'Channel 5 Christmas Movies'
Since its opening ceremony in 1997, Channel 5 has always been a buzzword for lacklustre entertainment, promising a film every day, was inevitably going to result in a lack of quality, scraping the depths of America’s bargain basement. But they have forged a place in the schedule and our hearts, and no more so than their commitment to throwing Christmas movies at us. Yes we all know there are loads of good Christmas movies, from Home Alone (1990) to my personal favourite Scrooged (1988), but you don’t need a reminder of their greatness, what about those lesser known films, with a concept so ridiculous, it will light up your yule time. 'Tis the season, let's dive in.
Good Examples, Sort of! (UPDATED FOR CHRISTMAS 2020)
A Christmas Melody (2015) not only features but is directed by Mariah Carey, excited yet. This sappy Hallmark original, stars Lacey Chabert (a Christmas TV movie specialist, and of course star of The Sweetest Christmas) who moves back to her small town from LA, after her fashion business goes bust, irritating daughter in tow (she displays a terrible mixture of chipmunk voice and faux adult dialogue) who is set to perform in the Christmas Pageant. This not only introduces Lacey to a piano playing hunk (Brennan Elliott) but Mariah Carey’s bitchy head of the PTA. Don’t worry, Mariah is barely in this, and all her scenes look like they were filmed separately. She seldom appears in the same frame as the other actors, and the lighting and composition of her shots are completely different. Assuming the role of director, could she have demanded this, not wanting to mix with the other filthy actors? Such diva behaviour doesn’t sound like Carey! It ends with a completely over the top rendition of Oh Santa!, performed by the high-pitched daughter, with a janitor who may-or-may not be Santa, dancing by himself, in a scene that looks like it was shot weeks later. Unsurprisingly Mariah hasn’t directed a film since…
Mrs Miracle (2009) stars James Van Der Beek (Yes that’s Dawson!) as an overworked single Dad, whose child minders have all quit due to his rowdy and irritating boys. Luckily some kind of supernatural entity named Mrs Merkle (Played by veteran actor Doris Roberts, best known as the Mum in Everybody Loves Raymond) turns up to sort the boys out, but she is also obsessed with match making, so arranges for Dawson to bump into plucky Reba (Erin Karpluk, TV movie specialist who has made a film called Wyvern - yes the mythical dragon, well someone had to). She is forced into directing the school nativity by Mrs. Merkle and Dawson is also tricked into playing the piano, which he hasn’t done since his wife’s death, that manipulative Merkle! I think you can guess the ending. There is a sweetness to it, but you have to ask yourself if other individuals were in more need of a miracle at Christmas, than a wealthy architect with a lovely house and a couple of kids in need of discipline - maybe Mrs. Merkle is off to help the homeless when she vanishes at the end. I would like to know her backstory, maybe she is like Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap, forced to help others, leaping from life-to-life once they have sex. This backstory might be explored in Mrs. Miracle 2: Maid in Manhattan (2010), I just didn’t have the stomach for it.
Speaking of Sweetness; The Sweetest Christmas (2017) , a Hallmark Channel special, sees Lacey Chabert (the one from Mean Girls) as a baker, who is enrolled in the competition of her life - The American Gingerbread Competition, yes this is serious stuff, but she has split up with her useless boyfriend and has nowhere to practice, but luckily an old flame is on hand to guide her through to fulfil her dreams. A fine concept indeed and of course there really is a competition of this ilk in America, complete with $5,000 dollar prize. The film is predictable, sickly sweet and silly, but with the world in peril, this is sometimes what you need on a cosy Sunday evening. Bake some Gingerbread and enjoy!
Much more obnoxious is I’ll Be Home for Christmas (1998) Starring the heartthrob of the 90’s; Jonathan Taylor Thomas, as cocky college student Jake (how dare he take that name). He has failed to come back to see his Dad for Christmas for the last couple of years, so has to be bribed back with the promise of a Porsche (a deserving gift indeed), but unfortunately he is brutally hazed by his fellow students, after a plan to cheat on their exams goes wrong. He is left in the desert, glued into a Santa suit with no money and only a limited time to get back for Christmas. He also needs to win back his girlfriend (a young and innocent Jessica Biel) who is also being pursued by rival Eddie ( complete with 90’s curtains, who is slightly more unpleasant than Jake). We get some nice road movie antics, Jake having to compete in a Santa Fun run, actually help people out and learn about the spirit of Christmas. It is just all done with a 90’s cock sureness, with its tag line being This yule, be cool. Despite this it's a great relic of the era, which just about comes off, complete with N’Sync on the soundtrack, what more could you ask for?
One to avoid
One step too far is Call me Claus (2001) starring Whoopi Goldberg as Lucy, the producer of a shopping channel who hires the real Santa (played for some reason by Nigel Hawthorne) who then needs a replacement for himself, and for some reason Lucy becomes the only candidate left, somehow. The film is devoid of jokes, features terrible effects and features Whoopi with white dreads. You will feel like you have overdosed on Mince Pies and Egg Nog way before the 86 minutes, delivers its obvious conclusion. Thats enough, until next year…