I have a few rules about holiday movies. I must have a happy ending; I don’t mind crying a little before we get there, and I don’t want anything mean or gross. The Number One rule is that I don’t watch any winter holiday movies until noon on Thanksgiving. That is when Santa Claus shows up on TV at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade (like he does in the movie Miracle on 34th Street) and Helen Leicht plays “Alice’s Restaurant” on WXPN.
Your family probably enjoys their own holiday movie traditions, like A Charlie Brown Christmas or Elf or Home Alone. Our Kids Corner family Robert Drake and Eric Schuman are very fond of stop motion animated TV specials from the Rankin/Bass Company that run this time of year (Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer). Hanukkah and Christmas week are the same in 2016, with lots of opportunities to discover beloved family movies. Winter holidays warm us inside and outside, so let’s warm up our dvd player to share some great holiday movies!
Meet me in St. Louis (1944)
A year in the life of the Smith Family of St. Louis as they prepare for the 1903 World’s Fair. THIS MOVIE MAKES ME HAPPIER THAN ANY OTHER MOVIE IN THE WORLD. While there’s a famous Halloween scene, this movie is considered a Christmas movie because it features the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” I first saw this movie when I was 10, which is a good age to start watching it.
Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962)
An animated musical version of Dickens’ classic tale with Mr. Magoo as Scrooge. Mr. Magoo was a cartoon character in olden TV times, and they get rid of the annoying Mr. Magoo stuff (bumping into things because he's nearsighted) before the actual story begins. Once the story begins, it’s a beautifully traditional approach to the story with music by team who wrote another of my favorite musicals, ‘Funny Girl.” The songs are wonderful, especially “The Lord’s Bright Blessing,” where Tiny Tim yearns for “razzleberry dressing.”
The Muppets’ Christmas Carol (1992)
This wonderful musical version of the traditional Christmas story blends live actors like Michael Caine (as Scrooge) with Muppets in other roles. Kermit and Miss Piggy play Bob Cratchitt and his wife. Like Mr. Magoo, this movie takes the story seriously and does not go overboard with silliness. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlRpGj7LWS4 Arthur Christmas/(2011) What? You never heard of this movie? Neither had I!! But I’m glad I discovered it and love it. Santa is able to deliver billions of presents in one night because of a high tech setup at the North Pole. When one kid gets missed, it’s up to Santa’s clumsy youngest son Arthur to deliver that one present before Christmas Eve is over. This imaginative movie says a lot about families and sibling rivalry and love. Most of all, it’s very entertaining and original!
An American Tail (1986)
This movie starts in 1885 with a Hanukkah celebration in Russia where a mouse family (The Mousekewitzes) lives in the house of a human named Moskowitz. Papa Mousekewitz gives his hat to his son Fievel and tells him stories of America, where he claims there are no cats. The celebration is interrupted by an attack by humans and cats that destroys their village. The Mousekewitz family escapes and heads to America by sea, but Fievel is thrown overboard and separated from his family. This movie is about the family’s efforts to find each other. This satisfies 2 of my movie rules: there is a happy ending, and I cry getting there. One of the reasons I cry is the song “Somewhere Out There” sung by Fievel and his sister across the miles.
A Rugrats Chanukah (1996)
When Grandma Minka reads a book about the meaning of the holiday to Tommy, Chuckie, Phil and Lil, they imagine themselves and the other Rugrats in the story. Their bully Angelica becomes the villain in their pretending. The babies visit a synagogue, where Grandpa Boris and his rival are fighting over the Chanukah play. This episode of the Rugrats TV series includes latkes, a menorah, a dreidel and lots of singing and happiness. It’s a wonderful celebration of the holiday while we learn the story of the Chanukah miracle.