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12 Bad Movies of Christmas, Part Two

If we've learned anything from our brief foray into the world of holiday movies, it's this: do not expect miracles from the supernatural forces behind Christmas, for they are are screwed up as we are.

How else to explain why one entire movie revolves around a bureaucratic error at a ghostly dispatch office, a second movie reveals Santa's inconsistent parenting practices and a third exposes the dangers inherent in nepotistic hiring practices at the North Pole?

Frankly, we find this trend depressing. Learning about the problems the Ghost of Christmas Past has with his boss does not make us feel better about our own coworkers. Learning that Santa's son is disliked by the colleagues who do not have the last name "Claus" does not make us feel better about living in a world where people with the last name "Walton" control many U.S. dollars. And we have no truck with any movie where Santa bails on us and goes to Hawaii. The point of Santa is to effect the kind of holiday magic that sends us to Hawaii.

Ah, but the point of these movies is to make us grateful. Did it work? Read on. --Philip Michaels and Lisa Schmeiser

Karroll's Christmas

WHEN IT'S ON:Sunday, December 24 at 10 a.m. on A&E
PREMISE:Curmudgeonly greeting-card writer Allen Karroll (played by Tom Everett Scott) is busy sabotaging his personal and professional lives when an administrative mix-up in the afterlife's dispatch office sends three ghosts to his house instead of his even-more-jerky neighbor's (played by Wallace Shawn). Allen then fixes his neighbor's life -- and, of course, his own. Less cynical people might call this a clever reinvention of A Christmas Carol that extols the virtues of helping others. We call it a cautionary tale about the perils of outsourcing and the possibility that 21st-century scrooges will be looking for subcontractors to field the goodwill conversions on December 24.
IN WHOSE CREDITS IS THIS A LUMP OF COAL?Wallace Shawn, whose succession of fright wigs brings new meaning to the word "Inconceivable!"
RELATIVE YOU SHOULD WATCH THIS WITH:Your cousin the McKinsey consultant, because when they take the Scrooge-outsourcing idea public, you're going to want in via the friends-and-family stock options.
THE SCRIPTWRITER'S PRESENT TO YOU:"You're breaking up with me for Daryl the Donkey?" -- uttered by Tom Everett Scott with the sincerity of a prayer. We hasten to add he utters this line while in caribou costume. Acting isn't all about the glamour, kids.
THE MOMENT WE KNOCKED BACK THE WASSAIL:The moment Alanna Ubach appeared as the ghost of Christmas present. Fine actress -- and we still feel sorry for her from her appearance as the Straw Woman in the West Wing episode entitled "The One Where We Learn That Your Lady Coworkers Love It When You Comment Salaciously Upon Their Appearance." But holy cow, does she overdo the Bridget-Jones-in-the-Afterlife schtick.
THE STAR ON TOP OF THE TREE:Verne Troyer's casting as the Angel of Death. At last, he has shattered the glass ceiling for all little people in holiday movies. No longer do they have to play nothing but elves -- now they can play ghosts too!
SO WHAT DID SANTA'S ELVES THINK?We think if you're going to do an nearly-original take on A Christmas Carol, you can go in one of two wildly divergent directions: unrelentingly dark or nerve-wrackingly manic. You cannot do both without producing the a movie roughly analogous to living with a rapidly-cycling, unmedicated manic depressive. Halfway through this, one of us blurted, "What is this, Requiem for a Candy Cane? Is the next ghost going to hand Tom Everett Scott a giant, red-and-white striped marital aid and tell him to bend over?" Maybe in the sequel.
SANTA RATING:Ho ho Ho ho. Larry Miller shows up about halfway through as the Ghost of Christmas Past -- yes, the ghosts arrive out of order in this film -- and basically is the only reason we didn't crack open a vein.

Once Upon a Christmas

WHEN IT'S ON:Friday, December 22 at 7 a.m. on ABC Family.
PREMISE:Kathy Ireland proves yet again that supermodels should be seen and not heard. Oh, wait -- that was just the takeaway message. The premise of the movie is that Kathy Ireland is Kristen Claus, and she hopes to convince her burned-out father not to cancel Christmas so that he can go surf in Hawaii instead. Kristen's challenge: convert a family on the ever-growing "naughty" list to the "nice" list. Kristen is then sent down to Earth to work as a nanny to a den of motherless monsters and in a Christ-like moment, sacrifices her immortality for in order to save the life of one her especially monstrous charges. For this, she is rewarded with the prospect of becoming his stepmother. But at least, now that she's no longer immortal, one day she'll die. So there's the hint of a happy ending there.
IN WHOSE CREDITS IS THIS A LUMP OF COAL?Nobody you've ever heard of. And for Kathy Ireland, this is totally a step up from her Alien from L.A. days.
THE SCRIPTWRITER'S PRESENT TO YOU:"But goodness always outweighs badness." -- Kathy Ireland. Not when you're on-screen, dear.
THE MOMENT WE KNOCKED BACK THE WASSAIL:The moment Kathy Ireland opened her mouth. Seriously -- if you can watch this movie on mute with the closed-captioning, do it. Or maybe ABC Family, which will air this movie and its sequel in perpetuity, can hire someone like Glenn Close to come in and dub over her dialogue.
THE STAR ON TOP OF THE TREE:Kristen's evil sister Rudolpha trading the promise of sexual favors with an elf for his untiring work on her new, tricked-out sleigh. When she later turns the elf into a reindeer and whips him, the movie goes in a whole new dark direction.
SO WHAT DID SANTA'S ELVES THINK?We think we're lucky to have made it through the movie. This was the first one we considered bailing on, it was so plodding and dull. And the weird conflation of Santa Claus with God -- "He sent his daughter to save us!" -- struck a weird, not wholly appropriate tone.
SANTA RATING:No Hos. Not a one.

Santa Junior

WHEN IT'S ON:Saturday, December 23 at 5 p.m. and 10:45 p.m. on the Hallmark Channel
PREMISE:Yet another scion of Santa is forced to interact with the un-festive citizens of Southern California. This time, Nick, Jr. is caught ostensibly stealing toys, then booked downtown. It's all a misunderstanding, of course, but until the trial, Nick has to live with his public defender, Susan. (Lawyers out there: is that common practice in criminal cases?) The lawyer, played by Lauren Holly, hates Christmas -- until Nick comes along and redecorates her entire house, shows her he's good with kids, and helps her hook up with police detective Judd Nelson. Oddly, this does not make her hate Christmas more.
IN WHOSE CREDITS IS THIS A LUMP OF COAL?That'd be Nelson, who plays a shy and cynical cop. Remember when Judd Nelson used to play belligerent and slightly creepy? Ever think you'd miss that?
RELATIVE YOU SHOULD WATCH THIS WITH:That annoying Gen X-er cousin or sibling who can, and still does, quote dialogue from The Breakfast Club verbatim. "This is what happened when Bender reformed and grew up," you can say. "His heart died."
THE SCRIPTWRITER'S PRESENT TO YOU:Susan: "Why wouldn't I remember seeing Santa or you?" Nick Jr: "Christmas powder." And what would the street value of that Christmas powder be, mister?
THE MOMENT WE KNOCKED BACK THE WASSAIL:The moment that the recrimination-filled elf Stan assigned to watch over Nick, Jr. slid down the chimney and began bitching at the house-arrestee. It was like watching Jiminy Cricket turn into an ugly drunk.
THE STAR ON TOP OF THE TREE:Police Lt. George Wallace thrusting his pelvis on top of a table and handing out presents to San Diego's grabbiest cases, as a funky beat plays in the background. George Wallace is Black Santa, coming next Christmas to your UPN.

UPN's out of business now?

Well, crap.

SO WHAT DID SANTA'S ELVES THINK?We think Santa's got a lot of nerve, passing judgment on our family dynamics with this naughty and nice business, when not a single movie has shown him capable of raising kids that aren't either creepy (hi, Nick of Single Santa!) or drippy (hi, Kristen of Once Upon a Christmas) or incompetent legacy hires (here). Who does Santa think he is? And why is he apparently reduced to slipping people Christmas roofies -- excuse us, Christmas powder -- to get his job done?

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