I had seen parts of all these movies before, but never watched them all the way through in one sitting. Christmas gave me an excuse to watch them again, and in their entirety!
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Both this and Mickey's Christmas Carol (nominated for an Oscar for best animated short) are the only film versions of A Christmas Carol that I have seen so far. However they are both excellent! While I usually like the Muppets more when they are playing themselves instead of characters like in this movie or Muppet Treasure Island, it works surprisingly well here. The songs are memorable as I remembered most of them while watching this again despite the fact I hadn't seen this film in years. Michael Caine plays Scrooge completely straight and would have put in the same performance without the Muppets. While this is a Muppet movie, it is also an adaptation of A Christmas Carol, and a surprisingly faithful one at that. The Muppet Christmas Carol was the first Muppet movie made after Jim Henson's death and it was great that the Muppets were able to continue at a high level of quality after his passing. This one ranks up there with The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper as my three favorite Muppet movies. I saw The Muppets (2011) recently and will be discussing it in my next post.
A Christmas Story (1983)
Every year A Christmas Story gets shown on TBS for 24 hours on Christmas Day. Like most people this was how I was introduced to the movie. And like many people I had never seen the whole movie in one sitting before. I decided to change that this year as A Christmas Story is firmly entrenched in popular culture and is even on Roger Ebert's Great Movies list. While the film has been overexposed with the Christmas marathons, a lot of people still tune in to watch it every year. Although I don't think A Christmas Story is the best Christmas movie ever, it is the best to air on a loop. The film contains many vignettes which are loosely related as they all follow Ralphie's family in the days leading up to Christmas. This makes it easy to start or stop watching whenever you want, which doesn't work with a lot of movies. Although I feel that A Christmas Story is overrated, its still an enjoyable Christmas movie. I usually don't like narration in movies but it works perfectly here and was a direct inspiration for The Wonder Years TV show. Darren McGavin, mainly known for his TV work such as Kolchak: The Night Stalker, puts in a nice performance as the father.
Santa with Muscles (1996)
I had seen the first third of this movie several years ago but couldn't bring myself to finish it. What can I say, Santa with Muscles is surprisingly boring for a Hulk Hogan flick. Armed with a group of friends who like to mock bad movies and my own higher tolerance for crappy cinema, I was able to make it all the way through this time! The plot is pretty ridiculous, the Hulkster plays a millionaire who gets amnesia and thinks he is Santa Claus. Some orphans then ask for Santa's help since a mad scientist wants to take over the orphanage for the crystals underneath the building. Mila Kunis plays one of the orphans in an early role. We also have Ed Begley Jr., Clint Howard, and Robin Curtis (Saavik from Star Trek 3 and 4). That '70s Show fans will notice that in addition to Mila Kunis, actor Don Stark (Bob Pinciotti - Donna's father) is in this movie as Lenny, Santa's elf and partner in trying to save the orphanage.
When it comes to Christmas movies, this is one of the worst. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and Santa Claus are pretty damn bad but at least they each have bizarrely amusing moments. Santa with Muscles is probably better than those two but its not as fun to watch. That said, this movie is It's A Wonderful Life compared to The Star Wars Holiday Special or Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny!