by J.M. McNab
While we may have accepted that Indiana Jones met some aliens, or that Francis Ford Coppola cast his daughter in the third Godfather movie, we demand more from our Christmas movies and specials. Unfortunately, many classic Christmas movie characters nevertheless returned for follow-ups that denigrate the original, thus ruining Christmas. If this was a TV movie, Rob Lowe would save it somehow… maybe Dean Cain.
7. Clarence the Angel Gets a Sexy ’90s Makeover
“It’s It’s a Wonderful Life, but sexier, and for the nineties!” is probably how the 1990 TV movie Clarence was pitched by a coked-up, ponytailed screenwriter, to a soulless, shoulder-pad-wearing television executive.
Clarence finds the beloved guardian angel character from Frank Capra’s classic 1946 film (which we discussed on this week’s show) transformed into a younger, handsomer, guardian angel played by Robert Carradine… because, Christmas magic, I guess?
Apparently Clarence has used his powers (the kind normally reserved for convincing people not to commit suicide) to make himself more attractive and youthful-looking. Isn’t vanity supposed to be a sin? Try watching the original knowing that the benevolent angel you know and love becomes a superficial douchebag.
Also, for some reason, Clarence doesn’t like saving people anymore, and agrees to back to Earth in this movie only because a fellow angel’s widow is contemplating suicide. So basically, he won’t tell people not to kill themselves unless it’s a favor for a buddy. Merry Christmas everybody.
6. Frosty the Snowman is Actually Depressed and Lonely
Everybody loves Frosty the Snowman (except for that evil magician), so one would naturally assume that his sequel would recapture the magic of the original. Well, it turns out it doesn’t. To start with, remember how Frosty sang “I’ll be back on Christmas day” in the original? Turns out that was a big fucking lie. The sequel, Frosty’s Winter Wonderland takes place several years later, for some reason.
Guess what else isn’t fun about Frosty 2? Frosty is depressed and starts crying.
That’s right, it’s bad enough that you have to deal with your family members’ soul-crushing sadness on Christmas, now even beloved cartoon characters can’t keep their shit together during the holidays.
Turns out Frosty has… needs… So the kids build him a snow-woman for a wife– the only problem is she doesn’t have a magic hat to bring her to life, which is, again, depressing. It’s like trying to set your best friend up with a mannequin or a corpse.
Watching this sequel makes you wish those kids in the original had never meddled in dark arts, playing god and creating a whole new lifeform. In light of this sequel, the original Frosty becomes a maddening prelude to a host of unanticipated ethical dilemmas.
5. The Grinch Just Went Back to Being a Dick After Christmas
Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas was such a successful TV special, it would be insane for its creators not to produce a new special about the second-most popular holiday and find a way to awkwardly shoehorn The Grinch into it.
That being said, the 1977 follow-up, Halloween is Grinch Night, finds The Grinch once again terrorizing the town of Whoville– which doesn’t totally gel with the ending of the original.
What happened to The Grinch carving the roast beast? Or his heart growing an, albeit medically-worrisome, three sizes that day? Having a sequel where The Grinch acts like a deranged stalker undoes all of the character development from the original, and accidentally reinforces that most famous of Christmas morals: “Nobody ever changes… pass the wine.”
4. Charlie Brown and Linus Forget the True Meaning of Christmas
A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of the most beloved half-hours of family entertainment. Setting it apart from other Holiday programming is the special’s frank examination of the over-commercialization of Christmas, Yuletide malaise, and the holiday’s disengagement from its spiritual origins.
Originally airing in 1965, it wasn’t until 1991 that the show was released on home video (apparently the stupid 1960s didn’t have VHS). Fittingly, Charlie Brown appeared in a television commercial promoting the release of this seminal work. The ad begins with Charlie Brown and Linus, trudging through the snow, carrying their skates. It almost feels like a proper sequel to the classic special.
Charlie Brown: I’m worried, Linus. Christmas is coming, and I don’t know what to get anyone.
Linus: Charlie Brown, what you need is a gift everyone will like–
Okay, here it comes, another one of Linus’ big speeches! In the original he quoted the Bible, assuring everyone that the true meaning of Christmas didn’t involve material goods–
Linus: That’s it! A Charlie Brown Christmas videotape!
Okay… Well, that makes sense, they have to sell their videotape somehow. It’s not like the only way to purchase the tape would be by buying something else from some kind of billion-dollar corporation trying to lure you into consuming their product using your childhood nostalgia as bait.
Charlie Brown: But where do I get them Linus?
Voice: Participating Shell stations are now offering A Charlie Brown Christmas while supplies last. Only $3.99 with an eight gallon fill-up!
So the only way to buy A Charlie Brown Christmas, an animated treatise on the non-corporatization of Christmas, is by going to a Shell station and filling up your tank. That’s like if the DVD of Gandhi was only available through Burger King. The worst part is, this betrayal of the characters’ values is enacted by the characters themselves! It’s so out of character, one wonders if Shell was holding Lucy, or Peppermint Patty hostage in exchange for these classic characters abandoning their core beliefs.
3. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is Still Treated Like Shit
While it seemed that the original 1964 special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer had a neat and tidy ending, there have nevertheless been several sequels. One of which, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys from 2001 strangely replaces the quaint, timeless stop-motion animation of the original with hollow, soulless, cheap-looking CGI.
The most troubling part of the sequel though, is how it undercuts the message of the original. Remember how the ostracized Rudolph was finally accepted at the end? Turns out that wasn’t such a happy ending after all…
As we see in the beginning of this sequel, everyone at the North Pole still treats Rudolph like a freak, like some kind of yuletide Elephant Man, Rudolph is constantly being hounded to perform his nose “trick.” Rudolph leaves the North Pole in despair muttering “Guess I’m just a novelty act around here.”
2. Scrooge Continues to Hate Christmas but Learns to Love ‘80s Rock
The 1983 special Scrooge’s Rock ‘n Roll Christmas produced to, presumably, cure the public of their enjoyment of both Christmas and music, finds Ebeneezer Scrooge working on Christmas day, grumbling about how Bob Cratchit took the day off.
So, seemingly this is both a sequel to Charles Dickens’ classic story A Christmas Carol (and its many cinematic adaptations) but also a reimagining of it– what would happen if Scrooge wasn’t visited by the ghosts on Christmas Eve? The short answer: he’d still be a dick. The longer answer: he’d be a dick who learns to love bad ‘80s rock.
Through some kind of rip in the space-time continuum, a visitor from the future (ie 1983) enters Scrooge’s office believing it to be a record store. Since Scrooge is all Bah Humbugy, the girl from the future teaches him about contemporary music using a magic snowglobe, which is a thing people totally carried with them in 1983.
After witnessing performances by stars such as Three Dog Night, The Association and even meeting The Beach Boys’ Mike Love, who he recognizes for some reason, Scrooge learns to love Christmas…Well, not really, but it does seem like he’s really grooving to those tunes. It’s a disturbing revisionist sequel to one of the great Christmas stories.
1. Kevin McCallister’s Parents Really Are the Worst
When Home Alone hit screens in 1990, audiences somehow accepted that Kate and Peter McCallister could accidentally go on vacation without their son, Kevin. In their defense, they did befall a series of unfortunate coincidences, and were firm believers in the controversial parenting tactic of banishing your small child to the attic.
When it happened again in the sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, it was less believable. Nevertheless, the filmmakers made a concerted effort to show that Kate and Peter still loved their son and didn’t, say, want him to be murdered on the streets of New York– Which, let’s face it, is what would have happened almost immediately if it were real life.
In the 2002 straight-to-video Home Alone 4 (Home Alone 3 has nothing to do with the McCallisters, who happened to not abandon their child that Christmas) Kevin, who now has a different hair color and looks younger for some reason, is spending Christmas with his recently divorced dad at his dad’s new girlfriend’s mansion.
Because there are really only about three or four active criminals in the United States, the mansion is targeted by a familiar face– Marv of the Wet Bandits… and by familiar face, I mean not familiar at all. Home Alone 4 recasts Daniel Stern’s part with French Stewart, and partners him with some strange lady instead of Harry, the character played by Joe Pesci… which is weird for a number of reasons, mainly because since they made literally no effort to make French Stewart look like Daniel Stern, so they could have realistically cast anyone at all and just called them ”Harry” for the sake of retaining a bare minimum of consistency.
The most upsetting part of Home Alone 4 is the fact that Kevin is never actually left home alone, instead he’s just ignored by his dad, a negligent parent who is enjoying boning his new girlfriend more than listening to his son’s cries for help.
Kevin is actually attacked by Marv in this movie, and when he tells his dad, Mr. McCallister earns the the Jack Torrence Award for worst father of the year by not believing him. This isn’t just bad writing, it’s irresponsible writing; kids need to know that they can confide in their parents if something bad or dangerous happens to them.
Of course the original walked that line of rooting for the McCallister parents and calling Child Services on them, but somehow they made it work. This movie, however, ruins all of that goodwill. How can you enjoy the first two movies when you know that Kate will allow her son to stay with Peter who has become an irresponsible sociopath? Kevin would be better off being adopted by the Wet Bandits, or that crazy old man who turned out not to be a murderer, but was still really, really creepy.