For Round 1 of the Holiday Movie Tournament we'll be focusing on two questions.
Question 1: Why is this movie a good movie?
Question 2: Why is this movie better than the one it's up against?
Keep these two questions in mind as you read the arguments set forth by our two contestants and please remember to vote at the end.
At its core Jingle All the Way is a heartwarming story of a father with mixed up priorities who tries his best to make up for all the heartbreak of missed moments he has put his young son through. The most cardinal sin of Howard’s, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, many is revealed to be not shopping early enough to get the season's hot toy that is now sold out everywhere. The movie then centers around a comedic over the top reenactment of the stressful shopping experiences that everyone can relate to during the holidays. As with any holiday movie, there are lessons learned throughout the hero’s journey to realize what it means to be a good father.
Jingle All the Way is the Christmas movie everyone seems to want die hard to be. Instead of being an action movie that coincidentally take places during Christmas, this is a Christmas action movie. It is the perfect movie to put on with the family over, from the rants on toy corporations by a disgruntled and unstable mailman to a battle royale with a hundred people dressed as Santa there is something for everyone in the family to enjoy in this movie. There are tons of cameos and appearances including Jim Belushi, Chris Parnell, WWE’s Big Show, Phil Hartman and most importantly Schwarzenegger’s co-star Sinbad. The combination of comedy and action provided by two actors who at the time were at the top of those respective genres gave us a Christmas classic that went very underrated. The subtle way that it can teach empathy while also entertaining with slapstick comedy and jet packs is what makes Jingle All the Way the best Christmas movie.
When it comes to holiday movies, there isn’t a single movie that embodies the spirit of Christmas better than Miracle on 34th St. Made in 1947, a young Natalie Wood brings us into the story as a young, pessimistic girl who doesn’t believe in fairy tales or Santa Claus simply because they are illogical. Her cynical view, given and nurtured by her mother, gets immediately put to the test as a man named Kris Kringle suddenly comes into their lives. Kris truly believes that he is Santa Claus and promises to prove to little Susan that he is real. The story that ensues is, in all its forms, delightful, funny, and heartwarming. This battle for Susan’s belief is played along the backdrop of the warring of department stores and commercialism (yes, way back in the 40’s), a love story between Susan’s mother and their neighbor, and the eventual legal trial to prove whether Kris is, indeed, Santa, or just a crazy old man.
Not only does Miracle on 34th St. have a quintessential holiday storyline, but the plot completely embodies the ideas of the season. The power of love and belief are pitted against greed and cynicism. We get to see a family experience joy and peace during a holiday they once greatly took for granted. Miracle reminds us that even adults can use a little imagination sometimes, and invites us to join in. Chock full of the essence and emotion that the holidays bring to our lives each year, Miracle on 34th St. reminds us that the magic of Christmas is real and is, indeed, the best Christmas movie.
I’m going to be honest, I’ve never seen Miracle on 34th St. In preparation for this debate I looked up a few clips and read a few summaries,then I realized the chosen version was not the reboot featuring Matilda. After doing the same for the 1947 version I awoke from a boredom induced coma and I was more grateful than ever for being born when I was. From what little I’ve seen I’m sure it is a good movie with fantastic actors that deserves all the critical acclaim it has received but this isn’t a debate about good movies.
We all have our criteria for good holiday movies, for me it boils down to watchability and tradition. As good as I’ve been assured Miracle on 34th St. is the movie does nothing for me, I can’t imagine a 24 hour marathon of A Miracle on 34th St. it would not have any more total viewers than 3 a.m paid programming. Personally I have never had a special experience around this movie and with it aging season after season I believe my experience is becoming more common making it less and less relevant. If I am flipping channels during December I can guarantee I’m going passed the black and white thespian showcase and finding the claymation and shenanigans that remind me of my youth. Were one to play Miracle on 34th St. with a group of people in 2017 there isn’t a measure of time short enough to to determine how quickly 73% of them would be unlocking their smart phones. That may be a damning commentary on where we’ve come as a society but it is the reality we live in. Call me a simpleton but when the season has me stressed out the last thing I want to watch is a dated movie that has been redone more than Batman’s origin story, I’d rather just watch Elf.
Personally, the idea of pitting Miracle on 34th St. against something as ridiculous as Jingle All the Way is hardly fair. While Jingle may be full of comedy and action scenes, those are too small a consolation to make me sit down and watch the entire movie. Welcome to a world where we are asked to suspend disbelief and believe that beefy Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger is the classic “American family man” whose name is Howard no less. Not only that, but I’ve always been bothered that the viewer is asked to root for a neglectful father who couldn’t remember to buy ONE toy for his ONE child, all the while attempting to convince you at the end that dad learned his lesson and has turned over a new leaf. If you prefer heartwarming family moments in your Christmas movies, this one should not be on your list.
The shallow plot aside, the terrible acting and writing only makes this movie harder to watch. I think I cringed each time the young actor who plays Arnold’s son had a line. Maybe preferring a higher caliber of acting in my holiday movies makes me a snob, but if we’re going to talk preferences, that’s a huge factor to me. Give me Natalie Wood, whose performance clearly foreshadows her Oscar-nominated future potential. Arnold’s overacting and cheesy action scenes just aren’t enough to keep my eyes on the screen without rolling them every five minutes. Perhaps I have an unrealistic sense of what families prefer in their holiday movies, but I believe the story, acting, and heart and soul of Miracle on 34th St. makes it truly the best holiday movie.