I’ve lost track of these channels and what they’re called. Christmas 24 is definitely one of them. There might also be Christmas 4 Women, Cheap Movies 4 Christmas, and Infinite Christmas Films Until You Die 24.
I don’t care, I love these channels. If you get lucky, they throw out some unexpectedly good movies. Even when you don’t get lucky you get the chance to see someone you recognise from Teleshopping acting hilariously. These channels, combined with doing random searches on Netflix, have brought the following Christmas films to my attention. Put away your copies of Home Alone and It’s A Wonderful Life for a bit, and check out these hidden Christmas gems…
Holiday In Handcuffs
If you love 90s kids’ sitcoms, this is the movie for you, as it stars TV heavyweights Mario Lopez and Melissa Joan Hart (AC Slater from Saved By The Bell, and Sabrina, the one and only teenage witch). And it’s amazing how much neither of them have changed. Admittedly, Slater’s got rid of his mullet, but I still keep expecting him to jump out of the screen, start calling me ‘momma’ and do a wrestling move on me.
Hart plays a ‘highly strung’ young woman who must convince her family that she has a steady boyfriend, and that she’s not a complete failure. The reasons for this become apparent as the viewer sees more of the nightmarish family dynamic. Naturally she has no such boyfriend, so she does what any rational woman would so – she kidnaps a complete stranger at gunpoint and drags him to spend Christmas at her parents’ house. Hilarity ensues, and Lopez finds himself developing a heartwarming, festive case of Stockholm syndrome.
Highlights include Mario Lopez furiously asserting “You… are… the devil”, the montage of rubbish presents everyone gets, and the drunken recriminations over the Christmas dinner table.
Hart plays her role in a suitably frazzled, manic way, while Mario Lopez is… Mario Lopez. But that’s no bad thing.
12 Dates Of Christmas
Another Christmas movie starring Saved By The Bell alumni – this time Mark Paul Gosselaar (Zack Morris) takes the spotlight. I think it’s becoming a thing where I can’t rest until I find a Christmas movie featuring everyone who’s ever been in Saved By The Bell. Even Tori.
Gosselaar actually plays the love interest to Amy Smart’s protagonist, who must relive the same Christmas Eve until she realises she needs to stop chasing after her ex-boyfriend, and instead get with her hunky blind date. I wanted so much for their blind date to be at The Maxx, but sadly it isn’t.
On the surface, this is a pretty standard romantic fluff-fest, but there are entertaining sub-plots along the way, as we wait for our heroine to get together with Zack. These include a woman driven to distraction by her boyfriend’s obsession with fairy lights, a lonely neighbour who distracts herself with endless baking, and a socially awkward nerd who’s endlessly waiting for a girl called “Phyllis”. These sub-plots add up to make a fun, entertaining movie, and even though you know the ending before the film begins, you still end up cheering when it happens.
A Christmas Carol (starring Ross Kemp)
I’m completely serious. Ross Kemp, best known for being bald in EastEnders and then for bothering gangs around the world, also stars in one of my favourite adaptations of A Christmas Carol. In this ITV special, Kemp plays Eddie Scrooge, a loan shark and all round nasty piece of work. He spends his time ruining people’s days by smashing their TVs and taking the last of their pension money, as well as trying to distract himself from the fact that he was responsible for the murder of his business partner.
The story is also part Groundhog Day, as the ghosts make Eddie Scrooge relive the same Christmas Eve until he stops going round scaring pensioners.
Having seen Kemp as Scrooge, it’s now nearly impossible to imagine anyone else in the modern day role. Kemp is suitably intimidating as Scrooge, especially when he does his mad staring thing, but he also nails the gradual softening of his personality as the story develops. We are also treated to a scene stealing Warren Mitchell as the Ghost of Christmas Past, and the sight of Liz Smith getting drunk on a Stannah stairlift.
ITV shows A Christmas Carol yearly (as far as I know), but if you can’t wait to see it (and why would you?) it’s available on YouTube.
All American Christmas Carol
Imagine if Scrooge was a trailer park ho? That’s pretty much this movie in a nutshell.
In what must be the 3,976,393rd take on A Christmas Carol, Taryn Manning (who also has the dubious honour of being one of Britney Spears’ friends in Crossroads) plays Cindy, a deadbeat who’s visited by three ghosts – old high school classmate, Cindy’s favourite rock star (Eric Roberts, no less), and her mother (not Eric Roberts). Over the course of the ghosts’ visits, Cindy is persuaded to ditch her white-trash ways, stop skanking around with the local wrestlers, and become a proper parent to her children.
All American Christmas Carol is Dickens meets Jerry Springer, and it works. The paintball themed funeral, the kids wreaking havoc in the dollar store and the random going off on a motorbike for sex all conspire to make this sound less than Christmassy. But I’d say this movie is proof that the Christmas Carol formula can be adapted to suit any situation; Cindy’s Christmas future in particular gets you in the feels. The characters are overblown and played for laughs, but you still boo the bad guys and cheer when it all goes right. Speaking of characters, look out for an appearance by Mr Meat Loaf.
The above is all well and good, but let me tell you my main reasons for loving this film. Firstly, Cindy has a baby son called Cheese-Doodle. Secondly, I can’t top that. I didn’t think this far ahead. Cheese-Doodle.
Hats Off To Christmas
This Hallmark movie centres around a shop that sells nothing but Christmas hats. That’s a thing. Haylie Duff (sister of Hilary) plays Mia, an employee of the shop whose nose is put out of joint by the arrival of the new senior manager, Nick.
In preparation for his management role, Nick must spend some time working on the shop floor, and it’s up to Mia to train him. Mia doesn’t take kindly to this, and relations between her and Nick are decidedly frosty to start with (was ‘frosty’ a deliberate pun on my part? I can’t decide so I’m not sure what chance you guys have). Needless to say, they are soon united by their desire to save the hat shop from bankruptcy, Nick’s friendship with Mia’s young son, and the fact that Mia and Nick fancy each other.
I’ll be honest, the thing that first attracted me to this movie was the desire to see how anyone could have a shop that sold nothing but Christmas hats, all year round. But it turned out to be a surprisingly entertaining film. It’s on the Schmaltzy side of things, particularly when you include the sub-plot of the staff having to save the shop from going under. But it’s a fun watch.
Hats Off To Christmas airs frequently on Movies 24 (or Christmas 24), so check it out next time you find yourself sitting in front of the TV with a bucket of marshmallows, a roaring fire and, I don’t know, some gin.
Battle Of The Bulbs
Fans of Honey I Shrunk The Kids will know that Matt Frewer is great at playing an annoying neighbour. Add Christmas to this mix and you’ve got a winning combination. In Battle Of The Bulbs, Max Headroom himself faces off against his neighbour and ex-best friend Daniel Stern (former Wet Bandit) in a Christmas house decorating contest.
Frewer and Stern go to increasingly mad lengths to outdo each other, including buying decorations meant for church displays, grassing each other up to the fire safety department, and breaking into each other’s houses (which Daniel Stern has some experience in). While this is going on, their teenage kids are embarking on a romance which, oddly, seems to be based on a mutual love of basketball. Things come to a head on the day of the contest judging, with both houses having an equally garish and electricity-guzzling set up. Can the guys put their rivalry aside for the good of the neighbourhood?
This movie is now a firm Christmas favourite in this house, not least because it stars two 1980s/early 90s icons. In fact, when Frewer’s character gets really stressed he starts turning into Max Headroom, which is always terrific.
If you only watch one movie from this list, make it this one. And the Ross Kemp one. And the others.
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