By Lori Perkins
Like most families, we watch a rotating variety of beloved Christmas movies as the actual holiday approaches. This is a Die Hard on Xmas Eve family, in case you were wondering. As a way of explaining our taste, I am sharing our basic list with you: Elf, Santa Clause, Christmas Vacation, It’s a Wonderful Life, Jingle All the Way, A Christmas Story, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Love Actually. So we like nostalgia, heart-warming and funny with an occasional dark thread.
This year three new Christmas movies caught our attention.
Single All the Way is a Hallmark-style family rom com on Netflix which features some of my favorite romance tropes – friends to lovers and only one bed – with gay protagonists wrapped in a cozy Christmas blanket of home for the holidays. Basic plot is 30-ish single gay man can’t seem to find the one, and after learning that his latest lover is married to a woman, he invites his best friend and roommate to come home to his New Hampshire small town with him for the holidays, as his whole family already loves him and he would be staying home alone. His mom tries to set him up with the very hot local gay exercise and ski instructor, but everyone knows he’s really in love with his best friend. Great cast too—Barry Bostwick, Jennnifer Coolidge, Kathy Najimy.
That is not the case with Jingle All the Way 2. Made in 2014 and released direct to video, this very poor man’s borrowing of the plot and title replaces Arnold Schwarzenegger with Larry the Cable Guy. His dad nemesis is his wife’s new husband, who is filthy rich, while Cable Guy lives in a trailer, but is an awesome dad because he does stuff with his daughter, while rich guy just buys her stuff. There is a small-town-wide plot about cornering the market on a toy that the daughter supposedly wants for Christmas, and a heart-warming wrap up, but this is a charmless holiday movie that just has a good title hook.
Which leads to 8-Bit Christmas, another new film on Netflix. Even though it is not an official sequel to A Christmas Story (there is one-and it is awful), it really might as well be. It stars Neil Patrick Harris as the grown up narrator telling the story of wanting and plotting to get a Nintendo in the 80s, and Michael Zahn and June Diane Raphael as his parents, who are outstanding in these roles. It has a lot of the same beats as A Christmas Story (the bully, great gang of charming oddball friends, quirky teacher, Illinois setting, but no leg lamp), so you really think it is going to go there, and then it doesn’t. The heart-warming ending was unexpected and worked. While this may not make the Christmas movie annual rotation, I think we’ll add it to the back up films play list with the likes of The Family Man, Gremlins, Krampus, and Bad Santa.