Since I’m playing Scrooge with this list, I’d better begin with a declaration: I love Christmas, the idea of it, and Christmas movies too — the good ones. But some holiday-themed films take advantage of our better nature, and one is director Leo McCarey’s officially loved sequel to his Oscar-winning Going My Way. This time, easygoing Father O’Malley is assigned to a school run by severe, skeptical Sister Mary Benedict, and they clash over the priest’s liberal handling of the students. It’s basically the 2008 movie Doubt, but with Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman in the Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep roles and without the accusations of pedophilia. Bellsescalates from religious sanctimoniousness to emotional blackmail — a climax at least one notable reviewer finds a litmus test for critics’ humanity. “If you don’t cry when Bing Crosby tells Ingrid Bergman she has tuberculosis,” Joseph McBride wrote in 1973, “I never want to meet you, and that’s that.” I’ve met Joe McBride, and I respect the heck out of him, but nothing in this treacle pudding of a film makes me cry, except in despair, and that’s that.
Top 10 Worst Christmas Movies
There's a thin line between a heartwarming holiday movie and a heartrendingly bad Christmas film. TIME's Richard Corliss sets his sights on the latter.