Every generation has its classic holiday films for annual family viewing. Lately, there are some pretty cute stories that are quickly becoming classics for this generation and those to come. And, every now and then, the reason for the season sneaks in.
The Santa Clause (1994) and The Santa Clauses (2022-)
Magic is at its peak when Tim Allen steps into the boots of Santa Claus. Scott Calvin (Allen) accidentally “disposes” of the real Santa so, in order to make up for his error, he puts on the Santa suit, jumps into the sleigh, and takes off, stepping into the role with gusto and doing quite an amazing job.
Making his mark as Santa, Allen reprised the role in 2002, when he discovered that as Santa he must find a wife. Then, to add to the fun of this franchise, in a 2003 sequel, Allen, aka Santa, aka Scott Calvin, must face another challenge when Jack Frost decides he wants to take over Christmas.
To top off the adventures of Scott Calvin, in the Disney+ TV series The Santa Clauses, which premiered in 2022, there is another search for a replacement. After all, being 65 is basically retirement age, so perhaps it is time for Calvin to retire. Or is it?
In the series, truths come out about how Calvin became Santa and also how his family can work together to save the tradition and the holiday.
Also, since Allen is a Christian, episode two of season two of The Santa Clauses actually says that the Claus tradition began with St. Nicholas, to honor the birth of Jesus.
It’s not a lot, in the midst of all the fictional Santa lore and elf magic, but it’s something.
Home Alone (1990) and Home Alone: Lost in New York (1992)
It’s Christmastime, and the McCallister family is planning a grand family vacation. And, like most families, the McCallisters are frantically running here and there, trying to get everything set up for their holiday vacation.
Well, things go to plan, except they forget to bring little Kevin (Macaulay Culkin), who was left behind. Once he realizes he has his house to himself, things look up for the little guy. He can have all the fun he wants. He can slide down the banister without repercussions.
But once burglars see the McCallister house is empty, they decide to take advantage. But the bumbling thieves no match for clever Kevin, who booby-traps the entire house.
Well, history repeats itself two years later when, in 1992, the family once again forgets about the little guy, who accidentally gets on a plane to New York. There he is reunited with the original thieves and another round of trouble, aka booby traps, is in store for the bad guys.
Home Alone put Culkin on the map. His one gesture of putting his hands on his face has been duplicated ever since.
Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
As I said before, every generation has its list of classic holiday films. In 1947, the original Miracle on 34th Street became an instant and beloved hit for families.
The story of a divorced mother who hires an old man to play Santa at Macy’s department store turned into a kerfuffle as the man insists he really is Santa, spawning more than one remake.
The newest generation has the 1994 version, starring Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle, the store Santa. Little Mara Wilson captured viewers’ hearts as Susan Walker, who insists on proving that Santa is real and the man she knows as Kris Kringle is, in fact, Santa Claus.
Who will be in the next version of this adorable tale? Only time will tell. After all, this is truly a classic story for every generation.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Yet another story that has been told countless times is Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella A Christmas Carol. Over and over again, generations have enjoyed the story of a miserly man who begrudges his sole employee the joy of Christmas, only to take a ghost-led Christmas Eve trip through his past, present, and possible future.
In 1992, this classic was retold with the Muppets. The Muppet Christmas Carol has the entire group reenacting Dickens' tale, with Gonzo and Rizzo as narrators.
Michael Caine plays Ebenezer Scrooge, who is a hated man filled with misery and distrust. He is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Future (all played by our favorite Muppets) as he learns the meaning of Christmas: giving, and love.
This delightful story of love has been retold on film, originally in 1951, then multiple more times. But it has never been seen like in The Muppet Christmas Carol. Scrooge is definitely put in his place by these puppets as the true story of love and Christmas unfolds before his eyes.
While You Were Sleeping (1995)
Even though this is not a stereotypical story about Christmas, it does have a touching part about how one woman discovers the love of a true family, which she really never had.
Lucy (Sandra Bullock) is a token taker at Chicago’s elevated-train station. She has a crush on Peter (Peter Gallagher), one of the daily commuters. After rescuing him from certain death, she mumbles to herself at the hospital that he was the man she was going to marry.
Hearing this, a nurse informs the staff and Peter’s family that Lucy is his intended. The family welcomes her into their lives and home, and, for the first time in years, she celebrates a true family Christmas. The story goes on from there, with Peter eventually regaining consciousness, but not before Lucy falls in love with Jack (Bill Pullman), Peter’s brother.
And if you're worried that it all goes off the rails and gets tawdry -- spoiler alert, While You Were Sleeping is rated PG, so it doesn't, which makes it suitable for middle-schoolers and up.
The Star (2017)
To really put some Christ in your Christmas, while still having plenty of family fun, this animated feature tells the Nativity story from the POV of the critters, especially Mary's donkey Bo (Steven Yeun), and his best pal, Dave the dove (Keegan-Michael Key).
The animals do talk -- but only to each other.
The Star achieves the difficult task of telling a Bible story -- with artistic license -- that should appeal to all ages, with heart, joy, and real laughs.
Other voice talent includes Zach Levi (Joseph), Gina Rodriguez (Mary), Patrica Heaton (Edith the cow); Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey and Tracy Morgan (The Wise Men’s camels); Anthony Anderson (Zach the goat); Kris Kristofferson (old donkey); Ving Rhames (Thaddeus the dog); Kelly Clarkson (Leah the horse); Kristen Chenoweth (Abby the pygmy gerboa); and Christopher Plummer (King Herod).
Image: (L-R) Tim Allen and Elizabeth Mitchell in 'The Santa Clauses' PHOTO: Disney+