RT's Top Yuletide Comedies -- Christmas Countdown, Day One

by | December 18, 2006 | Comments

Welcome to RT’s Five Days of Christmas Countdown, where we serve up a different list each day of the best holiday flicks around. Today, feast your eyes on the Top Christmas Comedies — a little Billy Bob, a little Will Ferrell, and at least one triple dog dare — and prepare to get in the holiday spirit.

The holidays are here, and it’s time to break out your sleds, roast your chestnuts, and watch a movie or five about yuletide magic (or a decided lack thereof). Chances are you’ve seen enough Christmas movies to know that just because you stick a Santa hat on something, it isn’t necessarily worth watching (yes, "Jingle All the Way," we’re looking at you). And when in doubt regarding your best viewing for any occasion, as always, we’re here to help; the merry elves at Rotten Tomatoes have listed the Tomatometers, checked them twice, and will be presenting, over the next five days, the best holiday films in the following categories: Classics, Comedies, Animated/Children’s, Dramas, and Thrillers. Pour yourself a cup of eggnog and get ready for some fine seasonal viewing!

"It’s the most wonderful time of the year…"

Top 5 Yuletide Comedies

First, the holiday comedy — surely one of the most problematic genres in all of cinema. Luckily, we’re here to help you navigate the tinsel-strewn minefields of holiday humor; all five of these films are as fresh as the day they were picked. Ho, ho, ho!

5) Bad Santa (2003) 74%

Regarded skeptically upon its release in 2003, "Bad Santa" has gone on to find new life as a rental cult classic for folks who like a little bourbon in their cinematic eggnog. The setup is simple — Billy Bob Thornton is a larcenous department-store Santa — but it’s the little touches that make the movie worth revisiting, from Bernie Mac as a mall detective to John Ritter (in one of his last roles) as a store manager. There are reasons this film caused a mild uproar, but if you’ve got the sense of humor for it, "Bad Santa" might find its way into your perennial holiday lineup.

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Bernie Mac
Directed by: Terry Zwigoff

4) The Santa Clause (1994) 78%

Consider it the anti-"Bad Santa": the first entry in Tim Allen‘s yuletide trilogy doesn’t have a mean bone in its goofy red and green body — and though subsequent sequels about the everyman-turned-Saint Nick have been ill-advised at best, "The Santa Clause" is better than you might remember. Though Allen has always seemed a little too small for the big screen, and the jokes are often broad enough to paint a barn door, this is a fine choice for viewers with kids. Or viewers who just want to feel like kids for a couple of hours.

Starring: Tim Allen, Judge Reinhold
Directed by: John Pasquin

3) The Ref (1994) 79%

This wasn’t Denis Leary‘s first feature film, but it was his first starring vehicle, and its low crap quotient — along with its release hot on the heels of Leary’s hit "No Cure for Cancer" album — helped make it a higher-profile affair than certain subsequent Leary films. It isn’t perfect, and certainly, if you’re a fan of the late Bill Hicks, "The Ref" is probably the last Denis Leary film you ever want to see — but that being said, the comedian’s ceaseless ranting is at its most palatable here, and Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis add a nice touch as Leary’s feuding captives. No patience for holiday cheer? "The Ref" might be the movie for you.

Starring: Denis Leary, Judy Davis
Directed by: Ted Demme

2) Elf (2003) 85%

Every star in the firmament had to align in order to make a picture about a man-child who believes himself one of Santa’s elves anything more than fodder for horrible late-night movie marathons — and, with "Elf," align themselves they did. Will Ferrell has the perfect blend of naïveté and oafishness for the title role, and director Jon Favreau keeps things sweet without being cloying. It’s also awfully hard to argue with any film that puts Bob Newhart in pointy shoes and a silly cap.

Starring: Will Ferrell, Zooey Deschanel
Directed by: Jon Favreau

1) A Christmas Story (1984) 88%

There are probably some negative things that can be said about this movie — it gave star Peter Billingsley the chance to go on and make "The Dirt Bike Kid," for one — but none of them detract from "A Christmas Story"’s sheer holiday greatness. If you came of age in the 1980s, it’s safe to say you’ve seen it dozens of times; "Story" is the "It’s a Wonderful Life" of the MTV generation, which is why it’s at once evocative of both Norman Rockwell‘s America and breakdancing. It shouldn’t make sense, but it does.

Starring: Peter Billingsley, Darren McGavin
Directed by: Bob Clark

Stay tuned, as tomorrow we count down the Freshest seasonal dramas!