They're Cheesy, They're Corny, They're Holiday Movie Clichés We Love
Some call 'em hackneyed clichés, but we like to think of these recurring holiday movie setups as lovable "chestnuts," like an old friend you look forward to seeing every year who perhaps goes by the name of "spiked eggnog." But before you pull on your mittens and head to the multiplex for the holiday movie season, grab a cup of hot cocoa and check out these flicks to remind you what you’re in for.
By Sarah MacLaughlin
HOLIDAY MOVIE CHESTNUT # 1
The spirit of Christmas compels neighbors to outdo each other in creating the best holiday lighting display in town.
What is it about holiday movies and lights? Colored lights, white lights, even Rudolph’s nose lights up. Despite Deck the Halls' flaws, watching Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick duel it out over who can put up the most impressive display of lights is a memorable sight. As the tension builds, it can only mean one thing: yup, you guessed it -- someone is about to fall off the roof!
Before Clark carves into the Christmas turkey, you know he’s going to ask grandma to say the blessing. It’s just too good an opportunity because she’s old, confused and can’t do anything other than recite the pledge of allegiance. Old people plus inappropriate behavior equals comedy gold!
HOLIDAY MOVIE CHESTNUT # 3:
The holidays are doubly poignant when a movie character is dying of cancer.
It totally sucks when I’m enjoying the light fare of a nice holiday movie when suddenly -- plot twist: it’s revealed someone has cancer! When it’s announced that [SPOILER ALERT!] Diane Keaton is dying of cancer in The Family Stone we're supposed to be reminded that life is fragile. But we're pretty sure that's not the news you want to hear before tucking into a big piece o' pumpkin pie.
HOLIDAY MOVIE CHESTNUT #4:
Dying people craft some of the best homemade Christmas gifts!
At the moment when Susan Sarandon gives her son a homemade velvet cape for Christmas hours before her impending death, it begs the question: Who knew lying on your death bed would free up so much time to stitch, knit and quilt? You'd think the tubes for the oxygen mask would keep getting tangled with the knitting needles.
HOLIDAY MOVIE CHESTNUT #5:
A fat girl always finds love around the holidays with an insanely out-of-their-league man who sees beyond her love handles.
Going to the movies is about escapism, wish fulfillment, living in a fantasy and there is no bigger fantasy than a fat girl scoring the hottest guy in a holiday movie. Because this never happens in real life. But you know it’s going to happen to pleasingly plump Renee Zwelleger in Bridget Jones’s Diary. After getting rejected by the love of her life Mark Darcy, (Colin Firth) the Brit dreamboat shows up on New Year’s Eve to tell her he loves her too. In Love, Actually, Hugh Grant (also in Bridget Jones!) falls for a portly secretary. We can only dream.
HOLIDAY MOVIE CHESTNUT # 6:
Christmas won’t be saved until a major character believes that someone from the North Pole is telling the truth.
How do you move an audience this season? Invoking our fondest childhood memories of the holidays usually does the trick. In the movie Elf, innocent and naïve Will Ferrell (as Buddy) greets people by asking what their favorite colors are. In this fast-paced world, it’s nice to be reminded of the simpler times of childhood when life wasn’t so complicated and the most pressing issue was picking a favorite color, not your 401K plan. Plus, Will Ferrell in tights is a magical sight indeed.
HOLIDAY MOVIE CHESTNUT # 7:
If you think you’re flying to Chicago for the holidays, think again.
Watching Steve Martin and the late John Candy trying to get from New York to Chicago in time for Thanksgiving dinner is a joyous holiday ritual for just about everyone. The mom in Home Alone also tries to get back to Chicago to the son she accidentally (!) left behind. Film fun fact: They’re trying to get to the same exact house! Both movies were written by John Hughes and used the same house in the suburbs of Chicago as their filming location. Who knew holiday travel at its worst could be so fun to watch?
HOLIDAY MOVIE CHESTNUT # 8:
When you finally realize you want to spend the rest of your life with someone and need to tell them, it’s New Year’s Eve and there are no cabs in New York City.
Not being able to get a cab when you desperately need one is stressful enough, but when it happens at the end of When Harry Met Sally, it’s just a major amping up of romantic drama. Fortunately for us, Harry doesn’t give up and say, “Oh forget it, I’ll get a good night’s sleep and tell Sally I love her tomorrow.
HOLIDAY MOVIE CHESTNUT #9:
It’s not Christmas until Vince Vaughn does something wildly inappropriate to an elf or an elderly relative.
After seeing Vince Vaughn in Fred Claus teach an elf how to slow dance, a task that involves the kind of intimate eye-to-crotch gazing not usually seen in Christmas movies, you might not be ready to check out another one of his holiday gems. But there's also Four Christmases, which has a houseful of cougars (his girlfriend's family!) Ahhh...holidays.