Yule Crack Up: Holiday Classics Set Mood

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New movies about the ultimately fun trials of gathering with family for Christmas, shopping for the perfect gift and learning the true meaning of the season come out each year.

But according to Katie Winquist, manager of Planet Video, their most popular rentals "year after year" are "National Lampoon's Christmas" and "A Christmas Story."

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Planet Video manager Katie Winquist has the shelves stocked with holiday favorites, everything from classics like "It's A Wonderful Life" to popular comedies like "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation."

"They are a good sell; they are a good rent," she said.

In 1989, after their hit "Vacation" series of movies, introducing the Griswolds and their infamous vacation trek to Wally World and Europe, National Lampoon presented audiences with "Christmas Vacation."

When the Griswolds' relatives come to town, they bring, as movie relatives tend to do, mayhem. But nothing goes right for Chevy Chase's character, Clark Griswold. He is obsessed with getting everything perfect and it is a laugh-a-minute when, along with everything else that goes wrong, he can't even get his Christmas lights to work.

It was written by John Hughes, of "Home Alone" and "Beethoven" (the St. Bernard dog) movie fame.

Growing up in the 1940s, all 10-year-old Ralphie Parker wants for Christmas is a Red Rider Carbine Action 200 Shot Range Model Air Rifle (BB Gun). In the movie "A Christmas Story," Ralphie just has to convince Santa, his parents and even his schoolteacher, Mrs. Shields that he won't shoot his eye out and that it is the perfect gift.

Tried and true favorites

Other tried and true Christmas movies are, according to Winquist: "It's a Wonderful Life," and the original "Miracle on 34th Street," with Natalie Wood as the precocious Susan Walker. Movies like "Scrooged," starring Bill Murray, and the more recent "Santa Clause" and SC 2, starring Tim Allen, are annual customer favorites.

"A Wonderful Life" is Winquist's favorite Christmas movie. It was a tradition when her children were growing up to watch it as a family.

Christmas movies abound

"Jingle All the Way," with Arnold Schwarzenegger trying to find the Turbo Man toy his son wants for Christmas, is a well-rented film.

Winquist said, "It's funny, and you can see yourself in it. I remember when my daughter was little and wanted a Cabbage Patch doll and that's how I felt, running around."

Dr. Suess' green Grinch first tried to steal Christmas from the town of Whoville in his book in 1957.

The animated television movie appeared nine years later.

The look on the face of his poor dog is unforgettable (at least to dog lovers), as it pulls a sled uphill, laden with Christmas presents, the village's entire feast and even the very last ornament from Cindy Lou Who's Christmas tree.

The body comedy of Jim Carey brought the Grinch to life in the 2000 remake.

In "Polar Express," it is five minutes to midnight and a young boy is lying awake listening for the sound of Santa's sleigh. The loud noise he hears instead causes him to rush outside in his pajamas, only to be greeted by a train conductor who asks, "Are you coming?"

The boy boards the Polar Express where delights from the imagination of storybook writer Chris Van Allsburg are brought into your home by director Robert Zemeckis.

Animated classics

"The cartoons go over really, really well," Winquist said, and she gave "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" as an example.

When misfit reindeer Rudolph teams up with Hermey, the elf who wants to be a dentist and prospector Yukon Cornelius, the adventure begins.

"You put one foot in front of the other and soon you'll be walking across the floor..." is one memorable musical moment walking with the Abominable Snowman in the stop motion animation tale that first aired on television in 1964.

"Mickey Mouse is popular," Winquist said. "‘I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown' is a holiday film that is rented year around. Tim Burton's ‘A Nightmare Before Christmas' goes out often (at Halloween) too."

After the New Year, the Christmas section moves into storage but "They resurrect themselves. People come in during the year and request certain ones, and we get them out of the back."

For that last minute gift for the movie-a-holic on your list, Planet Video has baskets with popcorn and candy and movie rental certificates.

Planet Video will close at 6 p.m. Christmas Eve and remain closed Christmas Day because the owners believe "it's a family day."

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