It's funny because my rankings put the 2nd one at the top and I enjoy it very much. The first one is not very family friendly with little ones and that hurts it in my eyes. It is also the cynic's view of Christmas for about 85% of the movie. The third one is even worse. Sure the second one's plot is weaker but it has the most heart.
I also like the second one but not nearly as much as the first. The third one irritated me so much I haven't seen it since its original release. I'll watch the 3rd one again in December with expectations of disaster just to see if it's really as bad as I thought.
Thanks for the review Matt. Unlike you, I enjoyed the second movie almost as much as the first. The third was terrible on initial viewing, but grew a little on me with the second viewing. Looking forward to picking up the trilogy!