5 holiday movies that are really kind of depressing (including ‘Last Christmas’) – USA TODAY
Published 10:00 AM EST Nov 8, 2019
Christmas cheer is a staple of holiday movies, be they good, bad or just plain ugly, but so is a bit of melancholy.
Some darkness is a hallmark of the classics. In the many, many variations on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” it’s all good news and “God bless us, every one” by the end, but when ol’ Scrooge comes face to face with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come – and his own mortality – it’s a gut punch. Don’t forget “It’s A Wonderful Life”: Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey contemplates suicide before his guardian angel shows him what he truly means to the world and his loved ones.
It’s the movies that are inordinately sad – and just not very good to begin with – where the anguish is a huge turnoff. The latest in that subgenre of holiday fare is director Paul Feig’s “Last Christmas” (in theaters Friday), with Emilia Clarke veering far from Mother of Dragons mode as a yuletide-shop elf who’s not having a good time of it when a handsome stranger (Henry Golding) offers the pick-me-up she desperately needs.
Here are five holiday movies that you might want to avoid – or at least watch in an excessively good mood – that are unusually sad for the season.
‘Collateral Beauty’ (2016)
Where to even begin with this travesty? How about with the death of a child: Will Smith plays a once-successful advertising executive who’s still grieving the loss of his daughter two years later and writes cathartic letters to Love, Time and Death. But for the real cynical assault on the holiday spirit, the guy’s business partners (Edward Norton, Kate Winslet and Michael Pena) – who all have their own issues, too – try to prove he’s mentally unstable so they can sell the company. At least there’s a surprise twistiness and a somewhat uplifting ending, though you’ll probably have tapped out of the weepy schmaltz by then.
‘The Family Man’ (2000)
A perfect example of why Nicolas Cage should stick to only crazy, Cage-y roles. There’s a “Wonderful Life” spin to this tale of Jack (Cage), a Wall Street guy who gets a glimpse of the road not taken with a college girlfriend (Tea Leoni) instead of his dream career. He wakes up in a different life with a different job (he’s a non-profit lawyer now), married and with children, and after a fish-out-of-water period, Jack finds that he digs his new life – only to have the rug pulled out from under him and be sent back to his old existence. Sure, there’s a glimmer of hope at the end, but still … BRUTAL.
‘The Family Stone’ (2005)
Ah, the all-star tear-jerking Christmas dramedy with a dysfunctional clan. Dermot Mulroney plays a dude who takes his uptight girlfriend (Sarah Jessica Parker) home to meet his crazy-liberal family (including Rachel McAdams, Luke Wilson and Craig T. Nelson), and rampant bickering, casual homophobia and romantic switcheroos ensue. Amid all this is the deteriorating condition of the Stone mom (Diane Keaton), a breast cancer survivor and beating heart of the family. Her cancer returns, she doesn’t tell the family because it’s the holidays, and – spoiler alert for a 14-year-old movie – she doesn’t quite reach the credits in a not-as-happy-as-it-could’ve-been ending.
‘Jack Frost’ (1998)
Bar-band singer/dad Jack Frost (Michael Keaton) gives his son his “magical” harmonica, and on the way to a big gig decides he’d rather spend time with his family and dies in a car accident during a snowstorm. (Thanks to, not even kidding, bad windshield wipers.) His son plays the harmonica, which sticks Jack’s soul into a snowman. Unsurprisingly, the kid is weirded out by a talking snowman, but Jack gets to do a lot of parenting (and sledding) in his Frosty new form, which gets trickier as the weather warms up. So prepare for dead snowman dad high jinks followed by the soul-wrenching goodbye scene when Jack heads off to the afterlife.
‘Last Christmas’ (2019)
This absurd chestnut is based on the famous George Michael song and sort of wants to be a jukebox musical (but isn’t), wants to be a romantic comedy yet has a whole weird anti-Brexit angle, and the fluffy flick is also way predictable. You’ll figure out the downer of a twist within the first 15 minutes or so by just paying attention, though until the inevitable shoe drops you get unlucky Kate (Clarke) making googly eyes with enigmatic Tom (Golding) as she has a Scrooge-esque life turnaround following a medical emergency that throws her life off track. Only for Wham! die-hards and those who think hearing “Last Christmas” sung six times, once by a toy Christmas gibbon, sounds cool.
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