I’m going to try to tackle one holiday movie, song, or recipe every day from December 1-December 24. Think of it as a Chameleon in Boots Advent calendar. Except it will be one of those cheap, poorly thought-out Advent calendars, because the prizes will not get increasingly better as we approach Christmas. I’m just reporting on stuff in the order that I consume it. Ok! Here we go:
I love Mixed Nuts. Apparently I am the only one. Like, on earth.
I remember seeing the preview in the “coming soon!” section at the beginning of the video every time I watched Father of the Bride (which was a lot. We are into Steve Martin in my family). I was curious about it for years. Finally when I was in college, I saw the tape at a Family Video. Embracing all of the freedom and privilege that came along with paying my own rent for the first time ever, I rented it for $1. In July!
Since then I have forced most of my family and friends to watch it, and the reaction is always the same: “um…this movie is kind of weird….it’s OK, I guess….”
The critics agree with my friends. Mixed Nuts has a critics rating of 7% on Rotten Tomatoes. 7%! I don’t think I’ve ever even stumbled across a score that low in my day-to-day Rotten Tomatoes usage. As a frame of reference, Gigli (which I forgot existed until I needed to benchmark terrible movie scores) is rotten at 6%, while The Green Lantern, which is by far the worst movie I’ve seen in recent memory, leaves them both in the dust with a robust 26%.
This 1994 holiday classic (ahem) was written by Nora and Delia Ephron and directed by Nora Ephron, which means it could be spectacular (see: When Harry Met Sally) or spectacularly awful (see: Hanging Up). But you know for sure it’s going to have great people in it, and in that respect, it doesn’t disappoint.
The cast consists of Steve Martin, Rita Wilson, Madeline Kahn, Juliette Lewis, Anthony LaPaglia, Adam Sandler and Liev Schreiber (stealing the show in drag). Look out for cameo appearances by Rob Reiner, Garry Shandling, and (look harder!) Parker Posey and John Stewart.
Before we go any further, let’s just all acknowledge that Steve Martin’s Just for Men experiment in this movie is a disaster. We’ve been seeing him with purely white hair since The Three Amigos. At least. So just try to ignore that part. Holding your thumb up in front of your face while you watch works.
OK–onto the movie itself.
The whole thing takes place mostly in one apartment, the headquarters for a suicide hotline called Lifesavers. Like any business, Lifesavers is dealing with a Christmas rush. Meanwhile, the staff of three face eviction from their office space, while tackling personal problems of their own: lonely hearts, pregnancy, re-gifting, and a serial killer on the loose.
The story is contrived to trap different combinations of the cast–two here, three here–together in the apartment at once, and show us what happens. The entire ensemble is never in the same place at the same time until the very end of the movie, when they leave the apartment together and all hell breaks loose.
I find this movie hysterical, but when I tried to pull out a couple of iconic quotes, I found it hard to do. This is partly because the movie depends so much on physical comedy. The facial expressions and movement bring more to the table than the language. The jokes–“Do you fit the profile of the victims?”–escalate over the course of the movie.
This is classic farce material. Mr. Google defines “farce” as: “a comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations.” Buffoonery. Horseplay. Crude. Ludicrous. That is basically all you need to know about Mixed Nuts. The plot is absurd, the characters lack nuance The very, very end of the movie, which tries (I think) to be heartwarming, is the weakest part of the whole thing. It’s more fun to watch this group slowly spin out of control than try to impart a holiday moral.
Oh, and if you’re into popular Christmas music, this soundtrack is a great one.
I’m going to make this one a family tradition if it kills us all.