by Joe Bursley

My family has a recent tradition of going to the movie theater on Christmas Eve if we aren’t already traveling for the holidays. With most stores and restaurants closed or only open for limited hours on Christmas Eve, going to see a movie is a great way to spend the day waiting to open Christmas presents the next morning. Last year, there were a number of excellent films out in theaters to watch around the holidays: Moana, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Collateral Beauty, just to name a few. I had suggested some of these titles to my family for our Christmas Eve viewing pleasure. However, my younger sister, who was only 16 at the time, suggested that we go see the R-rated Office Christmas Party as a family. And, to my disbelief, my parents somehow decided that was an acceptable option for our family outing. Two hours later, my sister and I endured an extremely awkward car ride home, where our parents commented on “how much R-rated films get away with these days.”

Determined to not let that mistake happen again, I’m compiling a list of good-natured films that are out this holiday season that you won’t be ashamed to watch with your parents and/or younger siblings. You could choose to deviate from this list and watch something outside of traditional family fare, but let my story above serve as your sole warning.

#5 – Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

                  Rating: PG-13

                  Release Date: December 20th, 2017

In this, erm, “sequel” to the classic 1995 family flick starring the late Robin Williams, the board game world of Jumanji is updated for the 21st century as a video game. Four teenagers discover the video game and are transported into the virtual jungle world of Jumanji as their player avatars. The meek gamer becomes the hulking Dwayne Johnson adventurer; the football jock becomes the short Kevin Hart pack mule; the shy wallflower becomes the Amazon warrior Karen Gillan; and the preppy popular girl becomes the middle-aged professor in Jack Black’s body. Also, Kevin Jonas is sprinkled in there for some reason. Yikes. I’m sure this film will have some entertaining moments, but this is certainly not the charming Robin Williams adventure most of us grew up with. I wouldn’t go into this movie with expectations of comparing it to the OG Jumanji, but if you need two hours and a few brain cells to kill on Christmas Eve, then this should do the job perfectly.

#4 – Thor: Ragnarok

                  Rating: PG-13

                  Release Date: November 3rd, 2017

I’m adding this near the bottom of the list only because it’s been out since the beginning of November, so some theaters may not be showing the film in late December. Still, if your local theater still has showings and you have not had the chance to see it in theaters, Thor: Ragnarok promises to be an entertaining and humorous superhero adventure. In the film, Thor must battle the evil villainess Hela after she destroyed his precious Mjolinir (and that’s not a spoiler alert; they show it in the trailer). Teaming up with the God of Thunder is his adopted brother Loki, the God of Tumblr, and Bruce Banner AKA the Incredible Hulk. This story ties in the classic Planet Hulk storyline from the comics, as Thor and Hulk are pitted against each other in a gladiator match, explaining their absence from Avengers 3 Captain America: Civil War. This film has been hailed as far superior to the first two Thor films and brings a nice end to Marvel’s comedic year, which has seen entries like Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 and Spiderman: Homecoming. This film is definitely worth a watch, especially in preparation for next May’s Avengers: Infinity War.

#3 – The Greatest Showman

                  Rating: PG

                  Release Date: December 20th, 2017

In this not-Frozen musical around the holidays, discover the tale of P.T. Barnum and his visionary ambition that brought spectacle and show business to life. This movie details Barnum, portrayed by Hugh Jackman, and his quest to bring his traveling circus to life. The all-star cast including Michelle Williams, Zendaya, and Zac Efron, among others, makes this a dazzling Christmas-time spectacle for the whole family to enjoy. I’m on the fence on whether or not this will be entertaining; after all, musicals that get released around Christmas time tend to become earworms (I’ll apologize in advance for the link). On the other hand, Hugh Jackman has amazing acting chops that could save this film from becoming super annoying. Then again, Zac Efron in another musical?

#2 – Coco

                  Rating: PG

                  Release Date: November 22nd, 2017

In this vibrant Pixar film, a young Miguel tries to pursue his dream of becoming a musician despite his family considering all forms of music as taboo. This ambition and some convoluted plot points end up leaving Miguel and his “pet” dog in the Land of the Dead. Miguel must then try to return to the land of the living or die, as well as discover his true familial heritage. This film looks to shine light on Mexican and Latino heritage and has some amazing visuals from the trailers so far. Others have argued that it copies The Book of Life because it deals with Mexicans, music, and the Day of the Dead, which I’m sure aren’t the only aspects of Mexican culture that Hollywood can celebrate, but I digress. It’s difficult to say whether Pixar lived up to Up or Cars 2 in terms of quality storytelling and making grown men cry, but I would be sure to bring some tissues just in case.

Honorable Mentions:

Ferdinand

                  Rating: PG

                  Release Date: December 15th, 2017

While no Pixar film, this adaptation of “The Story of Ferdinand” tells the story of a “giant bull with a big heart.” Ferdinand the Bull is separated from his family after being mistaken for a violent beast (most likely due to an incident in a china shop, just spitballing here). Starring Kate McKinnon and John Cena, this Blue Sky production should be light-hearted family entertainment just in time for the holidays.

The Man Who Invented Christmas

                  Rating: PG

                  Release Date: November 22nd, 2017

This enriching tale shows the creation of Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and the rest of the classic A Christmas Carol, the famous story written by Charles Dickens. One of the only decent Christmas-themed movies coming out this year (looking at you, A Bad Moms Christmas), this film appears to be both endearing and fun for fans of the seasonal story about love and redemption.

And finally … (drum roll, please)

#1 – Star Wars Episode VII: The Last Jedi

                  Rating: PG-13

                  Release Date: December 15th, 2017

Be honest, you all knew this would be here. This one movie is the reason why Thor: Ragnarok, Justice League (eww), Coco, and any other film worried about box office numbers premiered in November. This sequel to The Force Awakens follows Rey as she trains with Luke to become a Jedi, as well as the rebellion’s attempts to fight the First Order. This film is sure to answer a dozen or more fan theories about Luke, Rey, the Force, the Dark Side, Kylo Ren, Finn x Poe, the return of Jar Jar, and much more. Hopefully the hype will have died down a bit in the week following the premiere weekend, but don’t be surprised if the theater is still mostly full on Christmas Eve.

So, if you are looking for a fun family outing on Christmas Eve and don’t want to be stuck in the car wishing for brain bleach like I was last year, here are a few options for you to suggest to your family. Some of these movies are more intense than others, but for the most part, all these films will provide family-friendly (hence, not A Bad Moms Christmas) entertainment (hence, not Pitch Perfect 3 or Justice League) for you to enjoy this holiday season. I hope your entertainment endeavors turn out better than mine did last year. And, for my sanity, I’m hoping mine do too.


Sources: YouTube, Byte, Rotten Tomatoes, Tumblr, Time, The Huffington Post, Screen Rant

Images: YouTube, WGRZ

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