By Darren Kowalska
America’s love affair with New York City gets especially mushy around Christmas time. The city that, for the rest of the year, has a reputation for rudeness and indifference is suddenly transformed into a winter wonderland. People give up Christmas at home to spend the holiday in New York, and for good reason. Ice skating in Rockefeller Center is something that should be on everyone’s bucket list. While you’re there, you can marvel at the giant Christmas tree, too.
All the big department stores such as Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, and Bloomingdale’s unveil their holiday windows. And the Radio City Christmas Spectacular has been a New York tradition for more than 75 years now. But if you can’t make it to the Big Apple for Christmas, you can enjoy it vicariously through one of my three Christmas movies set in New York:
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
This is basically the same movie as Home Alone, only it takes place in New York. If you liked the first one, you’ll definitely want to watch Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Once again, Kevin McCallister’s absentminded parents embark on a vacation and through a series of mix-ups, Kevin ends up spending Christmas not at home, but alone. Lost. In New York. Actually, don’t let the title fool you — he’s not lost at all.
Kevin manages to con his way into the Plaza Hotel with his dad’s credit card. We should all be so lucky as to be “lost” in the Plaza. Then he finds out the two crooks he tangled with in the first movie have escaped from prison, and are in New York to carry out a heist. Obviously, Kevin is the only one who can stop them! And there is no other way to do it but with a series of booby traps! Ok, so it’s not realistic at all, but it’s a fun ride, and kids always get a kick out of characters their own age getting the best of adults, especially bad guys. Overall, it’s a fun Christmas movie that I’ve loved since I was a kid.
From faithful adaptations like the classic with George C. Scott, to a movie populated by Muppets, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has been made and remade many times. But once in a while, a version comes along that is unique enough to really stick with you and become an annual favorite, like Scrooged starring Bill Murray and Karen Allen.
None of the characters in Scrooged have the same names as their Dickensian counterparts, but it’s easy to determine who’s who. Murray plays Frank Cross, a jaded executive of a television network headquartered in New York who is visited by three ghosts who show him where his embittered life is leading him. An all-star cast helps bring the story to life like never before, including a hilarious turn by Carol Kane as the Ghost of Christmas Present.
An original story, a magnificent cast, and the comedic antics that only Will Ferrell can get away with come together to create a new Christmas classic. Ferrell plays Buddy, a human who accidentally ends up in Santa’s workshop as an infant, and is adopted by an elf, played to perfection by Bob Newhart. He grows up an accepted member of the elf community, but doesn’t really fit in, and then discovers that he’s not really an elf as he’s been led to believe. He decides to connect with his real father — James Caan — who lives in New York City. And then the movie really gets good.
It’s a timeworn, fish-out-of-water story where Buddy must learn the ways of humans, and is again out of place for his customs and beliefs. But what’s not typical are the situations Buddy finds himself in while in New York, and the hilarious way Ferrell plays the part, perfectly straddling the line between comedy and sweetness. It’s worth it to watch Elf just to see James Caan break a couple of times, and keep an eye out for the cameo by Peter Billingsly, star of another classic holiday movie, A Christmas Story.
There are many other films that may mention Christmas, or have a scene or two in New York (like Sleepless in Seattle), but these are my definitive Christmas in New York movies. Don’t miss them!