I Gave You My Heart🎁

Last Christmas gives you its heart. Merry Christmas everyone! There are so many movies and specials named after Christmas carols. It doesn’t surprise me that someone finally made a movie based on the hit song “Last Christmas” by Wham! Although the female friendly Paul Feig is the director, Last Christmas belongs to Emma Thompson. She co-wrote, co-produced, and co-stars in the movie. I suppose that makes sense considering her experience in fellow English Christmas rom-com Love Actually.

Last Christmas centers around unenthusiastic Christmas shop elf Kate. This was Emilia Clarke’s first role after Game of Thrones. She’s the perfect attractive rom-com lead and a surprisingly good singer. Clarke’s exotic look is given an explanation with Kate’s parents being from Yugoslavia. Thompson plays her overbearing Yugoslavian mother. Kate’s life is a mess, but she meets a handsome stranger who shows her the true meaning of Christmas. This would be Henry Golding’s second romantic performance after Crazy Rich Asians.

They never interact, but Michelle Yeoh also appears as Kate’s Christmas loving boss Santa. Clarke and Golding have natural chemistry that saves what could’ve been a forgettable premise. Like the titular song, the movie includes a literal heart transplant that makes the twist easy to figure out. The soundtrack is a fun wintery mix of Christmas carols, Wham! songs, and George Michael solos. Of course “Last Christmas” is played to death, but the final performance is a spirited number. Last Christmas is a nice gift for someone special.

Last Christmas

Tom tells Kate to look up

The Present of Parents

Four Christmases tries to bring people together in time for Christmas, but it only succeeds in tearing them apart. Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon play a mostly convincing couple. Although they didn’t get along on set since he’s more off the cuff and she sticks to the script. Brad & Kate are the kind of couple that never wants to get married or have kids. Not my favorite kind of people, but to each his own. They each belong to divorced families that they purposefully avoid seeing in order to take exotic trips. Until they get caught in their lie on live TV.

Four Christmases refers to each house they have to visit on Christmas day. Robert Duvall is Brad’s father who’s comfortable being poor. The rest of his family are stereotypical hillbillies that like to rough house. Mary Steenburgen is Kate’s new aged mother who’s seeing a pastor. The rest of her family are mostly women who like to tell embarrassing stories. Their story goes on a while with a whole Nativity play in between.

Sissy Spacek is Brad’s mother who’s awkwardly dating Brad’s childhood best friend. Jon Voight is Kate’s father who’s the only normal parent of the bunch. Not to mention their siblings played by other name actors like Jon Favreau, Kristin Chenoweth, and Tim McGraw. I got some amusement out of the cast and hijinks that ensue, but it’s a bit too cynical for me. Brad & Kate didn’t win me over with their alternative views, but even I couldn’t root for them when they start drifting apart. The rushed happy ending doesn’t make Four Christmases a tradition I want to endure again.

Four Christmases

Brad reacts to Kate’s nephew spitting up on her

The Mouse House

Home Sweet Home Alone is more soulless cash grab than Christmas classic. Disney wasted no time after the Fox merger. Although the last 2 movies aired on ABC, Home Sweet Home Alone is a more official Disney movie. They clearly didn’t believe in the project since it was dumped on Disney+ and quickly devoured by critics and longtime fans. They even admit in the movie that remaking a classic is always a bad idea. Yet they continue to milk a concept that only worked the first time.

Now we follow the Nazi friend from Jojo Rabbit (Archie Yates) as an obnoxious British kid who ends up home alone… sort of. Max Mercer isn’t really the focus of the movie. We barely get to know his mom or relatives before they’re whisked away. Any emotion is entirely off-screen and reserved for the “Wet Bandits” of the movie. That’s right, Disney can’t resist making the criminals who break into the house sympathetic and misunderstood main characters.

They’re seriously a married couple with a family who fell on hard times. Rob Delaney’s Jeff and Ellie Kemper’s Pam are just trying to recover a priceless doll they think the kid stole. They’re brutalized by traps ranging from juvenile to sadistic until the whole thing ends up being a huge misunderstanding. Making the whole movie a colossal waste of time. Macaulay Culkin was smart to refuse a cameo, but Buzz actor Devin Ratray wasn’t so lucky. Home Sweet Home Alone is more painful than any trap in the franchise.

Home Sweet Home Alone

Max with his new present

Preceded by: Home Alone: The Holiday Heist

Christmas: Impossible

Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas is more Christmas than Disney can handle. Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas may have been direct-to-video, but Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas is every bit the direct-to-video sequel sell out that most of them are. The primary difference is using computer animation on Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy for the first time in Disney history. Not counting Kingdom Hearts of course. The sequel has some similarities to the original, but segments are increased from 3 to 5 with pop up books in between.

Belles on Ice – The first segment focuses on both Minnie & Daisy. Mickey & Donald are only around for moral support. “Belles on Ice” gives the Disney ladies time to shine, but most of their time is spent fighting. They both get into a heated ice skating competition that includes the alligator and hippo dancers from Fantasia. Despite their pettiness taking up most of the story, they do come together in the end.

Christmas: Impossible – The second segment focuses on Huey, Dewey, and Louie. An ill-mannered Donald and polite Daisy aren’t nearly as important as Uncle Scrooge. “Christmas: Impossible” is about the mischievous boys mailing themselves to the North Pole where they hope to get on Santa’s nice list. Much like the first movie, this is my personal favorite story. The adventure in Santa’s workshop is fun, the elves are quirky, and Santa has plenty of heart. The message of thinking about others works its way through even if the boys had to mess up along the way.

Christmas Maximus – The third segment features Goofy, but focuses on his now grown up son Max. It’s nice to see Disney maintain some form of continuity between Max’s appearances. Even though I’m very much against Max being in love with anyone other than Roxanne from A Goofy Movie. “Christmas Maximus” is a mostly cliché story where Max is afraid Goofy will embarrass him in front of his new girlfriend Mona. It’s a mostly harmless series of antics that feels more like a music video set to the song “Make Me Look Good.”

Donald’s Gift – The fourth segment focuses on Donald. Ducks dominate the movie with Daisy, Huey, Dewey, and Louie making another appearance. “Donald’s Gift” has the most mixed message with Donald wanting to cozy up by the fire with hot chocolate, but constantly being annoyed with the song “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” I’ll always be filled with Christmas spirit, but I do understand some people wanting to be left alone.

Mickey’s Dog-Gone Christmas – The fifth segment features Mickey, but focuses on his pal Pluto. The normally cheerful Mickey goes overboard with Christmas decorations and yells at Pluto when he makes a mess. “Mickey’s Dog-Gone Christmas” is another cliché story where Pluto runs away from home, only to wind up in the North Pole. Donner and Blitzen are a comedic pair of reindeer who adopt Pluto until Santa has time to fulfill Mickey’s wish. Unlike the original movie, Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald, Daisy, Scrooge, Huey, Dewey, Louie, Goofy, and Max come together as part of the story.

In conclusion, Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas is something I watched just as much as the original when I was a kid. Though I don’t remember what VHS tape or DVD I saw it advertised on. The computer animation does feel unnecessary, but it’s really not that bad. Though there are more stories than there needs to be and most of them do go a little overboard, Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas is innocent fun.

Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas

Mickey and friends sing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”

Preceded by: Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas

Stuck on Christmas

Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas is the ultimate combination of Disney and Christmas. Although released direct-to-video, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas has more effort put into it than most Disney sequels made at the time. It’s actually the first feature length Disney movie featuring Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy in decades. If you consider 1 hour & 8 minutes to be feature length. The story is narrated by Kelsey Grammer and split into 3 roughly 20 minute segments that I can only talk about separately.

Donald Duck: Stuck on Christmas – The first segment features Donald, but focuses on his nephew’s Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Daisy, Uncle Scrooge, and one off character Aunt Gertie also appear along with a quick cameo from Chip ‘n Dale. It’s my personal favorite story, because I’m a big fan of the trio. “Stuck on Christmas” is about Huey, Dewey, and Louie wishing it was Christmas every day. Similar to a short story of the same name. Since I’m also a big fan of time loops, I enjoyed the boys having fun until they start to go crazy. Like most time loops, the second to last day is mean spirited, but the last day is where they discover the true meaning of Christmas.

A Very Goofy Christmas – The second segment features Goofy, but focuses on his son Max. In terms of the Goof Troop timeline, Max is younger than he was in the show. This story is filled with the kind of goofball charm you could only get from Goofy. He’s a real saint who gives to the less fortunate in his usual slapstick way. “A Very Goofy Christmas” is about Goofy trying to convince Max there’s a Santa Claus after his meddling neighbor Pete says otherwise. Goofy and Max share a special bond that results in the real Santa giving them what they always wanted.

Mickey and Minnie’s Gift of the Magi – The third segment focuses on both Mickey & Minnie. Of course Pluto is always by Mickey’s side and Minnie even gets Figaro from Pinocchio as her companion. Daisy and Pete appear, but they’re not animated exactly the same. “Gift of the Magi” is a more literal adaptation of the famous short story. Mickey & Minnie are such an innocent loving couple that it just fits in the best way. Like the original story, Mickey ends up trading his prized harmonica for Minnie’s present and Minnie trades her precious pocket watch for Mickey’s present. Both gifts are ironic, but given out of love.

In conclusion, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas has been a joy to watch since I was a kid. Ever since I saw it advertised on my Inspector Gadget VHS tape. The animation is refreshingly traditional and the voice cast is top-notch as usual. I suppose it is a little sappy, but sometimes that’s all a Christmas special needs to be. Only the finale brings everyone together as they sing a mashed up version of “Jingle Bells,” “Deck the Halls,” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas is a Disney movie filled with Christmas spirit.

Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas

Donald sees Huey, Dewey, and Louie opening presents

Followed by: Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas

Miracles do Happen

One Magic Christmas is the only Disney Christmas movie I’ve never heard of. Seems like it was just too forgettable to become a classic. I only discovered it thanks to a surprisingly short list of theatrical Christmas themed Disney movies. One Magic Christmas is just Disney’s attempt at It’s a Wonderful Life. In one of many Christmas movies with Mary Steenburgen, she plays the grump who’s low on Christmas spirit.

Ginny is a mother with a stressful job, an unemployed husband, and kids who want more than they can afford. Harry Dean Stanton is the ordinary looking angel Gideon tasked with bringing a little magic into their lives. At first One Magic Christmas seemed like just a run of the mill Christmas flick. Then I remembered it was the 80’s. Despite its G rating, the movie blindsided me with a sudden dark turn. A loved one is shot to death and they make you think children drowned in a river.

As if the unfestive looking snow wasn’t enough, they had to get real depressing. Santa & Mrs. Claus show up later on, but Santa’s grey bread and human elves in a drab work shop aren’t very inviting either. By the end, every horrible thing is reversed and Ginny learns to say Merry Christmas again. It’s a Wonderful Life earned that kind of happy ending because its lead was already a likable protagonist who deserved a second chance. One Magic Christmas is just a victim of its overly grim decade.

One Magic Christmas

The North Pole

Santa with a Shotgun

Fatman is a mixed bag. I’m not a big fan of R rated Christmas movies, but Fatman captured my attention the moment I saw the trailer. The trailer seems like just another Mel Gibson action movie. Until he’s revealed to be the one and only Santa Claus. The concept alone was enough to make me laugh, but Fatman is sadly a case of the trailer being better than the movie. Although the trailer makes it feel like a black comedy, those moments are few and far between.

Fatman takes itself very seriously. Mel Gibson is 100% committed to playing a hardened gun-toting Chris Cringle who lost his Christmas spirit. He has the beard and the belly, but this Santa isn’t very jolly. Yet he does genuinely care for the children who lost their way. This version of Mrs. Claus is a black English woman named Ruth who supports Chris through all his troubles. Santa’s Workshop is ran more like a business that has financial problems. Giving Santa no choice but to accept a military contract to build weapons.

As gritty as everything is, Santa’s reindeer are still present and elves are every bit the candy craving pointy eared little people they always are. Most naughty words are reserved for the Skinny Man and it only gets bloody near the end. The main conflict is a particularly naughty kid calling a hitman to off Santa when he gets a lump of coal for Christmas. Walton Goggins tries a lot harder than he needs to and manages to find the humor in this crazy situation. Fatman falls short of being entirely naughty or nice.

Fatman

Chris Cringle takes aim

Three Holiday Romances

Let it Snow is another young adult and/or Christmas movie in Netflix’s already packed library. I haven’t seen any original movies from those genres that Netflix is most known for. My only draw was the ensemble cast of young stars that I’ve seen from a bunch of teen movies and shows. You have Miles Morales, Dora the Explorer, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Ned from Spider-Man, Ben from Descendants, ghost girl from Goosebumps, and everyone else. Plus the story reminded me of Snow Day mixed with Love Actually. It’s basically an anthology that I can only talk about separately.

Julie & Stuart – This story is mostly my favorite. It pairs up Isabela Moner and Shameik Moore as Julie and Stuart respectively. Julie deals with getting accepted at Columbia while having a sick mother to care for. Stuart is a famous singer trying to escape his responsibilities. Their love story isn’t overly cliché. Although it is the usual opposites attract relationship. I just felt their chemistry made them a cute, if highly unlikely couple.

Tobin & Angie – This story is probably my second favorite. It pairs up Mitchell Hope and Kiernan Shipka as Tobin and Angie (aka Duke) respectively. Tobin has been in love with his tomboy best friend Duke forever, but she remains clueless. Things get complicated when an overly nice older jock threatens their potential love story and ex-con twins threaten them. Only second favorite since I’m a sucker for the best friends turned couple cliché. This story can just get really cringy at times with how Tobin comes across.

Dorrie, Addie, & Kerry – This story is my least favorite. Mostly because it barely gives you anytime to care about the featured romance. It’s more of a friendship story that pairs Odeya Rush and Liv Hewson as Addie and Dorrie respectively. They’re both obsessed with getting a pig as a present. Except Addie is kind of a bad friend who only cares about her clearly cheating boyfriend. A lot more time is spent on Addie getting life lessons from a far more interesting Joan Cusack as a tin foil snow plower. Kerry played by YouTuber Anna Akana is a cheerleader who Dorrie is in love with. No time is spent on the lesbian love story and it’s about as cliché as they come.

In conclusion, Let it Snow doesn’t really put you in the Christmas spirit. It’s more about snow and the Waffle Town that brings every character together. Thanks to a party thrown by Jacob Batalon’s character Keon. Apparently Let it Snow is based on a book written in part by John Green. After reading the book’s synopsis, I’d probably be a bit more annoyed with how little it matches up. No wonder the movie occasionally feels like Netflix checking off boxes for how to make a teen movie more PC. Let it Snow is harmless cheese, but not a budding Christmas tradition.

Let it Snow

Stuart walks with Julie

He’s an Angry Elf

The Christmas Chronicles 2 proved to be just as joyous as the original Netflix offering. I think I still prefer the unpredictable nature of The Christmas Chronicles, but the more fantasy filled sequel does the trick too. Rather than focus on the gimmick of a rugged Kurt Russell Santa stuck in the real world, we see what things are like in the North Pole. Goldie Hawn’s Mrs. Claus cameo is expanded into a featured role with way more attention given to the computer animated elves.

The Christmas Chronicles 2 follows a pre-teen Kate frustrated with her mom’s new boyfriend. She ends up teleported to the North Pole along with her potential step-brother Jack. While hunting a giant Yule cat, Santa brings the children into the shielded Santa’s Workshop. It’s a magical place with some modern inventions designed by Mrs. Claus. While I didn’t care for some cringy jokes, I couldn’t deny the real life love shared by Russell & Hawn. We even learn some backstory on Santa’s days as St. Nick. Including how he met the elves and received the “Star of Bethlehem” that powers the North Pole. Christian references like that are a nice touch.

The conflict comes from a naughty elf turned human named Belsnickel seeking revenge on Santa. This is the second power hungry character Julian Dennison has played. The Christmas Chronicles 2 is full of peril and even more unique Christmas themed ideas. Like Mrs. Claus baking sweet versions of healthy food or having magic Christmas cookies. Plus Santa time travels and sings another hip musical number with Darlene Love. With just as much heart as before, The Christmas Chronicles 2 is another Christmas hit from director Chris Columbus.

The Christmas Chronicles 2

Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus in the North Pole

Preceded by: The Christmas Chronicles

The Manger Babies

The Star is the unlikely blend of animated comedy and the Nativity of Jesus Christ. It’s a little awkward to see “From the studio that brought you Miracles from Heaven and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” but it works better than you’d think. Merry Christmas everyone! As a Christian, I’m always willing to watch the greatest story ever told. I just didn’t know how to feel after seeing the talking animals and occasionally juvenile jokes in the trailer. Especially considering this was Sony Animation’s follow up to The Emoji Movie.

It was a massive collaborative effort with an all-star cast despite the reserved animation. Fortunately, they knew how important this story is. Just as in the Bible, Mary of Nazareth is visited by an angel of pure light. She is to carry the son of God with the help of her husband Joseph. They follow the titular star to Bethlehem and bear the true king (and my savior) in a manger. All the while the evil King Herod threatens the birth. It is as it is written, but it’s the animals that get the attention.

With the Biblically appropriate use of Bo the donkey, Dave the dove, and Ruth the sheep. Along with camels ridden by the Three Wise Men and all the animals from the manger. They’re not quite sure what’s going on, but they know Mary needs to be protected when dogs are unknowingly sent after her. Even with the kid friendly comedic tone, they never forget to pray and acknowledge God. I couldn’t help but tear up when Jesus was finally born. It’s not a definitive take, but The Star is a sincere retelling of the true meaning of Christmas.

The Star

The animals witness the birth of Jesus