Cast of Christmas

Our critic shares his iconic holiday-film characters

Cousin Eddie pipes in the smells of the season.

Cousin Eddie pipes in the smells of the season.

What qualifies a holiday character as an all-time great to me? They are the first ones who pop into my head when I’m thinking about the film or special. Some of my picks here are probably predictable, but I’m a weird guy, so some of the others might put a damper on your holiday spirit. Either way, holiday-movie season is upon us and these are the characters on my mind.

Randy—A Christmas Story: Darren McGavin (Kolchak!) as the “old man” is an all-time legendary movie figure, but the first one I think of when considering Bob Clark’s holiday classic is little brother Randy, sitting in his cave beneath the sink and crying that “Daddy’s gonna kill Ralphie!” When his momma offers a glass of milk, he gladly takes it as she closes the door. Also, his winter-wear ruled.

George Bailey—It’s a Wonderful Life: An obvious pick—nobody beats George Bailey in this movie. But let’s not just remember older George, played by James Stewart. A friend of mine once pointed something out: One of the most devastating, memorable moments in this movie is young George (Bobbie Anderson) getting hit in his sore ear by drunken and crazed Mr. Gower the druggist. OK, not the happiest of memories from this holiday film, but it is a testament to how the movie really did tap into so many emotions. Oh shit, I just remembered little George saving his brother from the ice water and going deaf in that ear. I’m all bummed out now.

Yukon Cornelius—Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: I always thought it was super cool how Yukon could tell if he struck gold or not by licking his pickaxe. I also dug the way he taught the Abominable Snow Monster how to decorate a tree after pulling all of his teeth out. Hey, wait a minute? Yukon tortured that beast by pulling all of his teeth out and making him his Christmas slave. Yukon was the monster!

Max the dog—How the Grinch Stole Christmas: Of course the Grinch himself is a big deal, but my memories of the 1966 animated version always go to that poor dog with the fake antlers strapped to his head, hanging over the mountain with the sleigh teetering on the top.

The Tree—A Charlie Brown Christmas: Most memorable Christmas tree ever, all bent over from that heavy ornament.

Jack Frost—Jack Frost: Hey, most memorable doesn’t necessarily mean best. Of all the snowmen in movie history, the weird one Michael Keaton voiced for this clunker remains emblazoned in my brain. If I were that little kid, I’d have taken a shovel to that awful looking thing. It’s evil and will eat your soul!

Han Solo—The Star Wars Holiday Special: Yes, this is one of the very worst things anybody with a camera and a brain ever made for others to watch, but it’s so worth seeing just to witness the pain and embarrassment on Harrison Ford’s face for having to participate in it.

Santa Claus—Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale: Of all the Santas, there has never been one more frightening—and more awesome—than the super-badass monster St. Nick in this oddball holiday offering from Finland.

Cousin Eddie—Christmas Vacation: Oh, the yuletide spirit conveyed by that shot of Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) emptying the shitter into a street drain. It makes me want to go Christmas caroling.

Bob Wallace—White Christmas: You know, when Capt. Wallace (Bing Crosby) sings that holiday classic, it makes me warmer than a chestnut roasting over on open fire (as opposed to a closed fire, which would be intolerably hot!). Yeah, when old Bing gets to a-crooning, it just means the holidays are upon us, and … ahhh, nuts to it! I hate this movie, and I hate this holiday “classic.” If I hate White Christmas, does this mean that I can’t be a movie critic? Does that mean I’m not allowed to have a Christmas tree and all the stupid crap that goes around it? Bing Crosby can rot in hell! Actually, his duet with David Bowie on “Little Drummer Boy” was pretty badass.