Be honest. You don’t know what day it is anymore. It’s all a blur and you’re confused that it’s September already. But if you jetted ahead to the final days of summer this fast, then why not zoom ahead to the holiday season in your mind? And why not do so by watching bad Christmas movies? Because… what do we say? Bad times call for bad movies. I know, I really should be a therapist or something. I give excellent advice. Keep reading and you’ll get more of it.
Unaccompanied Minors (HBO)
Unaccompanied Minors is a movie that could have been really good. It’s based on a poignant This American Life story by Susan Burton about being a “divorce kid” stuck in the airport on Christmas Eve because of a snow storm. And seeing that it was directed by Paul Feig, who proved himself to be the master of teen story telling with Freaks and Geeks, I thought it would have more redeeming qualities than it actually did. The combination of schlocky acting, poor character development, circular plot tactics and silly action sequences are likely to blame for it’s flop status. But this movie is worth watching, mainly because of it’s long list of very short cameos by A+ comedy actors. This is so true that you could almost make a drinking game out of spotting actors from Arrested Development, The Office, and SNL in between blinks. I actually missed Kristen Wiig all together because of the briefness of her scene, but she’s nestled in there somewhere between quick flashes of Mindy Kaling, Tony Hale, and Mark McKinney.
Oh, Pottersville… where do I begin? Should we start with the fact that Michael Shannon’s wife (Christina Hendricks) betrays him by having a “furry” affair, or talk about how Shannon drunkenly dresses as a gorilla to cope with his resulting grief and is mistaken by the entire town for Big Foot? Honestly, these are the things that actually made me love this movie. It’s quirky, offbeat, and irreverent; all things that are actually quite refreshing in a Christmas movie when done well. But unfortunately, that tone is rarely done well in holiday movies.
Thomas Lennon plays a monster-hunting reality TV douchebag who swoops in to capitalize on spotting Big Foot, and the town is crazed with all the attention. Meanwhile, Shannon moonlights in his gorilla suit to keep the magic alive, bringing joy to all who are lucky enough to spot him. And then somehow, the film redirects and decides to go for a saccharin ending that is straight up stolen from It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s totally discordant with the rest of the movie. This flick is bizarre, and although I can’t say it’s good, you have to love it for being an oddball in a sea of Christmas sameness. Especially because you’re an oddball watching Christmas movies in September.
Holiday in the Wild (Netflix)
There are so many cheesy holiday rom-com movies, so it’s really hard to pick just one. But I think that last season’s Holiday in the Wild is perfect for your September viewing because it’s escapist, it has elephants, and Rob Lowe is in it. It basically checks all the boxes you didn’t know you needed in a Christmas movie.
Kristin Davis plays Kate Conrad, a woman who’s husband wasted no time dumping her as soon as her college-aged son moved out of the house. She’d planned to go on a trip to Zambia with her scumbag ex, but now that he’s out of the picture, she goes by herself. And that’s where she meets Rob Lowe. He’s the pilot of a small tourist plane and also works for an elephant sanctuary. Kate hates him. But after he pulls her into his elephant life and flashes some of that sexy stubble her way, she starts to fall in love with Lowe and the elephants. Oh yeah, Kate is conveniently a vet who’s probably never treated an elephant until now, but she somehow knows what to do immediately. And oh yeah, she spends Christmas there (making this a Christmas movie).
Look, I won’t lie to you. This movie is on the subpar list for a reason. It’s as steeped in realism as any rom-com, which means that it’s weak in the believability department. But there are baby elephants and Rob Lowe stubble. And Christmas cheer. And “Send Me On My Way” plays during a montage. And sometimes Kristin Davis drinks a martini and it will make you get Sex and the City flashbacks. Basically, you’ll like this movie and you’ll hate yourself for it a little.
Image: Unaccompanied Minors, HBO (2006)