Mixed Nuts

Synopsis: ‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, the only creatures stirring were a transvestite, a homicidal Santa, a serial killer, the staff of a suicide hot line and a very crazy pregnant woman.

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Mixed Nuts 5.5

eyelights: Liev Schreiber. its core conceit.
eyesores: its main cast. its clichéd romantic twists. its cheesy score.

“May I put you on hold while I run to my desk? Uh… you’re not calling from a bridge or holding a weapon, are you?”

I’m no great fan of the French cult classic ‘Le Père Noël est une ordure‘ (or “Santa Claus is a dirtbag”). While I like that it’s a Christmas-themed comedy tinged with black tinsels, and it does have a wonderful cast, its gags don’t always land neatly; it’s a bit over-the-top at times.

But I can understand its appeal: at the time of its release, in 1982, there wasn’t nearly as much cynicism around Christmas as now, so there wasn’t a lot of entertainment out there for people who tend to think that Ebenezer Scrooge got a bad rap. There were no movies like ‘Bad Santa‘.

Remaking the picture à l’Américaine might have seemed like a good idea.

Unfortunately, Nora Ephron’s 1994 misfire, ‘Mixed Nuts’, is as stale and inedible as last year’s Christmas fruitcake. Oh, it has some tasty bits in it, sure, but for the most part it comes off as uninspired, desperately trying to be zany and madcap yet failing to even be amusing.

It’s a comedy without laughs, and a holiday movie without heart.

The plot is pretty simple: ‘Mixed Nuts’ follows the misadventures of the staff of a distress call-centre on Christmas Eve, as they (and their entourage) deal with various misfortunes. A bunch of neurotics, they argue, trip each other up, and have an unforgettably manic evening together.

A large part of the picture’s failure lies in its cast: though the characters aren’t especially likeable, a great cast would have managed to make them endearing anyway. Alas, none of them are any fun – despite the efforts of Steve Martin, Rita Wilson, Madeline Kahn and Juliette Lewis.

All of these actors have been better.

The supporting players are a slice better: though Anthony Lapaglia is grating, Garry Shandling has a few moments as their morbid landlord, Adam Sandler is cute as their simpleton neighbour and Liev Schreiber totally steals the show as a suicidal transvestite who pops by for help.

Honestly, Schreiber is the only reason to see this movie.

If at all.

Of course, all of them have had better material: the script’s just not funny. I’m sure that the outline must have made it look promising, but Nora and Delia Ephron’s script is filled with clichés, contrivances and non-jokes. It was often easy to predict what the next “zinger” was going to be.

And what decent material there is was so poorly delivered that it dropped the laughs.

I didn’t laugh once – though I did chuckle a bit.

No one was on top of their game here: even George Fenton, who gave us such a masterful score in ‘Dangerous Liaisons‘, served up an insanely annoying score, all corny and precious – worse than even the cheesiest Christmas music. $#!t, it even had a bit of “Jingle Cats” in it. Seriously.

The whole thing builds to a “furious pitch” that is so !@#$-ing stupid that it doesn’t even deserve commenting on. In truth, I was bored but didn’t dislike the picture too much until I got to those last ten minutes – then it all went to Hell with BS resolutions, good fortune and crap romance.

Shoot me now.

The ending is so unconvincing that, when Philip has to say “This is the miracle”, even Steve Martin can’t spew the words out.

Yes, “This is the miracle”!

Imagine the scene for moment – but grab a bucket first!

Frankly, ‘Mixed Nuts’ has an excellent title and promising source material, but it doesn’t have anything else going for it. I’d actually love to see it remade with a more winning cast, and sharper direction; it has potential, but it just doesn’t work as a comedy or as a Holiday movie.

It’s left me with mixed feelings.

Date of viewing: September 23, 2017

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