Pros: Most of the people in this movie have been in better, funnier movies.
Cons: 90 ninutes of this 97 minute movie.
Mixed Nuts is one of the worst Christmas movies and comedy mis-fires of the last 20 years.
I started watching it again last night on Comcast Cable because I have a head cold and wanted something to fall asleep to. (it was free, proving you get what you pay for...).
Mixed Nuts is an over-the-top slapsticky farce centering around the people who work for a suicide hot line located in Venice, California on Christmas Eve. It has name stars like Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, Rita Wilson, Juliet Lewis, Anthony LaPaglia, Rob Reiner, Adam Sandler, Robert Klein with brief appearances by a host of others including Gary Shandling, Jon Stewart, Parker Posey, Steven Wright, Leiv Schreiber, It’s adapted from a French Film called le Pere Noel Est Une Ordere and is directed by Nora (Sleepless in Seattle) Ephron who also wrote the adapted screenplay with her sister Delia Ephron.
The first 20 minutes of the film has enough energy and name star power to make you wonder if perhaps there’s a pretty decent movie here. Sure it’s loud and over-the-top and too silly to make any logical sense, but Rita Wilson, Steve Martin and Madeline Kahn are charismatic performers who have some sense of comic timing and can make mediocre lines and situations seem funnier than they are--for a while anyway.
There’s a lot of characters being introduced, like Juliette Lewis as a pregnant Venice California shop owner with a crazy boyfriend Anthony LaPaglia who 'borrows the Santa Claus suit Juliette is hoping to sell to pay for a car seat for her baby. He insists he’s not an unemployed loser but an undiscovered ‘wall’ artist. Gary Shandling is the mean not-so-old Landlord evicting everyone from the Apartment building (as its becoming a condo-conversion).
There’s the setting at Venice Beach California at Christmas time—except this Venice doesn’t have the street performers, homeless people, open air market the actual Venice Beach has and looks like a surreal oasis by the sea sort of place. Plot?
Oh well, there’s a very loose kind of plot I suppose. Steve Martin runs a non-profit suicide hot line that has lost its funding. He is getting evicted and losing the cherished business he deeply cares about. He’s pretty good at helping people over the phone, but in person he winds up saying the wrong things. He's supposed to get married in a couple months to a loan officer named Susan (but we know that's not going to happen). Rita Wilson and Madeline Kahn work for him. Rita is a heart on her sleeve kind of person named Catherine who secretly is in love with Steve Martin. Madeline Kahn is a hard working eccentric middle age woman named Mrs. Munchnick who hates dogs and consequently one of the buildings’ tenants (played by Robert Klein) who has several dogs. Adam Sandler is another tenant and he’s dressed like a cheap waiter and likes to sing very stupid nonsense songs in an irritating falsetto with his little ukele (Hey, Adam weren't you doing this too much on SNL in 1994?).
All of these characters have bits of business or act eccentric and a little goofy. Oh and Steve Martin needs to raise 5,000 dollars to keep the business going somehow. There are threads of a badly developed sub-plot that you won’t realize is even there until the end when things are ridiculously wrapped up and we get what amounts to a happy and treacley (overly sentimental) happy ending. It involves talk of a supposed serial killer, but no one seems the least bit worried about going out after dark or taking any pre-caution about this at all. It's barely mentioned a couple of times and then plays BIG at the end of the movie. UGH....
Leiv Shreiber gets to play a lonely mis-understood transvestite (he's in drag the whole movie--practicing for his role in the recent Taking Woodstock perhaps), one of the characters is accidently killed and the body is made into a Christmas tree (no it doesn't make sense.. who cares); Madeline Kahn gets stuck in an elevator for a while and will later have ‘sex’ on the beach! The level of comedy gets louder, dumber, less believable, less inventive, increasingly unfunny and repetitious as the movie progresses. It would have been a below average time-wasting 15 minute Saturday Night Live skit…but at 97 minutes. . .it is as excruciating as having a bad head cold….
How did all these ‘name’ people wind up in this mess of a movie?
There are a dozen or so novelty Christmas songs heard on the soundtrack, including an original title song performed by Dr. John. At one point you hear one of the barking dogs Xmas songs. Jon Stewart of the Daily Show has a nothing role as the male half of a couple who are transporting a Christmas tree via bicycle on the Venice Beach Cement Walk. Parker Posey is the other half of the couple (and she’s uner-utilized too). They might have 3 or 4 minutes of screen time total in the two very brief scenes they are in. Steven Wright shows up for about 45 seconds calling into the suicide hot line about to kill himself. Rob Reiner plays a vet who at one point is asked to help a character who has a wound that might need stitches.
You’ll be screaming Bah Humbug, throwing up the Egg Nog and despising Christmas by the time you get done watching this filmic lump of coal.