Holiday movies bad enough to make you hate Christmas, bad Christmas movies, worst Christmas films

Holiday Movies Bad Enough to Make You Hate Christmas

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During the holiday season, there’s nothing like grabbing a mug of hot cider or a glass of eggnog, sitting down on the couch, turning on the TV, and watching one of the many classic Christmas movies. Man, there are some great ones out there: “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “White Christmas,” “A Christmas Story,” and, of course, “Ernest Saves Christmas.”

What’s that? You don’t consider “Ernest Saves Christmas” to be a classic? Okay, good. We were really just using that as a gauge, to make sure that you know the difference between a good holiday movie and a really, really bad holiday movie.

If you’ve already got that cider or eggnog handy, be sure it’s heavily spiked as you enter into our list of 15 flicks that, while they may have started with good intentions, turned out so terrible that they’d turn the sweetest guy in the world into Ebenezer Scrooge.

15To Grandmother's House We Go

(Warner Brothers, 1992)

To Grandmother's House We Go
Over the river, through the woods,
and into the Village of the Damned.

If we’re going to take a cheap shot during this list, better to get it over with at the beginning. And so, with great pride swelling in our heart, we present you with…the Olsen Twins Christmas movie. The script is a bit more developed than the usual flicks the kids did; this one is actually based on the song “Over the River and Through the Woods,” except that I don’t think there’s a lyric in the original tune that involves twin sisters getting kidnapped while en route to Grandma’s house. Director Jeff Franklin’s credits check out as far as him being up to the task – he wrote 30 episodes of “Full House,” thank you very much – and Franklin co-wrote the script with Boyd Hale, who was responsible for the composition of seven episodes for the series himself; we also get cameos from Bob Saget, Lori Loughlin, Candace Cameron, and Andrea Barber. (That’s Kimmy from “Full House.” I know, duh, like you didn’t know that already, right?) Otherwise, the comedy comes courtesy of Jerry Van Dyke and Rhea Perlman, which speaks volumes. There’s a review of this film on that assures us, “The Olsen girls are so talented and absolutely adorable. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a moron, no exceptions.” Damn. And here we were, finally just starting to feel good about ourselves. – Will Harris

15The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause

(Disney, 2006)

The Santa Clause
“A bad movie assembly line? Wow,
what a time-saver!”

We admit it: the first “Santa Clause” movie wasn’t that bad. It’s not a holiday classic on the level of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but all things considered, it’s pretty entertaining. Unfortunately, the sequel was rather underwhelming, possibly because it was just so unnecessary; it took eight years for Disney and Tim Allen to get around to making it, and by the time it’s over, your verdict is likely to be “not awful, but certainly not necessary.” As far as the third entry in the franchise, we haven’t even seen it. And we’re not going to…because here’s what we said in our review of the trailer. “The funniest joke here appears to be the one in the title. The trailer is 100% laugh-free. David Krumholtz – formerly known as Bernard the Elf – should be sending his agent a solid gold Mercedes this Christmas for getting him ‘Numb3rs’ and keeping him far, far away from this picture. As Santa is my witness, the only highlights are the clips from the first two films. It’s really that unfunny. Example: a kid tells Jack Frost (Martin Short) to ‘just chill,’ and he howls, ‘I invented chill!’ Ughhhhhh. Awful, awful, awful. Even the under-10 set should have better taste than to accept this.” Unfortunately, we were wrong when we theorized that the film would have a decent opening weekend and then vanish; as of this writing, it’s still hanging in there. There’s just no accounting for the taste of the American movie-going public. – WH

15Santa Claus: The Movie

(TriStar, 1985)

It’s less bad than a depressing missed opportunity, I suppose, but the mere concept of taking the story of jolly old Saint Nick and making him it into a holiday blockbuster seems destined not to live up to expectations. Calling the flick “Santa Claus: The Movie” makes it instantly reminiscent of “Superman: The Movie,” which is in no way coincidental; it was executive-produced by Alexander and Ilya Salkind, who presented the world with the first three “Superman” movies. Unfortunately, when it came to selecting the film’s director, they selected the guy who directed “Supergirl,” which, as superhero flicks go, was one of the weakest of the ‘80s. The first half of “Santa Claus: The Movie” is basically Santa’s “secret origin,” with the second half taking place in something approximating present day, dealing with the commercialization of Christmas. While they made a reasonably good choice with David Huddleston (a.k.a. The Big Lebowski himself) playing the title character, it was nothing short of stunt-casting that found Dudley Moore playing Santa’s right-hand elf Patch, and John Lithgow plays sleazy toymaker B.Z. like he seems to play every role nowadays: by taking it over the top and into the stratosphere. (There is, however, a nice cameo by Burgess Meredith as an elderly elf.) Although there are some funny bits, like B.Z. testifying before the Senate Subcommittee Hearing on Toy Safety, overall, the effects don’t hold up and the whole thing feels bloated, like it’s trying too hard to be an event movie. – WH

15Mixed Nuts

(TriStar, 1994)

Steve Martin in Mixed Nuts
At gunpoint, Steve Martin finally
admitted that he’d taken the part
strictly for the paycheck.

The streets of Hollywood are strewn with lifeless remakes of foreign films. It’s inevitable that they’ll continue, however, since it’s absolutely inconceivable than any red-blooded American could possibly appreciate a film with subtitles (with the exception, of course, of “The Passion of the Christ”). In the case of “Mixed Nuts,” some suit apparently saw "Le Père Noêl est une Ordure,” heard all the people laughing in the theater, and figured, “Well, I thought it sucked, but I’m sure it’d be much better if everybody was speaking English.” Wrong-o. Steve Martin was in the early days of his post-“L.A. Story” freefall when he played Philip, who runs a crisis – read, “suicide prevention” – hotline with Catherine (Rita Wilson) and Mrs. Munchnik (Madeline Kahn). Nothing spells happy holidays like gags about suicide, am I right, folks? Look, I enjoy dark humor as much as the next guy with a slightly sick sense of humor, but Nora Ephron, the queen of romantic comedies, never should’ve directed this, let alone co-written the script. Not only are potentially hilarious people like Martin and Kahn wasted, but so are Robert Klein, Adam Sandler and Jon Stewart. In fact, the funniest thing about “Mixed Nuts” is that some idiot – probably the same guy who had it made in the first place – decided to change the marketing campaign to focus on the holiday aspect of the film by superimposing a Santa hat on top of Steve Martin’s head on the poster. – WH

15Santa Who?

(Disney, 2000)

Peter Albright hates Christmas because, 25 years ago, his dad dumped him into an orphanage. A letter he wrote to Santa asking for a real family gets delayed en route, and his wish is never answered. Meanwhile, in the present day, Santa Claus (played well enough by Leslie Nielsen) falls from the sky, landing on Peter’s car. Pete just left his girlfriend’s place. She’s a single mom, and her son hates Peter but loves Christmas, and she hires Santas for a department store that goes through them faster than Spinal Tap does drummers. Fifteen minutes into this made-for-TV mess, you know how it’s going to end. This is “Miracle on 34th Street” if Santa had amnesia, and his lead elf was Tommy Davidson doing a very bad Damon Wayans imitation. Nielsen has a line early on which sums up this whole disaster: “The people go through the motions, but the spirit‘s not there.” – Mike Connolly

15Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie

(Legacy, 1998)

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Rudolph, with your nose so
bright, couldn’t you see how
badly the script sucked?

No, thank God, it’s not a live-action retelling of the perennial stop-motion favorite. Not that those specials are safe, mind you; this year, NBC brings us an update of “The Year Without a Santa Claus,” with real actors playing the parts. Possibly, and not coincidentally, the same person plays Santa in both that flick and this full-length animated feature: John Goodman. Of course, Goodman’s never been afraid to take a paycheck for a role in a sub-par flick – I’m thinking of “Blues Brothers 2000,” but I’m sure you all have your favorites – but at least in this case he was in particularly good company, with Bob Newhart, Eric Idle, Debbie Reynolds, Whoopi Goldberg, and, uh, Richard Simmons all selling their voices to this production. As noted, it’s not the same Rudolph story that Rankin-Bass brought us. This time, young Rudolph suffers a childhood accident that sees his nose turn from black to glowing red, resulting in teasing from his peers and, indirectly, a major loss in the annual Reindeer Games; dejected, Rudolph skips town, moves into a cave with Slyly the Fox, and begins smoking crystal meth. Okay, not really…but the only reason I’m telling you that is so you don’t think, “Hey, this could be interesting!” The animation’s sub-par, the songs are a snooze (the grand finale involves a Bill Medley/Jennifer Warnes duet, so don’t say you weren’t warned), and…well, basically, why would you remake a classic like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and not give it 100%? It’s a rhetorical question…unless you worked on the film, of course, in which case you damned well owe us an answer! – WH

15Ernest Saves Christmas

(Touchstone, 1988)

There is evidence to suggest that Jim Varney – who played Ernest T. Worrell, the lead character in all nine films in the “Ernest” franchise – was actually a very talented thespian, but as many a serious actor can tell you, there’s a lot more money in hamming it up as a borderline retarded redneck than there is in high art, and when opportunity came knocking, Varney didn’t just open the door, he kicked it right the fuck in. On the “Ernest” continuum, “Ernest Saves Christmas” is neither as good as “Ernest Goes to Camp” nor as bad as “Ernest Goes to Jail,” which is to say that it isn’t the worst “Ernest” film you could possibly watch…but still, you know you’re in a certain amount of trouble whenever you utter the words “not as good as ‘Ernest Goes to Camp.’” The plot, such as it is, revolves around Santa’s efforts to persuade a recently fired children’s television host to take over his business. Saint Nick ends up being arrested – the cops keep calling him “Mr. Santos” – and Ernest has to help restore order. All you really need to know, though, is that if your idea of a good time is watching a grown man strain so hard to mug it up that he sometimes literally sweats, “Ernest Saves Christmas”is for you. This is the kind of film in which all a person has to do to spring someone from jail is impersonate the governor’s assistant, every third shot is a spit take, and a man who has a crate full of reindeer dropped on him is later seen clinging “flattened,” Wile E. Coyote-style, to the side of the box. No amount of bourbon in your eggnog can make this movie palatable. – Jeff Giles

15Home Alone 3/Home Alone 4

(Fox, 1996/2002)

Historically speaking, we think you have to go back to “Halloween: Season of the Witch” to find a sequel that contains absolutely no one from any of the previous films to even tie it to the franchise. Basically, “Home Alone 3” just finds another kid and puts him in the same situation that Macaulay Culkin had been in. In fact, the only things you could even possibly argue that tie this to the two Culkin flicks is a) they both take place in Chicago, and b) there’s a quick shot of the McCallister’s house at one point. Otherwise, this is nothing but an excuse to make a few bucks off the “Home Alone” name, and make no mistake, there’s nothing but the name to draw you to this flick. At the time it was made, it had no one particular notable in its cast, and although it might make you smirk to learn that one of the kids was played by Scarlett Johansson, trust me, it’s not worth renting the flick just to catch her appearance. What’s probably most shocking is that John Hughes made it three for three and wrote this script as well as the first two “Home Alone” films…but, then, Hughes’ quality control had really dropped off by this point, so we like to think that he just really needed the money. As far as “Home Alone 4” goes, all you need to know is that it was a TV movie, it tried to use the same characters as in the first two flicks by completely recasting them with actors who looked nothing like the originals, and that the funniest person in the film is French Stewart. French Stewart, people. – WH

15National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2:
Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure

(Warner Brothers, 2003)

Christmas Vacation 2
Randy Quaid, with your
nose so bright, couldn’t
you see how badly the
script sucked?

It’s not exactly breaking news that films coming out under the “National Lampoon” name tend to be excruciating viewing experiences; it’s been that way ever since they started going the straight-to-video route (and, arguably, about five years before that). Still, it’s one thing when they put out awful standalone films, but when you start tarnishing the reputation of a Chevy Chase franchise, you’ve gone too damned far! We’re not saying that Randy Quaid’s portrayal of Eddie Johnson isn’t funny; we’re just saying that Cousin Eddie’s a character that cannot – nay, should not – be given his own film, especially when it’s as bad as this one is. The premise is straight out of a later, less-funny “Simpsons” episode, with Eddie getting bitten by a chimpanzee who’s better at his job than he is, and getting a tropical vacation from his employers to avoid a possible lawsuit. It’s notable that Dana Barron plays Audrey Griswold, making it the first time any actress has ever played the role twice; it also answers the question, “Which of the actresses to formerly play Audrey Griswold needs work the most?” Audrey’s dad may not be in the film, but Eddie still manages to drag his cousin Clark down, anyway. After all, “Christmas Vacation” was pretty much the last funny film Chevy Chase did, and now, it’s forever going to be associated with this travesty. – WH

15Surviving Christmas

(Dreamworks, 2004)

If you dare sit through all 91 excruciatingly painful minutes of "Saving Christmas," be prepared to reek of sweat, anger and shame upon its conclusion. The movie is that bad. It’s so bad, in fact, that it was tossed on to DVD a mere nine weeks after its theatrical release – which, by the way, happened to be on October 22nd. And if you're thinking to yourself, "Boy, that seems a tad early for a Christmas movie," well, then, you'd be right. Not only did this movie have a horrible script and a shitty cast, but it also possessed perhaps the worst marketing team in the history of cinema. Of course, you can hardly blame them for a film that centers around a grade-A doofus (played by real-life doofus, Ben Affleck) who pays an already dysfunctional clan to pretend to be his family for the holidays. Oh, and hijinks ensue…but you knew that already, didn't you? James Gandolfini does his best to play anybody other than Tony Soprano (and fails miserably), while Catherine O'Hara redefines over-the-top with harrowing results. – Jason Zingale

15Jingle All the Way

(20th Century Fox, 1996)

Jingle All the Way
The critic who declared this
“Non-Stop Fun” got coal in
his stocking that year.

This could have been either a good comedy vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger or a warm kid’s movie, but it tried to be both, and, as such, turned out to be neither. It’s full of broad, physical slapstick that’s just not Arnold’s strength, although he can be funny; check out “True Lies” to see what he can do with a good script and dry humor. Here, Arnold’s co-star is Sinbad, playing a postal worker who is…wait for it…crazy. Arnold’s character, however, spends more time at work than he does at home, thereby missing most of the important things in his son’s life. Rita Wilson plays his neglected wife, while Phil Hartman is a randy neighbor with designs on said wife, and Robert Conrad is a cop who is constantly thwarting Schwarzenegger in his quest for the Perfect Toy that will win back his son. This is certifiably the worst use ever of such an impressive cast. In the end, after much hilarity reportedly ensues, Dad ends up the physical embodiment of the Perfect Toy, Hartman gets soaked in eggnog, Mom forgives her husband for years of neglect, and an animatronic reindeer gets drunk. Bah, humbug. – MC

15How the Grinch Stole Christmas

(Universal, 2000)

This is probably the one we’ll get the most flack for including on our list, but, dammit, we stand by it…and, for the record, our presumption is that the Grinch was able to steal Christmas because his film put every Who in Whoville to sleep with a back story about Mr. Grinch that goes far deeper than we ever needed to know. That’s right, we said it. Ron Howard is a consistently enjoyable director – if not necessarily groundbreaking – when it comes to making popcorn pictures, and the malleable Jim Carrey is unquestionably the only person who could’ve pulled off the facial expressions of the Grinch, but, c’mon, people, the original animated special was only 26 minutes long. It was sleek, without a wasted moment, and it was so good that, up until his death, Dr. Seuss himself refused to sell the movie rights to his classic Christmas story because he felt the Chuck Jones cartoon couldn’t be topped. He was right. Too bad his widow didn’t agree, signing the lucrative deal that resulted in this overlong 105-minute monstrosity. While we wouldn’t go so far as to write the flick off with a simple “stink Stank STUNK,” the script by Jeffrey Price & Peter S. Seaman is just too damned long. That, and the Whos look disconcertingly creepy rather than cute. Rule of thumb: if you’re looking at your watch before the halfway mark of the flick, it’s a bad holiday movie, meaning that, at least as far as we’re concerned, “The Grinch” qualifies. – WH

15Christmas with the Kranks

(Sony, 2004)

Christmas with the Cranks
Moments later, Jamie Lee Curtis lost
her grip and went into career freefall.

To simply attribute the failure of this film to the Tim Allen Christmas Curse (see “The Santa Clause 2” and “3” for more details) would be easy enough, but, to cut Allen some possibly undeserved slack on this occasion, it doesn’t wash. You can’t blame these woefully unfunny shenanigans strictly on Allen, because he’s teamed with a comedic cast that includes Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, Cheech Marin, Tom Poston, Caroline Rhea, Erik Per Sullivan (a.k.a Dewey from “Malcolm in the Middle”)…and the proceedings still suck like a freaking Hoover. My God, how bad must a film be if they can’t even find anything good for a character-actor warhorse like M. Emmett Walsh to do? Allen plays Luther Krank, a fellow who, after embracing Christmas for his entire life, abruptly decides he’s fed up with the commerciality of the holiday. Since his daughter’s going to be away, anyway, Luther convinces his wife that the two of them should instead go on a vacation together. Seems reasonable enough…except that everyone in the neighborhood would appear to be Conservative Christians who require that the Kranks celebrate the birth of their Lord Jesus Christ or suffer the consequences. (Ironically, I’m sort of kidding; in fact, I don’t believe the word “Jesus” is ever actually spoken in this film. Ho, ho, ho.) When daughter dearest decides to come home after all, the aforementioned unfunny shenanigans begin in earnest as Luther tries to make up for lost time and celebrate the holiday after all. As he’s attempting to swipe himself a Christmas tree, neighborhood kid Spike (played by Sullivan) asks him, “Are you sure this isn't illegal?” Yes, I’m pretty sure stealing is illegal, but, sadly, making shitty films remains within the scope of the law, which is a shame, because this is a major-league offender. – WH

15Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

(Embassy, 1964)

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
“So you say the special effect
budget for this film is only $16.74?
Ho, ho, ho!”

Hooray for Santy Claus! We know, you thought this was going to be #1, didn’t you? Nah, we couldn’t do it. It’s too easy. But it’s such a staple of bad holiday movie lists that it was a lock at #2, predictability be damned. And, of course, it is predictable; the film was played on “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” for God’s sake, making it the textbook definition of bad. But have you seen it? Because, seriously, it’s bad enough that Pia Zadora being in the cast is something you’d put in the “plus” column. The Martians, who have crazy names like Girmar, Bomar, and…hey, wait a second: do you think it’s coincidence that their names all have “mar” at the end, making them reminiscent of the word “Mars”? Huh. I just got that. Sorry, where was I? Oh, right, the Martians are worried that their children are watching too much Earth television, and they decide that they’re going to make Santa Claus the scapegoat for the whole planet. (I bet Santa’s regretting that high media profile now.) It’s been claimed that the script has a Cold War subtext, but, c’mon, that’s about as likely as Pink Floyd intentionally synching up Dark Side of the Moon to ”The Wizard of Oz.” Great story, and one you’d like to believe to be true, but there’s just no way. By the time you read this, a stage version of “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” will have premiered at the Maverick Theater, in Fullerton, CA. Hey, it worked for “Reefer Madness.” – WH

15Santa with Muscles

(Legacy, 1996)

Santa with Muscles
And just like that, “Mr.
Nanny” became the high
point of the Hulkster's
acting career.

Somewhere, there exists – maybe on the back of an envelope, possibly on a coffee-stained napkin, but almost certainly not on a proper piece of paper – a bit of scribbling by one of the executive producers of this film. It’s not much, only five words, but it was apparently enough to get this picture green-lighted. Those five words were, of course, “Hulk Hogan is Santa Claus.” If that’s not “high concept” with some serious emphasis on the word “high” – as in, you’d have to be to think this was a good idea – I don’t know what is. It’s not like the Hulkster’s credibility as an actor was that strong to begin with, given that the highlights of his résumé were such, um…geez, what’s the opposite of “diamonds in the rough”? (Lumps of coal. – Ed.) Whatever it is, that’s what “Suburban Commando” and “Mr. Nanny” are. In “Santa with Muscles,” Hogan plays a rich asshole who, as a result of running from the police while wearing a Santa outfit (please don’t ask why), hits his head and falls victim to the Hollywood ailment known as Plot-Convenient Amnesia. He wakes up, sees the outfit, and ends up being convinced that he’s the real Santa Claus…because, of course, anyone would fall for that…and then roughs up some thugs, saves some orphans, and – apparently off-screen – has a lobotomy that results in him learning the true meaning of Christmas. If you aren’t scared yet, I’ll just add three further words that’ll put fear in your heart: “Hulk Hogan sings!” I don’t suppose I need to add the additional three words “not very well,” do I? Yeah, I didn’t really think I did. – WH

Honorable Mention:The Star Wars Holiday Special

It’s not a movie, but at 97 minutes, it’s as long as one. And if you’re one of the few individuals who can watch it from start to finish, you’ll feel like you’ve endured a dozen consecutive showings of “The English Patient,” so we feel it deserves a mention. In 1978, “Star Wars” mania was at its height, and some genius at Fox said to George Lucas, “Dude, we should totally do a ‘Star Wars’ Christmas special1” George, to his everlasting regret, decided this was a good idea, figuring it would keep the “Star Wars” name visible until the next movie made it to theaters. Lucas supervised the original script, but he was busy working on “The Empire Strikes Back,” so he left things in the hands of producers Ken and Mitzie Welch, resulting in a special brought to you by Bad Idea Jeans. Everyone from the original flick returns…although Carrie Fisher has since claimed to have no recollection of ever participating (and her heavily-dilated pupils will make you believe her)…to help Chewbacca celebrate Life Day on the Wookie home world with his wife (Malla), his son (Lumpy), and his dad (Itchy). Special guest stars include Art Carney, Bea Arthur, Harvey Korman, Diahann Carroll, and Jefferson Starship! Of the 97 minutes, precisely ten minutes are consistently watchable: an animated segment which contains the first-ever appearance of Boba Fett. After its one showing, the special was promptly locked in the LucasFilm vault, where it will likely remain forever. Though many have said it before, we must echo the sentiment that if you think this sounds hilarious and is a must-see, then borrow it. Do not spend any money to obtain a bootleg copy. You will only feel ripped off. And with that, what else can we say but...Happy Life Day, everybody! – WH

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