If you were to name the three most iconic action stars of the 1980s, you would likely identify Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis. In fact, I believe one of the Expendables movies does that very thing, getting all three together in one scene. (I only saw the first Expendables movie so I will have to take the word of some review I read.)
That designation is a little bit of a fallacy, as Willis had never done an action movie before Die Hard in 1988, and didn't get his second on his resume until Die Hard 2, which is already in 1990. But it's easier to say "the three most iconic action stars of the 1980s" than "the three most iconic action stars of the 1980s and 1990s." And besides, Die Hard is so iconic that it can fill in Willis' gaps in that decade all by itself.
Anyway, the point of telling you that is to tell you this: In the past two nights, we saw one Christmas movie each from two of those three guys.
On Christmas Eve it was Jingle All the Way, not Schwarzenegger's only foray into comedy, but his only foray into Christmas movies (that I could tell by just looking at the titles of the movies on IMDB).
On Christmas night we watched the aforementioned Die Hard for the first time in six years, not Willis' only foray into Christmas movies, but the only other of which (that I could tell just by looking at the titles of the movies on IMDB) was also a Die Hard movie: Die Hard 2.
We're just missing the Stallone Christmas movie for the trifecta, but alas, that won't be an option for Boxing Day. As far as I can tell (just by looking at the titles of the movies on IMDB), Sylvester Stallone has not made a Christmas movie.
Hadn't seen Jingle All the Way before, which is funny since I consider myself something of an Arnie completist. Then again, it's funny I consider myself that as I have also not seen Stay Hungry, Conan the Barbarian, Conan the Destroyer, Red Sonja, Raw Deal, Predator, Red Heat, Junior, End of Days, Collateral Damage, The Kid & I, The Expendables 2, Escape Plan, The Expendables 3 and Killing Gunther.
Anyway, I didn't like Jingle All the Way. Arnold's charm carries the movie farther than it should, but very little of the comedy works and the thing is just that fateful combination of slapstick and schmaltzy, with an ending that crosses over into the absurd. My wife gave up on it before the finish, and not only because it was Christmas Eve and we had to get to bed at a reasonable time. (In fact, the only reason we were watching it in the first place was that The Night Before didn't end up available on Netflix streaming in Australia, only America.)
It did allow me to see the movie that, I guess, prompted them to cast Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker, though he was also in Unhook the Stars that same year, 1996. And though I hate bashing the acting of Lloyd -- especially considering what the experience of playing young Anakin has done to the guy's life -- he's really not good here, even for a child actor. There's one moment where he tears his neglectful dad a new one that I guess must have been the moment George Lucas saw the potential for petulant anger in him. Then again, Anakin isn't even petulant at that age, as far as I remember. I guess Lucas must have just thought he was really good.
As for Die Hard ... I imagine this would be my eighth viewing or so. I still remember the grand time I had on my first at that small four-screen theater that used to be at the Burlington Mall in Massachusetts, watching with a half-dozen friends and howling with laughter and joy. I commented to my wife last night that I half expect Die Hard not to be good the next time I see it, since upon its release I thought it was just another gritty Charles Bronson-type thriller that was already feeling like a moribund genre at that point. And of course, every time I watch Die Hard it's just as good as it was the time before.
So we got no Stallone, but funnily enough, Die Hard actually has him covered. As a matter of fact, it's got both of the other guys covered in various lines of dialogue.
First (chronologically), there is this line by Hans Gruber: "Just another American who saw too many movies as a child? Just another orphan of a bankrupt culture who thinks he's John Wayne? Rambo? Marshal Dillon?"
Which is perfect, of course, because Stallone played Marshal Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke.
But then, just to put the cherry on top, we get this line from John McClane: "They have missiles, automatic weapons and enough plastic explosives to orbit Arnold Schwarzenegger."
Which is perfect, because Schwarzenegger played an automatic weapon in My Life as a Machine Gun.
After the movie my wife reminded me that both Stallone and Schwarzengger were offered the part of John McClane before they somehow landed on the star of Moonlighting for their movie.
I'm just as glad we don't have to live in a world where we have to see Arnie's bulky frame trying to shimmy through an air duct as I'm glad we don't live in a world where we have to see Eric Stoltz hopping in and out of a Delorean.