Paramount // 1991 // 92 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // December 10th, 2004
How far would you go to make a wish come true?
A couple of rich kids (Ethan Randall, Dutch, and Thora Birch, American Beauty) try to get their divorced parents to reconcile during the Christmas holiday season. You see, their father Michael (Jamey Sheridan, The Stand) had something of a mid-life crisis and bought a restaurant/diner, which apparently frustrated his wife, Catherine (Harley Jane Kozak, Arachnophobia). They both felt that they didn't understand each other and decided to split up. Michael and Catherine are now living separately -- Michael is taking care of his diner while Catherine's dating a dud (Kevin Nealon, Coneheads) who she plans to marry. Now their kids want their mom and dad back together, and it's Christmas, and that means that anything can happen...like a film studio releasing insipid, poorly scripted holiday movies like All I Want For Christmas.
There are good Christmas movies, and there are bad Christmas movies. And then there is something like 1991's All I Want For Christmas -- a movie that isn't "bad" in the classical sense of the word, and yet isn't very good, either. I'm not exactly sure who this movie was made for: kids, adults, teens, or elderly folks who've slipped into a diabetic coma. All I Want For Christmas is rated G, and there's nothing inherently wrong with that rating -- there are plenty of G-rated films that have appealed to both kids and their parents. However, when you make a G-rated movie that appeals to neither...well, that's when you run into some pretty big problems.
My main issue with All I Want For Christmas is that I couldn't think who this movie was supposed to entertain. Adults will find it bland, formulaic, and ultimately very boring. Kids won't find enough stuff in it to hold their attention (there isn't one funny joke to be found), and the storyline about divorce doesn't seem to really be a good fit for a Christmas movie. Yes, I know there are many children out there from divorced homes and it's a brutal reality that cannot be ignored. But do we really need a seasonal movie about a Christmas wish bringing two kids' divorced parents back together and instilling false hope in young, impressionable viewers? And if nothing else, couldn't it at least have been done with plausibility and humor for those impressionable viewers?
Frankly, I pushed the fast forward button more than once while watching All I Want For Christmas. The good news is that I can still tell you exactly what happened, even while everyone was going 2x faster than normal. The two kids make a plan (and a bad one, at that) to have their parents stranded in their father's expensive apartment so they can reconcile. Not one part of this plan is humorous or even fun to watch -- the basics are they lock their mother's new boyfriend in an ice cream truck (played without much enthusiasm by Saturday Night Live alum Kevin Nealon) while little Thora Birch's character acts sick so their parents can make nice-nice on Christmas Eve. Two junior high students binging on Razzles could have written this story out on a napkin during lunchtime and done better than the guys who penned this stinker.
Before I wrap up this review (which I've spent too much time on as it is), I want a few things answered. First, what the hell is a legendary actress like Lauren Bacall doing in a movie like this? Second, why does the cover of this DVD -- and the original movie poster -- show the two kids smirking while Santa (played by Leslie Nielsen without a single funny thing to do) dangles upside down wrapped in tinsel garland when that never happens in the movie (and isn't even close to the spirit of the film)? And finally, why is this movie being released on DVD when the celluloid print could just have easily been chopped up and recycled to make a better, warmer, and more engrossing Christmas movie?
All I Want For Christmas is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. All I can say is thank the good Lord above that so many movies had to suffer full frame and non-anamorphic transfers on other DVDs so crap like All I Want For Christmas can be seen in all its widescreen glory! Overall this transfer is in decent shape, though it's nothing overly exciting -- the colors and black levels are all in decent shape while most dirt and grain is noticeably absent. A few of the scenes look slightly soft but...who cares? This isn't a movie you'll watch more than once, if you can even make it through a single viewing without falling asleep.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. Much like the video transfer, there isn't a whole lot to say about this mix. The 5.1 feature kicks in slightly when any music is playing in the foreground or background -- otherwise, it's biggest use is for ambient sound and background noises, of which there are little. It's free of excessive hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc are English subtitles, as well as Dolby 2.0 Surround tracks in English and French.
I'm going to close my eyes and make a wish. "All I Want For Christmas is for this DVD to not have any extra features on it so I don't have to watch and review 'em!"
Review content copyright © 2004 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Rated G