When Christmas comes around, you can always count on watching a few great holiday films…and a whole bunch of really horrible ones. But some remakes are so bad, they stand out above all the rest. When it comes to the worst holiday movie remakes, which are the very worst of the worst?
Miracle on 34th Street (1955)
The 1990s version of “Miracle on 34th Street” is widely cited as one of the worst, but it’s better viewing than the hour-long film created in 1955. Created to air during the now-defunct 20th Century Fox Hour, this version of the story attempts to cram the original 1947 movie into 60 minutes. The script and plot are so rushed, viewers have no time to catch their breath. You can currently watch this version on Netflix…if you dare.
A Christmas Carol (1970)
“A Christmas Carol” is arguably the most-adapted story ever written. It’s been done and re-done in countless radio, theater, television and film broadcasts, and you can’t watch a sitcom during December without seeing it spoofed at least once. But if you want the worst of the worst, you’re going to have to go all the way back to 1970.
The 1970 version of the Dickens classic has a solid script and solid acting, but it falls completely flat because it’s a musical. Albert Finney stars as Ebeneezer Scrooge, and becomes downright ridiculous in the third act during the big “I’ll Begin Again” number. This version of the story features Bob Crachit singing in the streets with all his children, Scrooge singing about hating people – even singing street urchins who appear for comedic effect. If that’s not enough to turn you away from this one, consider this: the entire town sings together at the end of the movie, and there is a scene in which Scrooge sincerely speaks to his door knocker.
The Family Man (2000)
Though it’s not strictly a remake of a specific movie, “The Family Man” pretty much copies all the classic Christmas movie themes and shoves them into this, a 2000 film starring Nicolas Cage as a bad guy who wants to become a good guy. Cage is a high-powered and very successful businessman, Jack, who once turned his back on the love of his life (think Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol”). He reminisces about his choices after the ex attempts to call him one Christmas Eve and he goes home alone to his fancy penthouse.
He awakens on Christmas Day in the suburbs…surrounded by two children and lying next to the ex-girlfriend Kate (Tea Leoni). He’s rather shaken at first, but soon it becomes clear that he is being given a look at the life he could have had instead (think “It’s a Wonderful Life,” only in reverse). He completely changes, and at the end wants to stay with Kate and the children (like the famous Grinch, he grows a heart).
He cannot, of course, because he has to go back to his true life. But now Jack realizes that he’s lonely and his true life is empty in all the things that matter. So Nicolas Cage rushes to the airport to deliver a gigantic monologue. Tea Leoni is forced to stare at him the entire time as he speaks. In the end, she gets to say “okay,” and the film fades to black.
It’s truly awful…so much so, in fact, this film just may be the worst of the worst.
The Preacher’s Wife (1996)
The worst of the worst just might be “The Preacher’s Wife,” a 1996 remake of the 1947 classic “The Bishop’s Wife.” Both films are slightly odd, completely miscast, and far too weird to evoke a real holiday spirit. Mostly, the plot is just confusing.
Reverend Henry Biggs (Courtney B. Vance) has a struggling, economically-depressed flock on his hands. The church is in trouble financially, and he’s under pressure to sell. While he worries about all these problems, he’s shutting out his wife Julia (Whitney Houston) and son. Henry prays for help, and he’s answered when Dudley (Denzel Washington) arrives.
Dudley is a handsome angel, and Denzel is no more successful at pulling off the role than Cary Grant was 50 years earlier. The problem with remaking a holiday film that isn’t that great to begin with is pretty obvious, especially in this movie. The angel ends up having feelings for the wife, but manages to put things to rights before he wipes everyone’s memory. The love connection is bizarre and the story really fizzles out at the end. It’s a Christmas movie with very, very little Christmas in it – the holiday is practically a sub-plot.