We kick off the Holiday season tomorrow, with one of our most requested topics: Die Hard 2! But until then, to get you in the Christmas spirit, we present our Top 5 List of Great Actors who, for some reason, have appeared in a terrible Christmas movie… and no, we don’t consider Tim Allen a “Great Actor” so you won’t find him on this list.

5. Jeffrey Tambor in How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Jeffrey Tambor is fantastic; from his outstanding work as Hank Kingsley on The Larry Sanders Show, to Arrested Development, to his early work in the Al Pacino classic And Justice For All. So it was more than a little disconcerting to see such a talent go to waste in Ron Howard`s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, an adaption of the classic Dr. Seuss book, by screenwriters who, presumably, had never read the book and hated my childhood.

Tambor plays the Mayor of Whoville (which looks more like Joel Schumacher`s Gotham City) to Jim Carrey`s manic Grinch. It also stars Taylor Momsen, before she went crazy, as Cindy Lou Who. We can’t blame Tambor for wanting to be in this movie, it sounded like a good idea. Unfortunately, the end result is a crassly commercial film based on a book that condemns crass commercialism.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POSPcF14Des]

4. Kevin Spacey in Fred Claus

The premise “Vince Vaughn plays Santa’s brother Fred” sounds like something a Hollywood screenwriter probably scribbled on a cocktail napkin, then sold for ten million dollars. One wonders how this premise attracted Oscar-winning thespian Kevin Spacey to play the villain, just one year after he played the villain in another disastrous movie. And it`s not just Kevin Spacey, there`s an amazing supporting cast (Miranda Richardson! Kathy Bates! Rachel Weisz! John Michael Higgins!) but the film is a train-wreck (that train being the Polar Express).

Fred Claus makes the fatal error of portraying Santa Claus as a dick. Not an evil Silent Night, Deadly Night Santa, just kind of a Paul Giamatti-style dick. Also Vince Vaughn does his Vince Vaughn schtick, but he`s playing some kind of weird Demigod. It`s like watching Swingers with the knowledge that Trent is literally hundreds of years old… weird.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTCWCBU_mE4]

3. Phil Hartman in Jingle All the Way

You might assume the actors we see ‘slumming for Santa’ are just motivated by all that lucrative, fake-snow-encrusted Yuletide money with no regard for the quality of the project, and if you do, you probably assume correctly. Can you imagine the kind of expensive Christmas presents their spoiled Hollywood brats expect? How do you giftwrap a nose-job anyway? But I’d like to believe that there are sometimes nobler intentions at work. Take Phil Hartman’s appearance in 1996’s Jingle All The Way, the holiday blockbuster that has Arnold Schwarzenegger (former Gov. of California/cyborg) racing Sinbad (of ‘loud, colorful pants’ fame) to buy a popular action figure that will secure his son’s love once and for all this Christmas. Phil Hartman provides the comic relief (which shouldn’t be necessary since this is obstensibly a comedy) as the smarmy neighbour, Ted, who is trying to horn in on Arnie’s wife and happy suburban family.
So why did Hartman agree to appear in this Holiday turkey? Was it just to catch-up with his Houseguest co-star? Was it just as an excuse to philander Tom Hanks’ wife? I’d like to think it was an act of community service; Phil Hartman knew that at some point during an awful family get together we’d all be forced to sit down in front of this film, and that we’d need at least two minutes to stop grinding our teeth. In that sense it’s just like volunteering a soup kitchen. It’s a good deed for the less fortunate– in this case defined as anyone who has seen Jingle All The Way.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpNn0WLN3Og]

2. Sissy Spacek and Robert Duvall in Four Christmases

I like Vince Vaughn, but let’s face it, Vince Vaughn is to Christmas movies what the lady who wrote Fifty Shades of Grey is to great literature. Four Christmases (directed by Seth Gordon who directed the wonderful documentary The King of Kong the previous year) is a pallid assembly of four vignettes, barely held together by the narrative thread of two boring and unsympathetic characters (Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon).

One can only hope blackmail or hypnotism was a factor in legendary actors Sissy Spacek and Robert Duvall joining the cast, every other explanation is too disheartening.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3UXrwZM_As]

1. Burgess Meredith in Santa Claus: The Movie

Okay, Burgess Meredith has been in a lot of crappy movies and TV shows, but hey, it’s Burgess Meredith– he’s awesome! He starred in the most referenced episode of The Twilight Zone, he trained Rocky, and he was the fucking Penguin! So, it’s more than a little unsettling to find the legendary actor fourth-billed in a Christmas movie that primarily confused and depressed children. The 1985 flick stars Dudley Moore as an elf, John Lithgow as an evil toymaker, and David Huddleston (aka The Big Lebowski) as Santa– all great actors, but it feels as though Burgess Meredith (also playing elf) stands out as being way too good for this role… It should have been Ray Walston, there, I said it.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hbX_fRgzqk]