In my family, Christmas Day is a day where you don't have to change out of your pajamas, and the only agenda is to watch whichever DVDs someone got under the tree that year. But I understand that some of you are more enterprising, and are actually willing to leave the house and be around others on the happiest day of the year.
Luckily, the movies are willing to help you out, so you can hang out with your family without actually having to speak to them. Five movies are opening in wide release on Christmas Day, joined by two high profile limited releases and then, on Friday, one more limited prestige release. That's in addition to the two biggies from last weekend, Yes Man and Seven Pounds, which will be fighting extra hard for your attention since they made like no money last weekend. So to help you figure out which to see and which to skip, we've got a guide to Christmas Day releases, much like the one we put up for Thanksgiving movies a few weeks back. So figure out where you fit in, buy your tickets online, and spread holiday cheer from a cramped aisle seat!
When your cousin is an Adam Sandler fan, your other cousin is 5, and you like silly humor: Bedtime Stories.
It's probably the laziest pick you can make for all-ages entertainment-- and not a particularly well-reviewed one-- but it's foolproof so long as you don't have any film snobs in your company. If that's the case, drop them off at Blockbuster and let them wallow in the Fellini section or something. Best for...: Everyone, except those allergic to gerbil humor. Kinda like that time you all saw...: Night at the Museum, and thought there was too much history and education stuff in it.
When you're in the mood for a cry, but you're too cynical for Marley and Me: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It's the big prestige picture, Oscar-favorite release of this Christmas, it's true. But it's also a pretty blatant tearjerker, and it features enough beautiful scenery, struggling romance and moments of humor to satisfy those who preferred Forrest Gump to Pulp Fiction. No matter what, the special effects are guaranteed to blow everyone away. Best for... Grown-ups who want their romance a bit more hopeful than Revolutionary Road. Kind of like that time you all saw...Chicago for the Oscar prestige, even though you hated the fact that it was a musical.
When you are with a group of women who have all read the book: Marley and Me.
The ideal group for this consists of nothing but dog lovers, but Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson fans will be OK too. This is a supremely undemanding movie that basically involves watching a family and their dog over the course of 13 years. But fair warning-- anyone outside the target demographic will say the movie feels 13 years long as well. You've been warned. Best for... Groups of girlfriends, or families who can leave the menfolk at home to watch football. Kind of like that time you all saw....P.S. I Love You and cried because you had to leave your dog at home.
When you're a teenage boy who doesn't know any better: The Spirit.
There's really no reason for anyone with access to a DVD of Sin City to see this movie-- read Josh's review for proof--but you're not going to get that 15-year-old boy to see Marley and Me, now are you? At least take heart that it will not convince him to love Frank Miller, since no one-- no one-- has any business enjoying this movie. Best for... No one, masochists, and bored teenagers.
Kind of like that time you all saw...Sweeney Todd because you thought it was a noirish horror movie, and not an adaptation of an acclaimed musical. If you were that dumb then, you are dumb enough to see The Spirit.
When you're willing to look past bad press and see an entertaining movie that's actually good: Valkyrie. It's way better than you think it is, as I've already written in my review, and it's a PG-13 historical drama that will entertain pretty much everyone, even if they don't even know how Hitler really died. Plus if the bad buzz sticks, it'll be even easier for you and your entire crew to get good seats. Best for... Pretty much everyone with even a passing interest in World War II, thrillers, or what the hell is up with Tom Cruise's eyepatch. Kind of like that time you all saw...Munich, and wished it weren't quite so grim and serious.
When you will see anything so long as Will Smith is in it: Seven Pounds: I thought the verdict was pretty much out on this turkey last weekend, when virtually no one went to see it, but I'm sure plenty of people who need no more information than "Will Smith is in this!" will choose it above all the vastly superior options. Don't say you haven't been warned. Best for... People who assume fancy camera angles and disjointed storytelling makes something artsy. Kind of like that time you all saw...Ali because it had Will Smith in it, not because you cared a thing about boxing.
When you've already watched Liar, Liar too many times: Yes Man.
Especially if you're my age, Jim Carrey was the comedic icon, and it's always nice to see him again being funny, even if it's in a so-so comedy like Yes Man. If you and your siblings can quote all of Fire Marshal Bill's best lines and still talk through your butt like Ace Ventura, there are worse options. Best for... People who fondly remember the comedy of the 90s, or maybe a few self-help fiends. Kind of like that time you all saw...Fun With Dick And Jane. Yup, pretty much exactly the same.
When you want your romance with a dash of reality: Last Chance Harvey.
It's a pretty conventional story that will appeal to everyone, but it also stars Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman as the young lovebirds, which puts a decidedly fresh twist on things. It's easy and undemanding but not dumb, which seems to be a tough combination in most of the other movies out there right now. Plus it features lots of lovely London scenery-- and remember how Christmasy that city felt in Love, Actually? Best for... Fans of Thompson and Hoffman, and anyone who doesn't mind a conventional romance starring old people. Kind of like that time you all saw...Venus, and wished the romance were a little more age-appropriate, and non-platonic.
When you want your romance with a whoooole lot of reality: Revolutionary Road
Technically it's a December 26 release, but it's worth the wait for this searing, totally depressing drama that happens to star Kate and Leo, the stars of the biggest movie in the history of the world. No, it won't fill you with seasonal love for your family, or pretty much anything, but it might be an appropriate downer if you're feeling a holiday cheer hangover. Best for... Grown-ups who can handle a dose of depression on the day after Christmas. Kind of like that time you all saw...Million Dollar Baby, and wished it weren't so darn funny.
When you're feeling international, artsy, and in the mood for genocide: Waltz with Bashir. Don't let the animation fool you: Waltz with Bashir is a deadly serious examination of the experiences of several soldiers during the Israel- Lebanon war in the early 1980s. Oh and did I mention it's a documentary, so all of these sad stories are true? Yeah, Merry Christmas! Best for... History aficionados who are willing to read subtitles. Kind of like that time you all saw...Hotel Rwanda, and didn't find it realistic enough.