Some family films are considered more than just pure viewing pleasures: they can literally be traditional institutions centered around television sets. In other words, watching such movies repeatedly isn't necessarily a chore, but quite the opposite – they are total delights that one can actually look forward to watching, at least once a year. The tween age bracket just happens to be a very difficult group to appease when it comes to watching movies, especially with other family members. My list of the top five Christmas movies for tweens will attempt to remedy this problem, as my film choices each have something for the entire family. These picks are in no particular order.
The first one is called “Fred Claus” from 2007. It stars Vince Vaughn as the under-rated older brother of Santa Claus (played convincingly by Paul Giamatti). He spent all of his life living in the shadow of the famous Saint Nick, but never felt truly fulfilled: basically, all of his life's ambitions were swirling in a toilet of failure. However, a bigger threat looms on the horizon, with the intention of shutting down Christmas - permanently. Guess who swoops in to (try and) save the day? This is a very inventive story, with plenty of laughs to go around. It also displays an honestly refreshing complexity of various morals without preaching about them. Lots of tween children will recognize a child actor by the name of Bobb’e J. Thompson, who has befriended Fred. The movie also has definite potential to become a new classic as time goes by.
The next pick is titled “A Christmas Story” from 1983. This movie has been considered a classic for quite some time. It’s about an All-American young boy from 1940 named Ralphie Parker that wants nothing more in the world for Christmas than a BB gun (or in other words, as he puts it, a Red Ryder 200-shot Carbine Action Range Model Air Rifle). Every year that I see this film, I'm amazed at the fact that he really doesn't shoot his eye out. But this film is more about the hilarious adventures of one family and its truly unforgettable Christmas. Every child, as well as child at heart, should watch this selection.
My third choice is called “It’s a Wonderful Life”, one of the oldest classics ever, from 1946. It stars Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore (as a memorable villain named Mr. Potter). An unforgettable man named George Bailey is seemingly shackled to the emotional needs of his family, throughout his entire life. One fateful evening, while contemplating suicide, he meets Clarence, his guardian-angel-in-training. With permission from God, this celestial being grants him a wish, fixing it so that he had never been born. The drama unfolds beautifully, teaching some poignant life lessons at the same time. Every family should view this treasure of a movie.
The fourth pick is “Santa Claus: The Movie” from 1985. It has an entertaining storyline and does a good job describing the history of Saint Nick, especially with regards to his immortality and the elves (one named Patch is played memorably by Dudley Moore). John Lithgow plays a fascinating villain, while the role of Santa Claus is realistically played by David Huddleston. The plot involves two tweens that join forces with Santa to save Christmas. Not only will morality be taught, but an enjoyable soundtrack will be cherished.
My last selection is called “Home Alone” from 1990. Although this movie is enjoyable year-round, the setting is definitely at Christmas time, which is befitting to the plot. It stars Macaulay Culkin as a boy named Kevin McCallister who is so self-obsessed and bratty that his family almost deliberately (though accidentally) leaves him home alone to fend for himself during the Christmas holidays. Naturally, this was a rushed mistake during the preparation for an extended family vacation abroad to France. The supporting cast members who deliver side-splitting laughs include Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern and John Candy. This soundtrack definitely puts one in the mood for Christmas and the uproarious one-liners will never be forgotten.
Some honorable mentions include Tim Allen’s “The Santa Clause” trilogy, Will Ferrell’s “Elf”, and almost any type of film that relates the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, especially Bill Murray’s “Scrooged”. The bottom line is to be careful in picking movies for tweens that aren't too sappy yet distasteful. They may need to balance some raunchiness with the promotion of good values, all the while being careful to avoid excessive bad words. It also wouldn't hurt to involve the tween in suggesting some movie choices as well. These practices will help to ensure that the annual family viewing of Christmas movies will be a truly enjoyable experience for everybody involved.