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2 Days to Christmas: The Classics of the 2000s

December 23, 2012

By John C.

ElfIt’s a little hard to believe that we are almost at the end of our Christmas Countdown by decade.  Yesterday we profiled several holiday favourites from the 1990s, and today are taking a look at the 2000s, the most bountiful decade on our list.  This was an interesting decade and one that produced numerous Christmas films, many of which immediately became instant classics.  There were so many holiday films in the 2000s, that if we left off one of your favourites, please add your thoughts in the comments below.

Let’s start with director Jon Favreau’s wonderful Elf (2003), the story of Buddy (Will Ferrell) a human who was raised by Santa’s elves at the North Pole.  When he sets out to find his father (James Caan) in New York, he starts to experience human culture and better the lives of those around him.  This is a heartwarming and hilarious film that is filled with more than enough holiday spirit to power Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve, right through to the wonderful duet between Leon Redbone and Zooey Deschanel over the end credits.  This is a classic that never gets old, even after multiple viewings.

Love Actually DVD CoverWhen writer-director Richard Curtis’ delightful and deeply heartfelt Love Actually (2003) was released, the film about numerous people in England all coming together over Christmas was advertised as “the ultimate romantic comedy.”  That classification is still just as true.  With an all-star cast and numerous interconnecting stories that all come together beautifully without ever hitting a false note, Love Actually is one of the top ten romantic comedies of all time and a film that effortlessly proves “love actually is all around us.”

Richard Curtis also had a hand in Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001).  Keeping with her New Year’s Resolution of writing a daily diary over the next year, Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) finds herself in a love triangle with her womanizing boss, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) and the charming Mark Darcy (Colin Firth).  Bookended by charming scenes at Christmas, Bridget Jones’s Diary is a funny and warmhearted romantic comedy for adults, with an excellent performance by Zellweger and the rest of the largely British cast.

The Polar ExpressDirected by Robert Zemeckis, The Polar Express (2004) beautifully follows a nameless boy who is doubting his belief in Santa Claus before he boards a magical train on Christmas Eve and is taken on a journey to the North Pole.  The train ride is part dream and equal dose nightmare as the audience is taken on a thrilling and heartfelt journey that proves “sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.”  With a revolutionary use of motion-capture animation, The Polar Express is a stunning masterpiece that only gets better with each new viewing, from the magical opening sequence right through to the bittersweet final scene.

Disney's A Christmas Carol Blu-ray CoverFive years after The Polar Express, Robert Zemeckis utilized the same motion-capture technology in Disney’s A Christmas Carol (2009), the final adaptation of Charles Dickens’ beloved masterpiece to appear on our list.  Jim Carrey turns in one of his very best performances as Ebenezer Scrooge and does equally great work as the four spirits, never losing sight of the story’s true meaning.  With stunning visuals and a close attention to detail for the original text, this is a haunting and often darkly beautiful rendering of the classic story, that stands proudly alongside the 1951 version and The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Christmas with the Kranks DVD CoverBased on the novel Skipping Christmas by John Grisham, Christmas with the Kranks (2004) stars Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis as a married couple who decide to skip the holidays for a cruise after their young adult daughter (Julie Gonzalo) leaves home.  But when she comes back for a surprise visit, they have little time to get things ready for their big Christmas Eve gathering.  Although panned by many critics when it was first released in 2004, Christmas with the Kranks is an easily enjoyable holiday comedy with its heart squarely in the right place.

Millions DVD CoverA speculative look at what could have happened if England were switching to Euros as their main currency, Millions (2005) tells a deeply moving story that takes place in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  Damien (Alex Etel) is a young boy who talks to saints and finds a bag of discarded Pounds by the railroad track.  He thinks it’s a gift from God that should be given to charity, but his brother Anthony (Lewis McGibbon) wants to spend it.  Little do they know that it was stolen.  Although director Danny Boyle is better known for the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire and the powerful 127 Hours, Millions is a masterpiece that asks a brilliant moral question about the effect money has on our society.

The Christmas Choir DVD CoverThe decade also gave us the made for TV film The Christmas Choir (2008), which tells the inspiring story of Peter Brockman (Jason Gedrick), an accountant starting to lose sight of what is truly important in his life before stumbling into a homeless community.  Starting a choir with the many memorable and talented men who take refuge at the shelter run by Sister Agatha (Rhea Perlman), this is a true story about the power of music that is as inspirational as it is heartwarming.

The 2000s also brought us the sweet little Hallmark film A Dog Named Christmas (2009), as well as two made for TV productions featuring Jim Henson’s beloved Muppets, with It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002) and A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa (2009).

Prep & Landing Blu-ray CoverBefore Prep & Landing (2009) first aired, nobody knew just how great the animated Disney TV special would be, following Lanny (Dave Foley) and Wayne (Derek Richardson), two elves who work at the North Pole and make sure the houses are prepared for Santa’s visit on Christmas Eve.  Also worth watching is the equally awesome sequel, Naughty vs. Nice (2011).  With stories that are as heartwarming as they are funny, Prep & Landing and Naughty vs. Nice are brilliantly conceived and beautifully animated with holiday charm to spare, both ranking as some of the best Christmas specials in recent memory.  As a side note, expressions like “totally tinsel,” “jingle bam” and “oh frostbite” should be a part of everyone’s vocabulary at this time of year.

The 2000s brought us numerous modern classics, and we hope you will all come back tomorrow on Christmas Eve, when we take a look at the holiday films that we have already gotten in the ongoing decade of the 2010s…

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