'Twas the night before Christmas,
Following up her romantic hit Sleepless in Seattle, director Nora Ephron and her sister Delia came up with a twisted tale about dysfunctional folks, the holiday season, and a killer on the loose. Steve Martin (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) heads an all-star cast that includes (hold your breath): Madeline Kahn (Young Frankenstein), Robert Kline (a bunch of comedy albums), Adam Sandler (Little Nicky), Anthony LaPaglia (So I Married An Axe Murderer), Juliette Lewis (National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation), Rob Reiner (Throw Mama From The Train), Rita Wilson (wife of Tom Hanks), Parker Posey (Waiting For Guffman), Garry Shandling (Town And Country), Jon Stewart (Comedy Central's The Daily Show), Liev Schreiber (Scream 2), and even a young Haley Joel Osment (in a small cameo). Columbia TriStar pulls out the egg nog and the Mixed Nuts with this yuletide release on DVD.
Facts of the Case
Mixed Nuts is a story about people. Very, very disturbed people. Here is the lowdown on what's going on Christmas eve in California: Phillip (Martin) runs a suicide hotline called "Lifesavers" out of an old apartment building. His staff consists of the crotchety Mrs. Munchnik (Kahn) and the meek, insecure Catherine (Wilson). While they aren't making any money, they are keeping track of the lives they save (on a board not unlike the McDonalds "4 billion served" sign). After they're given an eviction notice by their mean-spirited land lord (Shandling) the hot line workers think they've hit rock bottom…but that's before they converge with a wild and wacky assortment of folks including a psychopathic Santa (LaPaglia) and his pregnant girlfriend (Lewis), a wacky ukulele player (Sandler), a dog-loving neighbor (Klein), a depressed transvestite who desperately wants acceptance (Schreiber), and somewhere in the night…a serial killer called "The Seaside Stranger."
It'll take a miracle for all these wackos to have a merry Christmas an a happy new year!
Mixed Nuts is a mixed bag of comedy. It's almost daunting how much comedic talent went into making this movie. Steve Martin, Adam Sandler, Madeline Kahn, AND Garry Shandling? That's a lot of funny people. Sadly, something went wrong and Mixed Nuts just ended up a complete mess. So what happened? I think that there were too many fingers in the pie, and too many comedic styles at work in the movie. It seems as if all the players are vying for screen time to do their "bits." Steve Martin almost back tracks in his career by doing some of his "wild and crazy guy" shtick. Adam Sandler utilizes his typical strange voices and plays his annoying songs on a ukulele. Madeline Kahn rants and raves in her (usually) funny screech. And so on, and so on. It's like a giant cornucopia of personalities that never quite mesh.
However, I think that real trouble lies in director/co-writer Nora and writer Delia Ephron's screenplay. I like weird and twisted stuff as much as the next guy, but this may be just a little too left of normal. There isn't one "normal" person in this movie. Everyone seems to have some freakish trait (Anthony LaPaglia is especially grating) or problem that makes one wonder if the city they're living in isn't one big sanitarium. The story is a very paper-thin outline that just seems to be there for the sake of having these characters come together. There are some very funny scenes (Rob Reiner's rant about men and women's differing opinion on bed pillows is very funny), but they are rare. Adding in a serial killer subplot just doesn't seem needed except, I guess, to bring a happy conclusion to the end of the film. Mixed Nuts seemed to have a lot of possibility but just doesn't deliver.
If anyone deserves special mention it's Liev Schreiber as the kooky transvestite Chris. Schreiber displays unusual warmth in his character, a poor soul who actually becomes very likeable by the end of the film. Instead of stereotyping Chris as a typical "cross-dresser," Schreiber makes Chris a nice guy who you'd actually want to be friends with. His dancing scenes with Steve Martin are actually funny and sentimental at the same time.
Mixed Nuts is not going to become a holiday classic by any means. The film really lacks the heart to transcend into something folks would want to watch year after year. Unlike such contemporary holiday treats as National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Scooged and A Christmas Story, Mixed Nuts doesn't have enough heart or laughs to be through entertainment. Everyone in the film has done better work, though even with this bah-hum bug review I'd still recommend it for a single viewing…if only to see comedian Steven Wright's amusing suicidal cameo in a phone booth.
Mixed Nuts is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Columbia has done a nice job on this print, making sure that the colors are bright and even with black levels looking solid. A small amount of grain and imperfection was spotted in a few scenes, though these are really very minimal. A small amount of edge enhancement was also spotted in a few scenes. Overall, this is a nice looking transfer by Columbia. Also included on side B is a full frame version, but do you really care? I didn't think so.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.0 and Dolby Digital 2.0 in French. This 5.0 mix works fine in the confines of the film, but it's a bit bland. All aspects of the dialogue, effects, and music are clear of any distortion or hiss. Directional effects were present in all speakers during a few key scenes, but overall this is not a very impressive track. Also included on this disc are English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai subtitles.
Someone played Uncle Scrooge over at Columbia TriStar and decided not to include any substantial extra features on this disc. The only "presents" you get are some filmographies on a few of the cast members, plus theatrical trailers for the films Mixed Nuts, So I Married an Axe Murderer, Drowning Mona and another Steve Martin movie, Roxanne.
Such a pity that Mixed Nuts turned out to be such a mucked up movie. There are a few chuckles, but I can't say this movie will be sitting in my holiday DVD collection any time soon. Columbia has done a decent job on the audio and video portions of this disc, though the extra features are a big lump of coal for any discerning consumer.
Since it's a Christmas movie I'll get into the spirit and let it go free on bail…but it needs to clean up its act! Case dismissed!
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