Holiday Movie Madness
Your Kids Can Learn Something from These Charmers
The blockbuster holiday movie this season is the animated 3D film Arthur Christmas, which opened in theaters the day before Thanksgiving. But in the current economy, with shopping to do, a family trip to the movies may not be the most affordable excursion.
Fortunately for the financially strapped, there are few better ways to enjoy the holiday season than to snuggling on the couch with your family to watch a movie. Pour the hot chocolate (milk, not water). Bake some gingerbread cookies. Pop on a movie.
No shortage of holiday movies exist. But the great thing about Christmas-related movies is they can not only be entertaining, but they can also be inspiring, motivational, even educational. This is a good opportunity to spend time with your children, keep them entertained and impart some wisdom.
A Christmas Story (1983)
Set in the 1940s, Ralphie wants one thing and only one thing for Christmas: a Red Rider BB gun. But everyone, even Santa, tells him the toy of his dreams is too dangerous (“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid,” is the phrase he keeps hearing). On top of that, Ralphie is having a rough go in just about every other area of his life, as he gets in trouble at home and is bullied at school.
But in the end, Ralphie’s dream came true. He gets the BB gun for Christmas. And guess what he does? Shoots himself in the eye.
A bit irreverent, A Christmas Story is funny enough to have the entire family laughing.
Moral of the story: The movie is loaded with life lessons for children: Don’t cave to peer pressure; sometimes you have to face a bully; watch your mouth. But the greatest lesson, perhaps, is that dreams do come true.
Home Alone (1990)
There is a reason this movie grossed more than $500 million and catapulted Macaulay Culkin into super stardom. He plays 8-year-old Kevin who gets left behind when his large family goes to France for Christmas. A couple of burglars who’ve been hitting his ritzy neighborhood realize the kid is home alone and look at the home and all its filler as easy pickings. But Kevin — using toys, household appliances and MacGyver-esque smarts — gives them a rude awakening while protecting his house.
The slapstick and one-liners makes for rousing hilarity. Kevin’s loneliness and the mom’s desperation to get back home provide the necessary mushiness.
Moral of the story: For parents, the lesson is easy: Keep your eyes on your kids. For young ones, the movie could serve as a tale of empowerment, or resourcefulness. More than likely, however, it will be fun for them to watch a child toy with adults.
A Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Jack the Pumpkin King is tired of Halloween Town. The act has grown old and he longs for something new, something fresh. Walking through the forest, he discovers Christmas Town. He doesn’t quite get Christmas, but he’s enamored enough to dive in. Of course, his Halloweenish twist to Christmas ruins the holiday. He winds up back where he belonged, appreciating what he had.
If the stop-animation graphics don’t capture you, the creativity of the storytelling will.
Moral of the story: Learn to be content with what you have. As the saying goes, “If the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, you can bet the water bill is higher.”
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Kris Kringle had the heart of Santa Claus. He brought the joy of Santa Claus. He even had the look of Santa Claus. But when he claimed to actually be Santa Claus, he was deemed crazy and put in a mental institution.
But after all his suffering, Kringle found vindication. Not just because a young lawyer decided to fight his case and win. But because he gets to experience how his acts of kindness and giving have touched people — in the form of 50,000 letters from people.
The Oscar-nominated film is indeed heart-warming. However, being a black and white film, it may not be the eye candy to which your children are accustomed.
Moral of the story: Being kind pays off. It may expose you to persecution. You may wind up ostracized. But when you’re good to people, things usually work out in the end. Certainly, you will have all the support you need.
The Santa Clause (1994)
After accidentally offing Santa, Scott Calvin, played by Tim Allen, is compelled to take over the role himself. He starts to look like Santa, then develops Santa’s appetite and Santa’s uncanny ability to decipher who’s naughty and nice. Before long, he’s convinced he is the face of Christmas, and he has to convince others. He does such a good job that his ex-wife thinks he’s crazy, and he loses visitation rights to see his son.
Hobbled by disappointment and doubt, Scott gets the motivation he needs from his son, who believes he is Santa. His son helps him deliver the presents and convince his ex-wife Scott is Santa. As a result, his visitation rights are restored and the father and son have an even stronger bond.
Moral of the story: Include your children, even in your work. Make time for your kids, for their happiness is even more rewarding than whatever pulls you away from them.
A Christmas Carol (2009)
This movie, based on the classic Charles Dickens novel, has been made multiple times. The latest, featuring Jim Carey, packs the eye candy your child may prefer since it's in 3D animation. Carey plays Ebenezer Scrooge, a frugal curmudgeon. But encounters with ghosts and spirits help him to see the flaws of his character and change his ways.
Moral of the story: There is joy in giving, perhaps more than in receiving. Few things feel as good as bringing happiness to someone else.
A comedy about a human raised on the North Pole, Elf is a movie about family and self-identity. Will Ferrell plays the human who was raised to be an elf. Eventually, Santa tells him who he really is and he sets out to find his family in New York, where he encounters drama with his biological father and struggles to forge an identity. Mixed in with the laughs is a heart-warming story about family, acceptance and self-love.
Moral of the story: Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Struggles and difficulties may come with who you are, where you’re from, your history and culture. Your family may not be perfect. But they all make up your true self, which is unique and should be embraced.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
The Jim Carey version takes the cartoon version, which is based on the Dr. Seuss book, and spruces it up with special graphics. But the plot is still the same: the Grinch, bitter and selfish, robs Who-ville of Christmas — stealing gifts, decorations, food. But he had his world rocked when he sees the people of Who-ville were not deterred in their celebration of Christmas.
Moral of the story: Christmas is not (entirely) about gifts and sweet treats. It’s about family and friends, serving each other and remembering the good things you have.
Jingle All the Way (1996)
Before he was the Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a father trying to make good on a promise. Only the toy he promised his son was the most popular in the country and unavailable to last-minute shoppers. Determined to make good on his promise and redeem himself as a father, he embarks on a comical, dramatic hunt for this toy.
Moral of the story: You could glean a couple from this movie. The obvious lesson learned is not to make promises you can’t keep. Doing so, you may disappoint someone you care about or find yourself making compromises to fulfill the promise. Another moral: It is worth going the extra mile for people you love.
When the kids go to bed: Die Hard, Trading Places, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Bad Santa, Scrooged, Gremlins.