In this grim economic season, a laugh might just be the best cure for your winter blues. And these winter tales have a sweetness that some of the summer comedies lack, which makes them perfect for the holiday season. Among these films, a couple falls in love with their untrainable dog; a man decides to say yes to absolutely everything; a couple overdoes the Christmas family visits; a man finds an unlikely soul mate on the way to his daughter’s wedding; a family comes together for loud, raucous holidays; and, finally, two con men find an ally in the woman they were going to swindle.
“Marley & Me”
Starring: Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Alan Arkin, Eric Dane, Kathleen Turner Director: David Frankel Story: Based on the best-selling book by David Grogan, the film tells the story of what happens when an adorable but destructive and impossible-to-train dog is adopted by David (Wilson) and Jennifer (Aniston) and becomes an essential part of their family. Worth seeing? In the age of the puppy cam, who can resist a cute dog? According to Entertainment Weekly, 22 dogs were used for the role of Marley. “It’s a very honest portrayal of a modern marriage,” Aniston told EW. “I’ve never had to play that before.” Frankel is the man who helmed “The Devil Wears Prada.” This movie may be a bit overly cute, but with a dog at its center, isn’t it supposed to be? Web site: http://www.marleyandmemovie.com/ Release date: Dec. 25
Starring: Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper, Rhys Darby, John Michael Higgins Director: Peyton Reed Story: Jim Carrey plays Carl Allen, a man who says “no” to everything, until he signs up for a self-help class that encourages him to start saying “yes.” The change in attitude leads to a promotion, new romance and a new outlook on life. Deschanel plays Carrey’s indie rocker girl friend. Based on Danny Wallace’s true story. Worth seeing? Maybe. This sounds a bit schmaltzy in that “Bucket List” sense, but, luckily, Reed (“Down With Love,” “Bring It On”) tends to bring a real sense of whimsy to his films. In real life, Deschanel sings with She & Him, but for the film she teams up with the San Francisco female trio Von Iva to create the fictional band Munchausen by Proxy. Carrey reportedly did his own bungee jump for the film. After the dreadful “Number 23,” it’s nice to see Carrey say “yes” to a comedy. Web site: http://yesisthenewno.warnerbros.com/ Release date: Dec. 19
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Duvall, Jon Favreau, Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakam Director: Seth Gordon Story: Witherspoon and Vaughn star as a married couple who usually spend their holidays on a fun vacation away from their families, but when bad weather cancels all flights, the pair is forced to go see all four sets of parents (Witherspoon and Vaughn both have divorce parents). Will spending the holidays with the their families change their outlook on where their own marriage is going? Worth seeing? Looks formulaic, but may surprise. “This script had a fun outlawness to it,” Vaughn told Entertainment Weekly. According to Fox News, Witherspoon and Vaughn clashed on the set, but sometimes that can create real chemistry on screen (think Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, who famously didn’t get along on “Dirty Dancing”). Director Gordon is the man behind the well-worth-renting documentary, “The King of Kong.” Fans of that film should keep their eye out for Steve Wiebe, who has an uncredited role as Witherspoon’s brother. Web site: http://www.fourchristmasesmovie.com/ Release date: Nov. 26
“Last Chance Harvey”
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Kathy Baker, James Brolin, Eileen Atkins, Richard Schiff, Liane Balaban Director: Joel Hopkins Story: Harvey (Hoffman) is on the verge of losing his job when he heads off to his daughter’s (Balaban) wedding in London, only to discover that his daughter wants her stepfather (Brolin) to give her away. Despondent, he meets Kate (Thompson) at an airport bar, and after talking, she agrees to come with him to wedding reception. Worth seeing: Maybe. It looks like a film that would appeal to those who enjoyed “Something’s Gotta Give.” Variety’s John Anderson wrote, “Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson are so disarmingly charming that even the most treacly moments work an emotional magic.” Hopkins is the man behind the worth-renting “Jump Tomorrow.” Web site: http://www.lastchanceharvey.com/ Release date: Dec. 25
“Nothing Like the Holidays”
Starring: Luis Guzmán, Freddy Rodriguez, Debra Messing, Alfred Molina, Jay Hernandez, Elizabeth Peña, John Leguizamo Director: Alfredo De Villa Story: The Rodriguez family decides to reunite for the holidays. Stockbroker Mauricio’s (Leguizamo) high-powered wife (Messing) is more interested in her career than in having children. Jesse (Rodriguez) is an Iraq vet who struggles with being home again. And matriarch Anna (Peña) announces to the family that she’s going to divorce their father (Molina). Worth seeing? Yes. It seems as if we get one of these “Family Stone,” “Home for the Holidays”-type of films every year. However, The New York Times singles out Rodriguez’s work as “a breakthrough performance,” writing, “the real revelation in Mr. Rodriguez’s performance lies in brief moments that never feel artificial or precious, just true.” Web site: http://www.nothingliketheholidays.com/ Release date: Dec. 12
Note: All release dates are subject to change.