We’ve all been there. It’s holiday time, you’re stuck at home with extended family you see but once a year, conversation topics have run thin and you cannot stuff your face with anymore Christmas cookies to keep from having to fill the awkward lulls. Before you go into diabetic shock, why not let a movie do the talking (and entertaining) for you? The question then becomes – what is a good movie to sit down to watch with grandma that won’t have a sudden sex scene or slasher moment that will not only horrify an older movie watcher, but will probably also scar you for life? (As the commercial showing grandma getting a True Blood DVD set proves, amorous vampires and fairies may not be for all ages).
Have no fear – I have compiled a list of family-friendly fare that will not only wile away a few hours, but will make you look like a caring and thoughtful grandkid, which in turn may pay off in more holiday loot. (I mean that’s the point of the season, right? One time of the year being good actually pays off?)
Grab your favorite Snuggie and pop one of these in the ol’ entertainment center!
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Starring a young Natalie Wood as Susan (the little girl convinced a Macy’s Santa is the real deal) this film is a Christmas classic. The original version may stir up some nostalgia for grandma and introduce you to the performances of Maureen O’Hara, John Payne and Edmund Gwenn (who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in this role). It could even lead to some decent bonding as grandma tells you about the first time she saw the film!
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
These Rankin-Bass films should entertain not just grandma, but you as well with their sweet (but not too sweet) messages and stop-motion animation that is pretty impressive for a time before Tim Burton and Wes Anderson. Plus they are usually playing on TV around the clock during Christmas time so you should be able to catch a viewing of one fairly easily.
Christmas in Connecticut
It’s a black-and-white classic from the ‘40s starring Barbara Stanwyck! You can’t really go wrong here. Plus the story is pretty madcap (Faux marriages! Faux engagements! Stolen babies! Flipping flapjacks! Wandering cows!) and could be used as good ammunition against grandma’s nagging over your single status (if you are single and deal with this kind of harassment). Just explain you don’t want to end up missing out on your true soul mate like Elizabeth (Stanwyck) and Jones (Dennis Morgan).
No, I don’t think the only “grandma approved” films are those before this decade. I have to watch Elf every time it is on and the goofy tale is one the whole family should be able to agree on. Grandma should enjoy Buddy’s (Will Ferrell) innocent nature and who doesn’t crack up when he answers the phone and asks what the caller’s favorite color is? You also get a blonde Zooey Deschanel (playing Buddy’s love interest, Jovie) and a heart-felt story about family and the true meaning of Christmas. (And keep your eyes peeled for a cameo from a now grownup actor made famous for another Christmas movie.)
A Muppet Christmas Carol
I know there has been a lot of Muppet talk lately, but they truly are the great equalizer, appealing to those of all ages. (Honestly, you could drag grandma out of the house to see the newest film, but we’ll stick with the holiday theme here.) It’s a classic story with jokes and songs that should keep both you and grandma entertained. Plus it features hilarious commentary from Gonzo and Rizzo (my favorite Muppet duo).
Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer
For the grandma with a sense of humor, this made-for-TV movie may seem cruel, but if you take it for what it is (a goofy animated film based on a novelty song by Randy Brooks) it’s actually kind of funny and is usually playing on the Cartoon Network or the CW. And it may even discourage grandma from making or bringing fruitcake to holiday gatherings.
Hopefully, this list will not only help quell any awkwardness brought on by forced conversation, but also give you a few hours of actual fun and entertainment this holiday season!
Settle into the couch and get cozy with the rest of the entries in our 2011 Holiday Survival Guide.