AMC Best Christmas Ever: Animated vs. Live Action Christmas Classics: Which Give You the Most Festive Feels?
On December 1 (or, let’s be honest, more like November 27), Christmas merriment went into full effect. It’s just one of those holidays that permeates every single one of our senses... The tastes! The smells! The songs! The lights! (Sorry, we're far from calm.) And there’s truly no better way to enjoy a festive yule medley than curled up under a blanket, gorging on red-and-green-sprinkled-cookies, inhaling that lustrous pine scent, and watching a beloved Christmas flick. That’s where AMC comes in with its annual “Best Christmas Ever” event, boasting 835 hours of classic holiday films airing all day, every day through December 25.
Stoking both our nostalgia and excitement, Christmas movies—and in particular, animated oldies—have a knack for making us feel like little kids again. But what about those holiday film staples that have more modern, live action remakes? Let’s take a look at some of our remixed favorites, side-by-side:
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966 & 2000)
Perhaps the most iconic Christmas cartoon remake of all time, stars Jim Carrey in the title role, for which he spent a "tortuous" 92 days in full-on Grinch make-up (totally worth it for the final product, but indeed that sounds rather rough). We could go on and on spouting fascinating trivia from the 2000 hit, like the fact that Carrey ad-libbed many of his character's snarkiest lines (which director Ron Howard happily used in the final cut), or that canine sidekick "Max" was actually played by a female shelter dog. Between Carrey's over-the-top and enduringly hilarious performance, and the production's impressive Whoville world building, it stands as a worthy remake of the charming 1966 cartoon special based on the Dr. Seuss classic. We'd recommend enjoying these two back-to-back, with a strong glass of eggnog in hand.
In the 1979 TV movie, the legend of Jack Frost—an immortal winter spirit who turns human for love—is told through irresistibly retro stop motion animation, giving us all the old-school Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer vibes. The plot is actually rather complicated, involving a benevolent "father winter" and an evil, resource-hoarding king, whereas the 1998 live action remake starring Michael Keaton explores alternative themes of fatherhood, loss, and... hockey (while naturally keeping the supernatural snowman element intact). Both tellings are good holiday fun, though we're admittedly partial to Keaton's unexpected turn as a rocker-cum-snowman. With quips like, "My balls are freezin! I never thought I'd say THAT with a smile on my face," how can you not be?
Scrooged (1988) & A Christmas Carol (2009)
Since Charles Dickens first brought the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge to life in 1843 (!), there have been dozens upon dozens of onscreen A Christmas Carol adaptations, both of the animated and live action varieties. It really is a case of different strokes for different folks, but we'd love to put a spotlight on two favorites: Scrooged, the 1988 Bill Murray hit, and Robert Zemeckis' A Christmas Carol, the 2009 animated film starring Jim Carrey (what's up, Grinch?!)
Scrooged puts perhaps the most non-traditional spin on Dicken's timeless novella, with Murray in his nastiest form as the title character and the screenplay continually pushing the envelope with pitch black Christmas comedy. Alternatively, Carrey takes on animated form once again in the 2009 A Christmas Carol, this time alongside an all-star cast including Colin Firth, Gary Oldman, Robin Wright, and Cary Elwes. This yuletide adventure features breathtaking visual effects that aren't to be missed, and it's a perfect pick for those who've already had their annual screening of The Grinch.
Elf (2003 & 2014)
Will Ferrell's Buddy the Elf has become a true holiday legend, and director Jon Favreau's 2003 classic is a timeless blend of comedy and heart-warming family fun (not to mention a love letter to the magic of NYC at Christmastime). Unlike the other remixes on this list, the animated version of Elf actually came after the live action, with 2014's Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas putting a stop motion spin on the smash hit original. Combining elements of both Elf the film and Elf the Broadway theater musical, this special is 45 minutes of pure festive delight with the voices of Jim Parsons, Mark Hamill, Kate Micucci, and more. If you love the story of Buddy and his friends, why not indulge in both versions of Elf this December?
The Polar Express (1985 book & 2004 film)
Though this isn't technically a film-to-film remake, we feel obliged to give an honorary mention to director Robert Zemeckis' 2004 animated feature The Polar Express, which brings the magical adventure of a North Pole-bound train from the page to the screen. In addition to his narration duties, star Tom Hanks voices another six of the film's main characters, and the stunning visuals and slightly haunted atmosphere help set The Polar Express apart from other animated holiday classics. Just like in the cherished 1985 storybook, the plot itself follows a young boy on a surprise Christmas Eve journey to Santa's HQ. Maybe it's just us, but both tellings always leave us misty-eyed (in a good way) and pondering what it truly means to believe.
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