The holiday season brings us many blessings. Christmas movie sequels aren’t among them. In a time of iPhone 8 and L.O.L. Surprise, sequels are stale fruitcake.
Sequels are a dicey proposition regardless of genre, but follow-ups to Christmas films seem particularly hexed. I’m talking Jacob-Marley-in-chains, you’re-on-Santa’s-naughty-list, lump-of-coal-in-your-stocking cursed.
With the Yuletide in full swing, and holiday movies showing around the clock, it’s a good time for a reminder that Christmas movies are never better the second time around. Or the third, fourth or fifth.
Everyone loves “Home Alone,” right? A cute kid foils hapless burglars and learns the value of home and family. Because it was a hit, there of course had to be a sequel. In “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” Kevin gets on the wrong plane and ends up at the Plaza Hotel alone, where he encounters the same burglars. He keeps them at bay by throwing bricks at their heads from atop a six-story building, stapling their groins, and electrocuting them. And just when you don’t think things can’t get any more uncomfortable, Donald Trump shows up for a cameo.
Gratuitous violence wasn’t what moviegoers expected from a follow-up to the original heartwarmer. That’s because “Home Alone 2,” along with “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” marked the start of the Christmas movie sequel jinx. A few years later Hollywood tried to capitalize on the delightful Tim Allen film “The Santa Clause” and gave us the worst Christmas present since slipper socks. The sequel featured a mechanical Santa and an attempted coup at the North Pole. The only thing worse would’ve been a slapstick-fueled feud with Jack Frost. This brings us to “The Santa Clause 3,” which earned five Golden Raspberry Award nominations, including one for Worst Excuse for Family Entertainment. It was ho-ho-horrible.
Sure, you can try to ignore these sequels, but they continue to air, tainting the legacy of the originals. Did you know they made “A Christmas Story 2” three decades after the original classic? It went straight to DVD, and got a review from Slash Film that could’ve been written by that future president who made a cameo in the “Home Alone” sequel: “Sad.”
Viewers are better off spending their time watching the originals. But as long as familiar titles equal dollar signs, Hollywood will continue to betray its holiday classics with unworthy sequels. Hence the existence of “Home Alones 2-5,” the animated bomb “Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2.” Cousin Eddie stars in that one, which seems like a great idea until you watch him stab a pig in the head. Unlike a membership in the Jelly of the Month Club, that film is not a gift that keeps givin’ the whole year.
Perhaps in this season of thankfulness, we should consider ourselves lucky Hollywood hasn’t smeared more holiday treasures with reboots. We’ve been spared “It’s a Wonderful Life 2,” where George Bailey loses the Building and Loan in a pyramid scheme. He’s found disconsolate in a Bedford Falls strip club before being inspired to rediscover the meaning of Christmas by a guardian angel masquerading as a dancer named Angel. How about “White Christmas 2,” where Wallace and Davis go through a bitter breakup and go solo. But soon Danny Kaye realizes he’s the Andrew Ridgeley to Bing Crosby’s George Michael, and grovels until his partner agrees to reunite for a Christmas Eve concert? These are of course terrible ideas, but no worse than the plots of the other Christmas sequels studios have green-lighted.
Recapturing the magic of an original is tough, whether you’re making a Christmas movie or filming “Jaws: The Revenge.” Fortunately, there are so many winning Christmas movies available, there’s no need to waste time or money on subpar sequels. Let us be mindful of that blessing as we celebrate this season of giving and gratitude.
A bit of advice, though, in case you stumble across “Home Alone 2:” Watch too long, and you’ll feel like you got brained by a brick from six stories up.