A small group of dedicated counsellors are working a crisis line on Christmas, even though they’re about to get evicted. It features an all-star cast: Steve Martin, Rita Wilson, Madeline Kahn, Adam Sandler, Liev Schreiber, Anthony LaPaglia, Juliette Lewis, Rob Reiner, Joely Fisher, and Garry Shandling. Victor Garber lends a voice, tiny Haley Joel Osment can be spotted, and Jon Stewart and Parker Posey play yuppie rollerbladers who are comparatively not worthy of top-billing.
I watch this movie without fail, every year. Admittedly, this is in part because for the past 7 I have found myself working at a crisis line on Christmas.
Now, the thing that you must understand about this movie is that it is bad. Quite bad. But lovable.
Rita Wilson is a goofball who probably shouldn’t be in movies. She’s way too earnest and tries too hard. She seems to mistake acting for clowning and all her lines are shouted, all her gestures hammy and over the top. But writer\director Nora Ephron had just finished making Sleepless in Seattle with Tom Hanks, and may she owed him one (Wilson is his wife).
But just so that Wilson doesn’t feel left out, the others join in on the sub-par acting. Steve Martin resorts to slap-stick. Adam Sandler does a bit with a ukelele that feels like an SNL sketch just wandered randomly onto the set. Juliette Lewis, never the last to board the crazy train, goes balls-deep in the fruitloop department. She delivers her lines as if she’s reading a book to a group of small, not very brightl children. Maybe they’re all just trying to get noticed? Too many cooks in the kitchen? Tooo many clowns at the circus?
This movie is SO bad that it actually uses a recording of the Jingle Cats doing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Fruitcakes are abundant, both literally and figuratively. Liev Schreiber wears a dress and does a fierce tango in his feature film debut – oh what a career that man could have had! And by the way, who taught Juliette Lewis how to empty a gun?
But to me, all the bad pieces add up to a silly, fun movie, exactly the kind of thing I need in between depressive, suicidal callers when I’m at work early on Christmas morning. Madeline Kahn is perfection, and Rob Reiner, as the straight man, is pretty fun too. And despite the many problems, Nora Ephron is still Nora Ephron, and this movie is full of quotable lines. Is this required Christmas viewing? Certainly not. But if you’ve got a dearth of Christmas cheer, or hours to fill at work over the holidays, then give it a try. You may even find it becoming a Christmas staple.
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