Mixed Nuts

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A Mixed Up Bag of Christmas Nuts

Nov 15, 2000 (Updated Nov 16, 2000)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Makes the real Christmas season seem serene

Cons:It may take time to grow on you

With the holiday season drawing nearer, I want to alert e-pinioners to a fun-filled old video which has become a yearly "must" for our family. "Mixed Nuts," starring Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, Robert Kline, Adam Sandler, and a host of other wacky actors, is a totally unbelievable string of events which come together (loosely, v. e. r. y l. o. o. s. e. l. y) to a climax which mimics the traditional nativity scene. Between beginning and end are sandwiched: love, hate, more love, tender romances and unlikely interactions between a very unlikely group of people.

This is not your average Steve Martin comedy. It's very hard to describe the story line, but the characters and their interactions make the movie a lot of fun and lighten up what has become (for me) a harrowing and chaotic holiday. Compared to the Mixed Nuts holiday, mine seems positively serene.

The movie may not appeal to everyone, it has its sophomoric moments (a lot of them) and is definitely not for the deep thinkers here. If I were rating this movie after the first time I had seen it I might have given it one or two fewer stars than I have. It's the characters and the way the actors portray them that makes this movie work. They and the movie itself do grow on you (this is our third or fourth year of enjoying it). As such, it's the perfect tape to own and return to over time.

First, we have Steve Martin, a tightly-held-together loser who is trying to run a phone hotline called "Life Savers" on a threadbare budget. His fiancÚ is fed up with him, his office staff, Mrs. Blanche Munchnik (Madeline Kahn) and Katherine - or is it Catherine? - (Rita Wilson), are struggling to keep the business alive with no money, and his landlord Stanley Tannenbaum (Gary Shandling) has just given him an eviction notice for Christmas. If you do see the movie, watch for a cleverly disguised play on his name near the end.

Now things start to heat up: there's a serial killer out there lending comic anxiety to the plot; Grace,(played by Juliette Lewis) a very pregnant young woman, has to decide what is best for her unborn baby, whether to stay with her fresh-out-of-prison boyfriend Felix (played by Anthony LaPaglia) or leave him and fend for herself. (She decides she'll be better off alone, which sends her boyfriend off the deep end - sub-plot five or six, I've lost count.) Madeline Kahn, after becoming stuck in the office building's rickety elevator, misses the Christmas dinner at her dead-husband's-sister's home and becomes involved in a hate/love relationship with the dog-walking, dog-hater-hating Mr. Lobelle (Robert Klein). (Read that slowly, it does make sense, especially after watching the movie).

Turn the heat up another notch; Adam Sandler plays Louie, a ukelele-strumming nutcase who lives downstairs from "Life Savers," and is swept up in the insane antics of the rest of the cast; follow Louie with Chris (Liev Schreiber), a transvestite who becomes enamored of Sandler's character after Sandler is rejected by Katherine.

Rob Reiner gets dragged into this as a veterinarian who is called upon to treat . . .well, it's complicated. Mere words could not explain this twist. Happily, Rob returns later to help deliver Grace's baby, which is a pretty funny bit, too.

Okay, okay, there is no real way to describe the plot. (And I didn't even touch on the rollerblading Christmas-tree-toting Nazis.) It's chaotic, silly, improbable, all that. But it's funny. "Mixed Nuts" is not your ho-hum Christmas movie all warm and fuzzy, it's laugh out loud nonsense and surprisingly, the funniest character in the movie is Juliette Lewis (hard to believe this is the same woman who played a traumatized teen-ager in Cape Fear). She seems to be the only one with her feet planted if not on the ground, at least closer than the rest of the cast, and that's really going some!

In addition to appropriately silly characters, the music (while I would never buy the sound track!) is also appropriately silly - all the versions of Christmas carols we love to hate, but played at just the right time. I could give you the entire plot here and you still would have to see it to understand what I'm trying to say.

Take Mrs. Munchnik; at one point she gets stuck in the elevator. Using the karaoke machine she had purchased as a Christmas present, she tries out all the different rhythms of the machine and attempts to put her call for help to a Rap beat.

My favorite scene involves Martin dancing with transvestite Schreiber (who does look good in black!). Martin is trying to maintain a politically correct attitude about a situation he clearly does not approve of, but the strain shows on his face. Steve does a great job, eventually succumbing to the charm of the dance and ending with both men doing an enthusiastic and hilarious performance. There is no way words could do this justice.

The somewhat surprise ending has all the main characters dragging a most unusual "Christmas tree" down to the boardwalk. The "Christmas tree Nazis" make a reappearance, followed by the police. More confusion with a suicide attempt, an expected arrest and an unexpected reversal, where All Is Revealed. Finally, the heartwarming finish and they all, presumably, Live Happily Ever After. Call me sappy, I love it.

Well, I've tried to make this movie seem funny and I fear I've just made it sound stupid. It is stupid, but in a very entertaining way. Maybe the reason I like it so much is that subliminally it mirrors the chaos of the Christmas season itself. In any case, if you like light comedy based on improbability, give this film a try.



Recommend this product? Yes

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