'It's a Wonderful Life' and 7 other Christmas classics with sequels

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Image Credit: Everett Collection

With the announcement of a possible sequel to It’s a Wonderful Life, the Internet is abuzz with everyone and anyone’s opinion. But the 1946 Jimmy Stewart-starring film isn’t the first holiday classic to get the sequel treatment. Some are just as spirited as their predecessors; others are the cinematic equivalent to getting coal in your stocking.

We break down seven sequels to holiday favorites to see how they fare before It’s a Wonderful Lie: The Rest of the Story joins their ranks.

A Christmas Story 2 (2012)

The Original: A Christmas Story (1983)
The Sequel: Set five years after the original, a now-teenaged Ralphie (Braeden Lemasters) has moved on from the Red Ryder BB gun, instead coveting a Mercury convertible for Christmas. Although this “official sequel” (as expressly emphasized in the trailer) is a holiday film, it isn’t the first Story sequel — It Runs in the Family/My Summer Story, released in 1994, stars a young Kieran Culkin as Ralphie.
Verdict: This half-baked sequel leans on the enjoyment of re-creating moments from the original. Why not just watch the original?

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)

The Original: Home Alone (1990)
The Sequel: Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) is separated from his family on Christmas (again), this time in New York City. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern (who also happens to play the Old Man in A Christmas Story 2) reprise their roles as bumbling burglars intent on revenge.
Verdict: This is a rare sequel that builds from the charm of the original to stand on its own, taking advantage of all Christmas in New York has to offer. The same can’t be said of subsequent sequels, Home Alone 3, Home Alone 4, and Home Alone: The Holiday Heist.

It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown (1992), Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales (2002), and I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown (2003)

The Original: A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
The Sequels: Throughout the years following the success of the iconic special, other Charlie Brown Christmas events have popped up on TV screens nationwide. The most recent, 2003’s I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown, centers on Linus and Lucy’s little brother Rerun and his desire to own a dog.
Verdict: They may be less memorable than the original, but any Charlie Brown Christmas special serves as the perfect backdrop for trimming the tree or opening presents.

Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

The Original: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
The Remake: This modern re-imagining — a sequel to a movie made almost 50 years ago would be ridiculous, right? — sticks fairly closely to the story of the black-and-white classic. Richard Attenborough stars as Kris Kringle.
Verdict: Fans who grew up with the George Seaton version may scoff at this. Besides the first two Home Alone¬†films, this is about as awesomely ’90s a Christmas movie can get. VHS tapes! Dylan McDermott in turtlenecks! Mara “Matilda” Wilson!

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure (2003)

The Original: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
The Remake: This made-for-TV spinoff centers on Randy Quaid’s kooky character Cousin Eddie, who lands his family on a deserted island while on Christmas vacation in the South Pacific.
Verdict:¬†Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure should remain in the realm of Christmas past, never to be watched or thought of again.

Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (1976)

The Original: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
The Remake: After another successful Christmas leading Santa’s sleigh, Rudolph must embark on a mission to save the New Year — that is, the Baby New Year.
Verdict: With high-concept characters all relating to time — like Aeon (an evil vulture), The Great Quarter-Past-Five (a camel), and, of course, Father Time (the Santa surrogate) — this stop-motion feature is pretty trippy for a children’s holiday special. But after watching Rudolph for the hundredth time, Shiny New Year is an enjoyable new adventure, making it a classic in its own right.

The Santa Clause 2 (2002)

The Original: The Santa Clause (1994)
The Remake: All is well for Santa (Tim Allen) and his elves until he learns that he has failed to follow the “Mrs. Clause.” Santa must be married before the next Christmas Eve or Christmas will be doomed!
Verdict: While it’s nice to see the original cast return eight years later, this treacly sweet continuation fails to capture the magic and heart of the original. The first film was never about “becoming Santa” or “saving Christmas,” it was about a divorced dad reconnecting with his son. Nevertheless, at least it’s not as abominable as The Santa Clause 3 featuring a disappointingly unfunny Martin Short as Jack Frost.

What are your favorite — and least favorite — holiday sequels? Do you choose to ignore their existence, or do you relish in watching the original and sequels back-to-back?

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