passed and left her one last gift, one that needed a key to be opened. Playing a game in the mansion of the friend, she goes through a door and ends up in a wintry realm where her key resides. However, a rat steals it and things go crazy from there, running into a Nutcracker and several oddball rulers of this unique, strange land.
This is a story that wants to be epic in scale, invoke the feeling of a person falling into a strange world and being tangled in its internal, hazy politics and conflicts. It wants to show us nifty worlds and fascinating visuals & creatures. But in the end, it just feels like a ho-hum experience. We barely get to see any of the Four Realms, catching just quick glimpses of three while spending most of our time in a castle town. The visuals and designs are interesting, if gaudy, but they wear out quite since we spend so much time with just one area instead of bouncing back and forth between the worlds to keep things visually interesting.
The story is pretty forgettable, the plot slamming on the breaks at one point to tell its story through ballet, and the characters just kind of fade into the background. No one really turns in a bad performance from my point of view, but the only standout character is Sugar Plum Fairy played by Keira Knightley. She is just eating and chewing the scenery like nobody’s business, delivering a pretty captivating performance that you just can’t keep your eyes off of.There’s just not a whole lot to this film that it’s even worth talking about for long. If you want to see it, it’s best to see it with friends to riff on the whole way through. Not awful and certainly not the worst Nutcracker movie ever made by a long shot, but you could do better.
Our second Christmas film to be release was Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, or Illumination’s Grinch to separate it from other products. Again, we here at AiPT! have already reviewed this film as well, so I won’t get into much detail here either. Summing it up quickly like before: This is on the same quality level of the Jim Carrey version, but has different strengths and weakness to it.
You know the classic story of The Grinch. Green, furry guy lives up on Mount Crumpit, looking down on a town that seriously love Christmas a bit too much and hates them and the season. He learns a lesson at the end that Christmas isn’t one hundred percent capitalistic and returns all of the things he stole, avoiding jail time somehow. It’s fun and entertaining and for the most part, this version of the story is pretty much the same. However, it changes things that I’m not a fan of while also adding things I do like.Hitting the big negative, the Grinch’s motivation and everything around it is weak as hell. He doesn’t like the Whos or the season because of a bad experience as a kid in an orphanage that strangely seemed abandoned and/or does not celebrate the holidays. Everyone ignored him (which is weird since everyone seems pretty okay with him for most of the movie) and thus, he associates the time of year with his trauma. It’s not like he even fully hates the holiday, since he goes back and forth on it a lot of the time during the movie before his change of heart. Given how everything is written, this backstory just doesn’t work at all.
Positively, I did like some of the expansive material here. I did like seeing The Grinch go into details and his planning out how he was going to rob Whoville. It lent itself to some amusing bits as he was gathering his materials and figuring out the logistics of everything. I do really like the ending where Grinch is at the party before he carves the roast, showing how awkward everything is for him as he settles in with meeting all the Whos formally. We just usually cut straight from him giving the presents back to him then at dinner, so I admittedly got really into this part since it was new and kind of worked.
The rest of the movie is give and take. It’s a visually beautiful movie, but the narration & music just wasn’t that good at all. The humor missed a lot, but when it worked, it got a good laugh out of me (loved the Christmas Carolers gag). Cindy-Lou Who’s whole subplot didn’t feel like it went anywhere, but I liked her motivation and how it worked into the Grinch’s turn to good ultimately (frankly, it should have been the start of his change I felt). The ox was pointless, but I did really like Max in here and his relationship with the Grinch. The qualities and misses all balanced each other out in the end I felt.Of all three Christmas movies this year, this is the one that I feel may end up becoming a mainstay, like how Jim Carrey’s version did. Wasn’t very good, but it wasn’t too awful either in my opinion. You’re best just fast-forwarding through a lot of it to reach the good parts.
And then there is the third movie. Oh boy, there was a third holiday movie that came out and something I really want to talk about it. It wasn’t good by any stretch of the imagination, but dammit, I think I’ll probably end up watching it again over the others. For a very limited run in theaters, which is how I saw this, we had Elliot: The Littlest Reindeer.
Follow me down the rabbit hole. A few days before Christmas, Blitzen announces his retirement to go open a juice bar down in Florida, leaving Santa, the elves, and everyone scrambling to get a replacement. Enter Elliot, a miniature horse for a farm that raises goats for entertainment and potential reindeer replacements. This little guy wants to pull Santa’s sleigh so badly, but all of the reindeer just blow him off, including Donner’s son, DJ, while his owner barely gives him any attention. However, when an evil business woman with a vague accent shows up wanting to buy the farm and secretly turn all the animals into jerky, Elliot and his goat companion, Hazel, have to hitch a ride to the North Pole to get on the team. Get on the team, make the farm famous so it doesn’t need to be bought out.
Oh man, I don’t feel like I even got to fully cover all the crazy nonsense of this film in my brief description. I didn’t even mention the investigative reporter snooping around Santa’s workshop, the reindeer all being self-absorbed jackasses, Christmas Cookie doping scandals, the weather machine that can become a doomsday device, or even one of Santa’s reindeer in the past defecting to the Soviet Union to hook up with some girl. This is a weird movie from beginning to end. The story is bonkers through and through, leaving you asking so many questions and trying to focus on one thing before it jumps over to the next bit of nonsense it has up its sleeve.
And yet, it is so mesmerizing in its own weird way. This is bad no matter how you spin it with its weird, and somehow convoluted story; weakly written characters; the cliches that litter the plot; the animation that can’t make up its mind on whether it is detailed or not; and more. But I couldn’t take my eyes off of it, even as I was taking notes down the whole time just remember the fever dream I was seeing. It is beyond entertaining and so misguided, to the point where the surprise villain is actually right and has a ton of good points. This is a mess, but I loved every second of it. I’d talk more about it, but I don’t want to spoil it anymore than I already did.Forget The Nutcracker, and The Grinch. Elliot: The Littlest Reindeer is the film you got to watch for the holiday season. It’s awful, but enjoyable bad. It’s like a Netflix production from Canada somehow got released into theaters for a brief moment. Last time I checked, it is on some video streaming services and Amazon. You owe it to yourself to see it if you’re a fan of bad movies.
And that’s this year’s Christmas movies. Mediocre to awful, with one of them probably going to be remembered down the line despite everything. They all weren’t very good, but I still wholeheartedly recommend seeing at least one of them, if for the wrong reasons. Hope you have yourself a happy holidays and Merry Christmas.