Forget Christmas, it is over, and the ghosts of seasonal movies past, from It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) and Home Alone (1990) to Die Hard (1988), have been laid to rest for another year.
Instead, Twixtmas is upon us, and how better to fill these strange, in-between days than with a Japanese-Korean-American anime holiday special that’s futuristically satirical, satirically futuristic and features a male protagonist with pink hair?
Neo Yokio: Pink Christmas (Netflix) is an hour-long follow-up to last year’s eccentric Neo Yokio series and, similarly, it’s a deft demolition: a classy skewering of rabid consumerism and, this time, Christmas conventions, albeit one about which you needn’t think too hard.
Kaz Kaan (Jaden Smith) is an eligible bachelor and demon hunter subtly ridiculed by his mecha-butler Charles (Jude Law), who looks like a Transformer. With Susan Sarandon, Angélique Kidjo, Jamie Foxx and Alexa Chung lending supporting voices, social climber and competitive gift-giver Kaz learns (sort of) the true meaning of the season of goodwill while fighting the pink-eyed monsters that threaten his hometown, a brand-splattered fantasy New York.
Not that that stops him exclaiming, “I’m part Spanish – no wonder I love Balenciaga!” or one of his closest salesman friends realising: “People just want to engage with a logo. The products don’t even matter.” Ahhh, that warm Christmas glow!
Back to the humbug. The Netflix selection box features tense family reunion Love the Coopers (2015), whose jokey title becomes a Christmas card sign-off rather than an imperative with the addition of a comma. A superior sort of schmaltzy, across-the-generations comedy-romance, it’s a star vehicle for Steve Martin’s voice (but not his face), John Goodman, Diane Keaton and Olivia Wilde. The droll Alan Arkin, however, steals the best lines, advising that whatever life delivers, “it’s all going to become an anecdote” and that at Christmas, “everybody panics, as if you can schedule happiness”.
Indian director Bharat Nalluri offers a fresh take on A Christmas Carol with The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017), revealing how Charles Dickens’ unexpected success with his landmark novel provoked an upheaval in attitudes to much more than just festive merrymaking.
And for a glad-tidings-laden Christmas love story, dial up The Princess Switch (2018), in which Vanessa Hudgens does double duty as Margaret, Duchess of Montenaro, and Stacy, a baker from Chicago who could be her twin. Inspired – at great remove – by The Prince and the Pauper, it reinvents the life-swap fairy tale amid gingerbread houses, castles, sleigh rides and meadows of fake snow (come on – you didn’t think studios waited for winter to film these things, did you?)
Over on Amazon Prime the Office Christmas Party (2016) is in full scandalous swing, with Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman inadvertently presiding over the usual on-the-premises festive comic mischief: sexual liaisons, drug taking, real-estate trashing … you know the sort of thing. Or you can stay on track for the North Pole by jumping aboard perennial favourite The Polar Express (2004) and taking a magical ride to Santa’s headquarters in the company of the animated-live action Tom Hanks.
HBO Go goes all out for goo with Love Actually (2003), actually still loved and despised in equal measure, despite the presence of British acting royalty (Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth) and a rollicking turn by Bill Nighy as riotous old rocker Billy Mack. And there’s more blue-blooded bliss in snowbound 2017 film A Royal Winter, in which a tourist falls for a handsome chap who’s really a proper Prince Charming. Note: this movie originated on the Hallmark Channel … where Christmas cards come alive.