OK, it’s pop quiz time: Name the movie that introduced the perennial Irving Berlin song “White Christmas.” If you said, “White Christmas,” you just failed Holiday Movies 101. If you said “Holiday Inn,” go to the head of the class.
“Holiday Inn: 75th Anniversary Edition” (Universal, 1942, not rated/probable G, b/w, two discs, colorized version, audio commentary, featurettes; the Broadway version). A song-and-dance man (Bing Crosby) leaves his partners (Fred Astaire and Virginia Dale) to become a Connecticut innkeeper with a hotel that’s only open on holidays. A year later, Astaire crashes the inn’s grand opening and puts the moves on the dancer (Marjorie Reynolds) that Crosby is wooing. But the plot is secondary to the great Berlin songs, Astaire’s dance numbers and the humorous performances of a first-rate cast.
Although a number of other holidays are represented, the Christmas season provides the film’s framing device. One of the highlights, though, is the Fourth of July sequence with Astaire doing his famous, showstopping firecracker dance. (And I recommend using your fast-forward button to skip past the offensive “Abraham Lincoln” number, done in blackface.)
“Saving Christmas” (aka “The Santa Files,” Lionsgate, 2017, PG).
“Santa Stole Our Dog” (Universal, 2017, not rated/probable G, bloopers). These two kid-friendly Christmas comedies both star Ed Asner as Santa Claus, a role he has played several times (most notably in the 2003 favorite “Elf”). In “Saving Christmas,” some brainy kids investigate Santa’s existence using scientific means, and as the title of “Santa Stole Our Dog” suggests, the jolly old elf inadvertently absconds with a family’s pooch, so they head to the North Pole to find him (with songs by Dolly Parton and John Schneider).
“A Cinderella Christmas” (Monarch, 2016). This hit-and-miss but generally cute attempt to give a contemporary holiday spin to “Cinderella” (with a dash of “Cyrano de Bergerac”) is essentially a mistaken-identity comedy. Sweet, selfless Angie (Emma Rigby) runs the family event-planning business but her mean, self-centered cousin Candace (Sarah Stouffer) takes all the credit. At a “Christmasquerade” ball, the prince, er, the host, mistakes masked Angie for Candace. At midnight she runs off, leaving behind a glass slipper er, a Christmas stocking and the search is on. (This TV movie originally aired last year on the Ion network.)
“Married By Christmas” (aka “The Engagement Clause,” Monarch, 2016). The plot here is somewhat similar to “A Cinderella Christmas,” but even more convoluted and annoying. Carrie (Jes Macallan) has devoted her life to her family’s food-distribution business, while her sister runs a restaurant. When sis announces her engagement, it is revealed that an antiquated clause in grandma’s will leaves the company to the husband — yes, the husband! — of whichever sister marries first. Naturally, Carrie goes berserk and tries to get to the altar first. (This one originally aired last year on the UP network.)
“Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You” (Universal, 2017, G, featurette). Mariah Carey narrates this animated feature that was derived from her hit song and subsequent children’s book about a young girl named Mariah who wishes for a dog for Christmas. As a result, she is tasked with first proving that she can care for a pet by taking in the worst, most unruly mutt around. The voice-cast includes Henry Winkler and Lacey Chabert.
“Albert: A Small Tree with a Big Dream” (Nickelodeon/Paramount, 2017). This 45-minute cartoon is about the title character, a tiny Douglas fir that dreams of becoming a famous Christmas tree, which leads to a road trip with Maisie the palm tree and Gene the weed and an encounter with villainous Cactus Peter.