My Alternative Xmas Movie Advent Calendar – Dec. 16th: Mixed Nuts (1994)

Since comedies have been the name of the game, five years after her role in National Lampoon’s, Juliette Lewis was ascending to the height of her stardom when she starred in Mixed Nuts.

Directed by Norah Ephron

Screenplay by Norah Ephron & Delia Ephron

Starring: Steve Martin, Rita Wilson, Juliette Lewis, and Madeline Kahn 

A suicide prevention hotline is on the verge of going under due to a lack of funding, the landlord is about to evict them, and the boss gets even more bad news when his finance leaves him right before Christmas. Even with all that, the small team that answers the phones still tries to help while dealing with a variety of wacky neighbors.

While it’s not Sleepless in Seattle, Norah Ephron’s follow up film is better than it gets credit for. Sure, it’s scatter-brained and hectic but that is kinda the point. Compared to her other films, it’s not refined and not nearly as linear but the Metacritic score of 14 is pretty harsh. The story by Norah and her sister Delia is interesting and unique but maybe takes its subject matter a little too lightly. It’s funny too although there are some tonal mismatches with the humor. There are a lot of personalities involved in the telling of this story and there’s only so much time to go around. There are some very adult themes at the forefront of this movie but it does feel a bit trapped by its PG-13 rating. 

There’s no denying the star power behind this project as Steve Martin led an absolutely loaded cast. Martin has shown nuance and subtlety in his career but his character, Philip, just isn’t one of those roles. There’s just a little too much push and pull between the necessity of the story and the guy who genuinely wants to help. The same could be said of Rita Wilson who plays the love interest, Catherine. They are good together and the chemistry is there but the awkwardness of their characters only gets in the way of what the audience should already know is coming. 

Juliette Lewis and Anthony LaPaglia are great together as the cliche couple that can’t seem to stop arguing but are still hopelessly in love with one another. With a baby on the way, the stakes are raised as the events of the evening get more serious. There’s also a cross-dressing Liev Schreiber who comes and subsequently gets dragged into the events of the evening. Garry Shandling also has a small role as the asshole landlord. And let’s not forget a young Adam Sandler and his original song, “So Many Things to Wonder”, and Madeline Kahn’s mother hen figure, Mrs. Munchnik, who sort of fantasizes about the Seaside Strangler. Even Jon Stewart and Parker Posey have small roles. As I said, it’s a great cast and all the characters are wonderfully weird.

I had never seen this movie until doing my homework for this list and, while I don’t know if it’ll make it into the yearly rotation, it’s one of the more original Xmas movies I’ve seen. You can stream it (with ads) right now on Tubi and rent it through video-on-demand services.

We all need a little help sometimes. Happy Holidays!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.