Christmas is here in true Mancunian style: rain, wind and deadlines. What better time to settle down on the sofa, grab yourself some mulled wine and watch some classic Christmas TV.
Search up lists of the best Christmas films and you’ll find a relative consensus. The Grinch, The Muppets Christmas Carol and Home Alone all, predictably, feature heavily. For the sake of being different, this year at The Mancunion, we’ve decided to brainstorm some of the worst films you could watch over the festive period. Here our writers share some of their least favourite Christmas films, so your Christmas can remain merry and bright. If you still believe in the magic of Christmas, here is a cohesive list of the films to outright avoid. That being said, we hope we don’t break too many hearts and you can still indulge in the fantasy of Hugh Grant carol singing outside your door this Christmas Eve.
The Polar Express (2004)
A Christmas film I absolutely detest is Robert Zemeckis’ 2004 The Polar Express. The reaction that opinion gets from friends and family is usually some combination of indignation and pity for my lack of Christmas spirit. However, I’m actually a very festive person. I love the Christmas season, especially Christmas films!
The Polar Express follows a boy who has just reached the age where he begins to doubt the existence of Santa. On Christmas Eve he boards the mysterious train which waits outside his window, it takes him on a fantastical journey to the North Pole where he meets Santa himself. Considered by many to be a Christmas classic, the film is wonderfully atmospheric showcasing the excitement felt by children on Christmas eve. So why then must I physically leave the room when it is on?
The short answer I give people is that its creepy. I have always felt uneasy watching it due to the disturbing realism of the animated characters. As the first motion capture film – it attempted to replicate the movement of actors through sensors. However, as the technology was in its infancy it was unable to capture the movement in actor’s eyes – arguably the most essential expressive feature. This lifeless nature of character’s eyes, the strange latex quality of their skin, and the supernatural way in which Santa glows is what grants the film its uneasy, uncanny, and unbearable status in my mind.
Unfortunately, I will not be watching The Polar Express this Christmas.
Written by Carolyn Pickering (writer)
If you are in the mood for a film that is so average and cliche that it’s actually wildly enjoyable, then Holidate is the film for you. Starring Emma Roberts (who should probably consider firing her agent) and a guy who looks like he should be the fourth Hemsworth brother.
The film follows two strangers who are sick of being alone during the holidays, and decide to pretend to be a couple to avoid pity from their family members. Audiences track the couple as they try to figure out the boundaries of their relationship, still in denial about their feelings for each other, until the ‘magic of Christmas’ brings them together. The main thing stopping the film from being complete trash were the leading actors, who somehow, with a lot of chemistry and a predictable friends to lovers trope, managed to make the questionable plot actually very cute.
Maybe this film sets itself apart from all the other Christmas films because, it actually manages to cover every holiday in the year, or maybe, because there’s a scene dedicated entirely to Emma Roberts being on the verge of shitting herself dressed as a pirate. Ultimately in terms of trashy films Holidate does everything right and I feel so very lucky that I’ve finally seen a film that has managed to cast vine star King Bach alongside Kristen Chenoweth, Legendary!
Written by Calima (writer)
Christmas in Evergreen (2017)
When watching a Channel 5 Sunday afternoon film, you know it’s unlikely to be the most masterful or inspiring cinematic accomplishment. However, the festive romance Christmas in Evergreen did not even slightly charm me. Cheesy dialogue and a predictable narrative, the perfect cliché festive love story.
We follow Allie, an overly jolly, small-town veterinarian on the week up to Christmas, which she is meant to be spending with her swanky-job-big-city-boyfriend in D.C. A snowstorm hits, cancelling her flight and leaving her to spend the holidays in her hometown of Evergreen – though luckily at the airport, she meets a single father and his daughter, who she invites to stay with her. Obnoxiously Christmassy red and green outfits, perfectly styled hair, flawless decorations and cringeworthy, one-dimensional characters made the film feel horribly tacky.
The small-town versus big-city arc runs its expected course as Allie realises, she will always be a small-town girl and her heart, and true love, is in Evergreen. The overly polished look and completely formulaic storyline successfully extinguished the small ounce of Christmas joy I had.
Written by Jemma Ellwood (writer)
Love Actually (2003)
Love Actually provides neither rom nor com, or even much festive cheer. It is two hours of romanticised toxic relationships, with everyone I’ve spoken to’s main defence being John Watson and Stacey’s blossoming relationship on the set of a vanilla porno. They are minor characters at best (hence me not remembering their character’s names) so if that is the best Love Actually has to offer, despite its nine couples, it’s a concerning start for many people’s ‘favourite’ Christmas film.
With an incredibly star-studded cast, it certainly had potential, but instead what we are left with is poorly developed storylines based purely on lust not love. Colin Firth proposes to a woman he has never spoken to; jokes are made about how Sarah never actually speaks to Karl, even Keira Knightley’s rendezvous with her husband’s best friend (which is wrong on so many levels – not limited to her awful hat) causes her surprise as he never speaks to her!
Rather than showing me that “love, actually, is all around” it serves as a reminder why January is the most common month for divorce.
Written by Ella Robinson (editor)
Ghosts of Girlfriend’s Past (2009)
Here it is- the film that put Matthew McConaughey off doing romcoms. Ghost of Girlfriend’s Past (2009) is a loose adaptation of A Christmas Carol starring Matthew McConaughey as Connor, a womanising photographer who believes that ‘the power of a relationship lies with whoever cares less.’ After a disastrous wedding speech where Conor declares that love is for idiots (we’ve all been there) he is visited by his deceased grandfather who tells him he must change his ways and be visited by three ghosts that night which will be, you guessed it, his exes.
Scrooge’s redemptive arc in A Christmas Carol is the most heart-warming affirmation that the human condition can change, but not even Tiny Tim could humanize McConaughey’s Connor. He’s a player surrounded by hysterically written women who are obsessed with him, including love-interest Jennifer Garner. It isn’t often that a romcom actively makes you root against its central couple. My favourite scene is where Connor’s grandad (Michael Douglas) advocates negging to his fifteen-year-old grandson then hits on Emma Stone. What a weird cinematic crossover.
It’s at best a fun reimagining and at worst pretty nasty, filled with that outdated humour that saturated mid-2000s comedy. It’s not as daringly naughty as Bad Santa and lacks the heart of other seasonal romcoms like The Holiday. It’s not even fun to watch the usually charming McConaughey be a player because he never gets his comeuppance for his actions, he only gets the girl. Hopefully that spoiler is enough to deter you from sticking this one on at Christmas. Instead, put on the uncanny valley version of A Christmas Carol with Colin Firth, you’ll feel less creeped out afterwards.
Written by Pip Carew (writer)