The clock is ticking as Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) and his creative team try to convince Mrs. P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to allow them to make a movie version of her beloved creation Mary Poppins. This lovely, funny, very musical and touching movie is a sure-fire, feel-good experience. Here are 10 more movies with a similar heart, all guaranteed to pick up your spirits and make you feel good about the holidays.
By Peter Martin
A Christmas Story
Start with the nostalgic but grounded source material by Jean Shepherd, who also narrates, add in all the memorable stories that are still funny no matter how many times you've seen them, and a family of characters who all sound like someone you know, and behold: a classic that is sure to bring a smile to your face.
Eight Crazy Nights
This one's for all of us in dysfunctional families; it's a messy, criminally-inclined animated adventure that's probably best enjoyed late at night after the little ones have gone to bed. Adam Sandler's raunchy holiday movie belies its cheerful appearance by introducing dark, adult-oriented themes, but then it overcomes its own cynicism to find joy in the season of giving.
Will Ferrell's cheerful presence powers an unusual fish-out-of-water tale. He's a human who was brought up as one of Santa's elves, and then reunited with his grouchy biological father (James Caan). The slapstick antics and silly jokes are bolstered by a great cast that includes Zooey Deschanel, Bob Newhart, Mary Steenburgen, and Peter Dinklage, who all chip in to make this a very happy holiday perennial.
A mother (Catherine O'Hara) is horror-stricken when she realizes her 8-year-old son Kevin (Macauley Culkin) has been left behind on an overseas family vacation. Kevin, meanwhile, feels liberated, and is empowered to defend the family home from two soon-to-be-sorry criminals. At its heart, though, this classic is about love, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
Lady and the Tramp
The holidays are a wonderful time to be reminded that romantic fires need tending in order to keep burning. The movie begins on Christmas morning, contrasting the very different environments in which the dogs known as Lady and the Tramp live, and then shows how they overcome their differences to build a relationship. Sharp-witted and wise, the surging, positive emotions spill off the screen and into your heart.
During the holiday season, department store employee Queen Latifah, given only a few weeks to live, decides she will go out on a high note, enjoying the vacation of her dreams. With a newfound sense of freedom, she shucks off her shy disposition and becomes a bubbly, forthright personality, drawing many new admirers. Her kindness and empathy toward others, despite her circumstances, is a lovely example for everyone who must deal with adversity.
After seeing Saving Mr. Banks, you'll be humming the tunes anyway, but the pleasant surprise is how well Disney's version holds up after repeated viewings. Of course, Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke are total delights, but knowing the real story behind the characters and story adds another layer of meaning and enjoyment to the heartwarming antics.
While this is not a traditional holiday pick -- and the movie is not for unaccompanied minors -- the bickering, ultimately affectionate chemistry between Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin makes it seems like they're flesh-and-blood brothers on a road trip. Note that Grodin encourages De Niro to reconcile with his daughter, and that the two exchange gifts; it's the perfect holiday movie for action fans who love gun fights and chase scenes.
Miracle on 34th Street
We prefer the original 1947, black-and-white version, though the 1994 version (in color!) will do in a pinch. The original has the advantage of the twinkle-eyed Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle, Maureen O'Hara as a no-nonsense store executive and mother, and Natalie Wood as the precocious little girl who still believes in Santa Claus. And how can you not feel good when the mail bags arrive in the courtroom?
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Beware the profanity, delivered with justifiable exasperation, but John Hughes' dizzying, madcap adventure captures the perils and pains of traveling during the holidays. Steve Martin and John Candy make for a delightfully mismatched and odd couple, with Martin edging into dark territories before Candy's optimistic viewpoint yanks him back. It's a reminder that the holidays are really about spending time with loved ones.