Entertainment & Media
Holiday Films: A Bleak De-Evolution
By Alain Deen
Volume 2 Issue 3
January 14, 2022
Image provided by Minnetonka Breezes
Ah…the holiday season. A time for extravagantly decorated trees, gingerbread scented candles, family gatherings, and most importantly, holiday films. Watching a holiday film while drinking a warm cup of hot cocoa might be my favorite holiday activity of all time. Doesn’t everyone love watching Kevin defeat the burglars, Walter Hobbs discovering the true meaning of Christmas, and Kris Kringle winning the court case? I sure do.
The first known on-screen holiday film was 1898’s “Santa Claus.” The film was approximately two minutes long, created in the UK. A film that long deserves a very in-depth synopsis, right? Just kidding. The film depicts the traditional aura of Santa Claus. He goes down the chimney, and leaves toys for the sleeping children. It is safe to say that the film industry has come a long way since then, especially in the holiday department. The mid to late 20th century presented itself with some of the best holiday films to date. However, after the 2010, in the holiday film department, it is a known fact that the holiday season saw a rapid decline in ratings and viewership.
Elf, Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Carol, and It’s a Wonderful Life are just some of the most influential holiday films of our time. Each film has a unique characteristic that you really could not find in any other holiday film at the time of each release. However, it is worth noting that each film has a similar message; Christmas spirit always wins. While it is a common theme, it takes great execution to pull it off. Some films hold the very same theme but have awful execution, making the five films mentioned above classics.
Let us take a look at 1947’s Miracle on 34th Street. The film centers around divorced mother, Doris Walker and her daughter, Susan. Doris works at Macy’s and is in charge of organizing the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. When the man hired to play Santa Claus is found stone-cold drunk minutes before the parade, Doris hires a sweet old man to take his spot. However, she is startled by his claim that he’s the genuine article. The old man’s legal name is Kris Kringle, which immediately throws the other characters off. On top of that, Kris persuades Doris’ headstrong daughter, Susan, to develop a less rigid imagination, which she does. After about a month of confusion, Macy’s marketing tactics, and people attempting to prove that Kris was indeed not Santa Claus, an official court case was held. Doris’ love interest, Fred Gailey, serves as Kris’ lawyer. Against all odds, he uses his knowledge of the law and postal letters to Santa Claus to prove that Kris is truthfully Santa Claus, allowing the Christmas spirit to flourish. In my opinion, this film had near-perfect execution in its theme delivery. The writing, pacing, and performances were very convincing, allowing for a great film. It was a unique idea at the time, making the film an instant classic.
As years have gone by, similar themes have been used in holiday films. For instance, 1994’s The Santa Clause employs a very similar underlying plotline. However, it isn’t as charming as Miracle on 34th Street due to the recycled theme. Recycled themes often foster the failure of modern holiday films. For instance, after Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, 3
new installments were produced. The ratings for each were significantly lower than the first two, starring Macaulay Culkin and Joe Pesci. For instance, Home Alone 3 has a 3.6/10 rating on
IMDb. Most of the reviews complain about the film’s recycled plot line, bad acting, and lack of
charm. Even worse, Home Alone 4 has a 2.6/10 rating on IMDb. Critics tore this film to pieces
due to its lack of authenticity. Even the franchise’s latest installment, Home Sweet Home Alone
has a 3.6/10 rating on IMDb. Critics emphasize the film’s lack of charm as well.
Overall, it is safe to say that modern holiday films flop due to a lack of authenticity, charm, and ever-recycled plotlines. It is crucial for filmmakers to develop new themes for holiday films. If not, future generations would not have their own set of classics, as we do.