Christmas Film Alternatives
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.
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.
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.