To read more of Sharp’s Christmas Movie Smackdown, click here.
This might just be the most tightly contested matchup in the entire bracket. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Gremlins are both cult classics. They’re both smart, darkly comedic genre send-ups — of hardboiled noir and horror, respectively. They both have eminently likable casts (RDJ and Kilmer; Phoebe Cates at the height of her ‘80s powers and an early appearance by Corey Feldman) led by strong creative teams (Lethal Weapon creator Shane Black, whose upcoming The Nice Guys looks incredible; an Amblin dream team of director Joe Dante, writer Chris Columbus and producer Steven Spielberg). And they’re both the kind of movie that you’ll stumble upon on cable and get immediately sucked in no matter what scene you land on or how many times you’ve already seen it.
So what separates these two closely-matched rivals? Christmassiness. Which, as far as this tournament is concerned, happens to count for a whole lot. And by that metric alone, Gremlins is the clear winner.
Yes, we realize that Kiss Kiss features an in-her-prime Michelle Monaghan wearing the sexiest Santa suit this side of Fashion Santa. But beyond that and a few other nominal details, Christmas has no real bearing on the movie itself. It could have been set during Easter or Martin Luther King Day and still been a highly entertaining detective caper.
Christmas, meanwhile, is integral to Gremlins — mostly because the film skewers so many holiday movie conventions. It’s set in the small town of Kingston Falls, meant to closely resemble Bedford Falls from It’s A Wonderful Life (which plays on a TV in the background later in the movie). Gizmo is introduced to the story as a Christmas present to Billy from his father. And one of the movie’s most memorable scenes — at once an emotional beat and sick joke — comes when Cates’ character Kate reveals that the reason she hates Christmas is that her dad died stuck in a chimney dressed as Santa.
So, we’re sorry, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. You’re a great movie. But only Gremlins is a great Christmas movie, and it’s moving on to the next round. Somehow, though, we have a feeling RDJ won’t take this loss too hard.
THE WINNER: Gremlins