It’s a Wonderful Life is, to me, one of the most important films in my life, and in cinema history. It’s a favourite of my dad’s, a Christmas classic, and the tale of what happens when you’re an ungrateful, frustrated family man whose small town is being ruined by big business. It’s also the story of what happens when someone can literally show you what life would be like had you never existed. Stark, uncompromising, and capable of breaking your heart and warming it in one go. George isn’t necessarily a villain, but he learns a valuable lesson that everyone would do well to pay attention to.
Jack Skellington, star of The Nightmare Before Christmas, years later, is still the most interesting character Tim Burton has ever created. The figurehead of Halloween Town, his exasperation at the endless horror and darkness that surrounds him is suddenly removed by his discovery of Christmas Town. The events that follow are a mixture of sweet and creepy, but Jack’s transformation of himself and the town around him is interesting to watch.
Robin Williams’ Peter Pan in Hook is the worst sort of father. Constantly preoccupied with work, with little time to relax, or play, his world is thrown into complete disarray upon discovering Neverland. What follows is a gem from my own childhood that features everything from a mohawked leader of the Lost Boys to a table full of imaginary food that to this day makes me quite peckish. I’ll be right back, I’m going to get a packet of Wotsits.
Right, I’m back. So’s The Grinch, when he finally reappears in Whoville to cause havoc as the nastiest, most anti-Christmas character you’ve ever seen. A green furry sadist, Jim Carrey portrays him with predictably high levels of energy and the resultant expressive body language. A character whose evil-to-good transformation is very predictable, yes, but given how old the Dr Seuss-penned source material is, it could be seen as one of the first to tell this sort of tale. It’s also an interesting commentary on the cycle of abuse, and worth a look.
When it comes to Santa Claus is Coming to Town, The Winter Warlock is a nice example of how a lot of children’s-tale villains are usually only acting unpleasantly because they’re yet to see any pleasantries from anyone else. WW’s no exception, as his transformation from a cold, controlling figure into a kind, albeit magically weaker individual is all down to receiving a toy train from Kris Kringle himself. Aww.
If you want to follow that one up with a semi-sequel, then The Year Without Santa Claus is worth a look. Heat Miser and Snow Miser are brothers who are constantly at war with one another in order to take control of the weather. But who turns them around this Christmas? Their mum, of course, which sends a nice little holiday message to squabbling siblings (of all ages) - yer mum can be a real force of nature, and in this case, their mum is Mother Nature, so that’s settled.
Ah, there’s nothing like a story about home invasion with a child as the only victim to warm your hew-oh, wait. Regardless, Home Alone is an absolute classic, and features the stereotypical Local Crazy Old Man who turns out to be the least crazy, and most reliable adult in the entire film. Quite how you manage to leave a child at the house, regardless of the number of kids you have, is beyond me, but thank god for the local elderly, right?
If you’re the potential heir to the Santa Claus throne, as in Christmas flick Arthur Claus, you might end up a little impatient. Steve, son of Santa, is one such individual, and he can’t stand the idea of his bumbling brother Arthur taking the title off him. It’s an interesting concept that deals with the issue of Santa’s mortality, which is a creative concept. Steve’s darkness does indeed get dealt with, but I’ll let you watch that one for yourself.
In Nativity, the viewer gets to find out what happens when you lie to impress people. In the case of one Paul Maddens, a morally skewed teacher at a primary school, telling people Hollywood have taken an interest in your Nativity play is a good way to set off a somewhat stressful chain of events. Thankfully, he's not averse to learning his lesson, either, and manages to pull off the event, get the girl, and make the kids happy. Score one for Bilbo Baggins.
I'd be remiss in my duty as a cataloguer of Christmas redemption characters if I didn’t mention the one and only Ebeneezer Scrooge. He’s the ultimate grumpy old man a spiteful miser who has no respect for anyone around him. A night of ghosts and haunting visions soon change his mind, however, and it’s a heartwarming tale. Whatever version you see will be enjoyable to some degree, but I’d say The Muppets Christmas Carol is the smart play, here.