The industry, er, holiday known as Christmas dominates not only the last two months of each year, but has also spawned its own genre of film. There are good holiday flicks (‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’), mediocre ones ('Jingle All the Way') and ones so awful, we'd rather drink expired egg nog than be forced to sit through them ('Christmas With the Kranks'). And then there are the films set during Christmas that over time have become required viewing for anyone who is sick of yet another airing of 'Miracle on 34th St.'
Sure they’re set during the Christmas season, but they wouldn't be played in a double feature with 'It’s a Wonderful Life.' Here are seven Christmas-y movies that aren't actually about Christmas.
'Look Who's Talking Now'1993
Third installments of hit comedies are usually the point when the laugh train runs out of ha-ha gas. So it's no surprise that 'Look Who's Talking Now,' the final chapter of the John Travolta/Kirstie Alley talking baby franchise, allowed us to hear the thoughts of the family dogs played by Danny DeVito and Diane Keaton. While one would assume that is enough cinematic gold, the audience is also treated to their escapades during Christmas time! The film could've easily been set at any other time during the year, but perhaps the writers chose Christmas so they could put Kirstie Alley in an embarrassing elf costume. She was a diva in her post 'Cheers' days after all...
Amid all the Gizmo cuteness and Gremlin renditions of 'Heigh Ho,' it's easy to forget that this '80s classic is set during the holiday season. While it's not the bloodiest Christmas movie ('Silent Night, Deadly Night' has it beat), it did help to influence the MPAA to create the PG-13 rating. Plus, the film is full of so much anti-Christmas venom, you’d swear the ghost of Scrooge wrote the screenplay and gave it to the Grinch for revisions. Remember Phoebe Cates' famous speech about her dad dressing up like Santa and falling down the chimney on Christmas? Watch it below, and be prepared to never look at a mall Santa the same way again.
Christmas Eve is just the set-up to this classic action flick. Aside from the Christmas party that Hans Gruber and his gang of thugs of indeterminate European origin crash, there isn’t too much Christmas-y about it. John McClane punches, shoots, stabs and explodes terrorists/bank robbers while Christmas trees shine in the background, just to remind you what time of year it is. 'Die Hard 2' repeated this glorious formula of explosions and pine trees, but added the nuisance of holiday air travel.
Another example of Christmas gone creepy is the less successful follow up to Tim Burton’s insanely popular first Batman film. Gotham City gets decked out for Christmas in the sequel, but with Burton’s stylistic approach, it looks more like Charles Dickens’ London than The Dark Knight's hometown. While Catwoman's dumb line about a kiss under the mistletoe being deadly causes Bruce and Selina to realize each others' secret identities, there's really no other reason that his summer blockbuster should take place during Christmas. If you take away the decorations, and the scene where the Ice Princess meets her demise while lighting the Christmas tree, you just have Batman fighting a bunch of clowns on a really cold night. Still, it can easily be sandwich between 'Edward Scissorhands' and 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' for a very Burton-y Christmas movie marathon.
Since this Billy Wilder classic is set in a German POW camp, it's hardly any wonder that yuletide merriment is more of an afterthought. Apart from a few brief scenes, Christmas takes a backseat and is treated as just another day during World War II. In fact, the only thing even vaguely festive is a scene featuring an off-key rendition of ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home’, which has a strange black-and-white charm. A good, offbeat choice for a non-Christmas film set at Christmas.
The first 'Rocky' was a simple story of an underdog who, through hard work, became a champ. The fourth installment, however, is pure Cold War wish fulfillment. Rocky not only flies to the USSR and beats up the Terminator-esque Ivan Drago, he does it on Christmas. (This film has "secret CIA financing" written all over it.) There’s nothing really Christmas-y about the movie, aside from Rocky wishing his son a Merry Christmas at the end. At least, that's what we think he said. It's hard to tell with Rocky. He may have said "Maggie Grimace, Tad" for all we know.
Perhaps the ultimate movie set at Christmas that has absolutely nothing to do with holiday cheer, 'Brazil' starts off with a pretty bleak scene: a family listens to Tiny Tim's words of wisdom from 'A Christmas Carol' on the telly, when suddenly the secret police barge in and arrest the father in a case of mistaken identity. (Check out the intense scene below.) Welcome to 'It's a Wonderful Life' meets George Orwell's '1984.' Christmas pops up from time to time during the film in the form of trees and decorations, and also as a delicious metaphor for rampant consumerism and alienation -- in one memorable scene, Robert De Niro's character Tuttle is smothered in paper while holiday shoppers barely notice. Though peppered with Christmas imagery, 'Brazil''s Kafkaesque plot is so far removed from the holiday that it transcends cloying sentimentality.