Christmas Film Alternatives

The Arts

Having fought my way through London’s Primark and War Horse brigade, up from the shires to clog the streets with tinsel and sick, I’m heading home with thirteen Christmas family film alternatives…

Barry Levinson’s strange Christmassy fable about toymakers and warmongers bombed spectacularly, even though it was co-written by SNL’s Valerie Curtin and featured the wonderful Joan Cusack as an animated doll. It’s way too long, but the startling visuals deserved an award.

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr T
One of the most surreal family adventures ever made, this was written by Dr Seuss himself, and features children chained to pianos, a pair of roller-skating villains conjoined by their ginger beards, excellent songs, chases and the single campest moment in motion picture history when evil Dr Terwilliker is smothered in rose petals.

Tokyo Godfathers
It’s Christmas Eve, and three wise men visit a baby. Er, except one is a shouty alky, another’s a drag queen, and the baby gets lost on the snowy streets. A wonderful and rather moving Japanimation movie as the race is on to find the Christmas child.

The Phantom Tollbooth
The book that was an American classic was turned into a live-action/ animated adventure by the wonderful Chuck Jones, as life-lessons are learned in strange lands of numbers and words.

tom thumb
This is the often-overlooked UK-lensed movie that went out with ‘The Wizard of Oz’ right through my childhood, and I enjoyed it more. Russ Tamblyn does the jazzy showstopper in the toy room, Terry-Thomas and Peter Sellers are the villains, and the film has the more infectious title song of all time.

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure
Tim Burton’s first big break often gets overlooked these days, but what a gem it remains, thanks to scary Large Marge, the Tequila Dance, the backlot chase and so many silly catchphrases. ‘I know you are but what am I?’

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother
‘Sherlock? Sheer luck!’ shouts Gene Wilder before he and Madeline Kahn do ‘The Bunny Hop’. A supremely daft low-budget pastiche that makes Guy Ritchie’s version look sensible.

Jekyll & Hyde: Together Again
Don’t snort that potion – it’ll turn you into a smarmy nightclubbin’ lothario! College student Mark Blankfield changes face in this 80s comedy which ends with a shot of Robert Louis Stevenson spinning in his grave.

The Incredible Shrinking Woman
Lily Tomlin uses too many consumer products and starts shrinking, hubby’s more concerned with his career, the kids turn the house into a battlefield and Lily falls into the garbarator, plus a runaway gorilla (and Mark Blankfield again, oddly)!

Trains, Planes and Automobiles
Steve Martin tries to get home for Christmas and finds himself trapped with ‘Dell Griffith, shower ring curtain salesman’, driving down the wrong side of the freeway. That’s Kevin Bacon stealing his cab, and wait after the credits for the final shot.

Day Of The Beast
A very dark adult Christmas tale as a Spanish priest asks for a sign that God exists, and a giant cross falls on his boss. Deciding that he must find a child born at midnight, he heads off into the city to kill it. Love the walking goat.

I love this film; it doesn’t work but has ideas and style by the bucketload, and is brazen, bonkers and British, as a masked vigilante searches hellish futuristic Meanwhile City while his present-day counterpart heads for a revelation in the snowy London streets.

St Nick is coming and he’s really evil, galloping above the houses of Amsterdam to take out those who’ve been bad! The rooftop sleigh chase is thrilling and there’s great bloody fun to be had as the cops and Santa duke it out.

8 comments on “Christmas Film Alternatives”

  1. FabienneT says:

    I’m glad you have Franklin on your list. It is a fabulous film, bonkers as you say, but beautiful and stylish … When it came out, there were posters everywhere on the Tube, yet it was shown in 2 cinemas in the London – so imagine anywhere else in the country! (We had to go to the lovely Notting Hill Coronet) and no one reviewed it. In interviews with the two main actors, Sam Riley and Eva Green, the movie is usually not mentioned, erased from their filmography… I have always wondered why? Too dark? Or too critical of religion? It scared the critics stiff or something.
    I cannot wait to see it again. 🙂

  2. Stephen Beat says:

    I could never understand why Franklin didn’t work…I loved the texture of the film, but the weave just wasn’t substancial.

    The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother is another favourite of mine – Marty Feldman is one of our most underappreciated comedy geniuses. Madaleine Khan is superb and Leo McKern was absolutely delicious as the the supreme villain. A bit of a flop after ‘Young Frankenstein’ but the Wilder/Feldman combo could have easily stood a couple of more outings – sadly with Marty’;s untimely death it was not to be. 🙁

  3. Terenzio says:

    God…I do hate to sound like a pedantic, however, dear mamma would probably be proud…it’s Franklyn not Franlkin as in Benjamin….speaking of Eva Green, she was in The Dreamers with the totally hot Michael Pitt and the equally hot Louis Garrel who seems to enjoy showing off his – well – you know… just about every film he is in…
    The one in the flamboyant Purple Dressing Gown and equally flamboyant Persian slippers who is about to go watch A Christmas Carol (an holiday tradition) with a nice cup of hot cocoa.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    Over to the library website to see which of the above is available here. Rum-te-tum.

  5. FabienneT says:

    OOps, sorry, yes, Franklyn. I always get caught out by the lack of edit button here!

  6. Terenzio says:

    Yes, but…three people including Mr. Fowler made the same mistake, however, thank the gods I am on the ball…sometimes the little things do matter…

    I am off to do a little shopping…I need some of those little corners for photos for scrapbooks; I am in the process of updating my scrapbook for Rome. Plus Christmas is almost upon us and I have so much to do for my annual Christmas dinner party on Sunday, so I have a few things I need to pick up. I do love this time of year…a Christmas goose, English crackers and of course a Bûche de Noël…one should love the French just for inventing such an incredibly delicious desert.

    Wishing all a wonderful holiday season and a Bonne Annee!
    The one in the purple dressing gown

  7. Rick says:

    Not that it matters, but in PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES they are trying to get home for American Thanksgiving, not Christmas. But Americans seem to make a bigger deal of it than Christmas anyway, so I guess it still counts!

  8. Helen Martin says:

    And I hope Terenzio does not expect that Buche de Noel to be made of sand, since they are for dessert, not deserts. Shouldn’t have said that but …

Comments are closed.