Directed by Nora Ephron. Starring Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, Robert Klein, Anthony Lapaglia, Juliette Lewis, Adam Sandler, Garry Shandling. (1994)
REVIEWED By Hollis Chacona, Fri., Jan. 6, 1995
With the fervor of a true optimist, I always open a can of mixed nuts hoping for the best -- plenty of succulent cashews, salty pecans, and sweet filberts. But I usually end up poking around in disappointment, vainly pushing aside the Brazil and peanut fillers in search of a tastier morsel. And so it is with Nora Ephron's (This Is My Life, Sleepless in Seattle) new movie about the Christmas Eve misadventures of the neurotic and ineffectual staff of Lifesavers, a Venice, California, suicide prevention center. The story is supposed to be one of a Christmas miracle, and the salvation of unhappy, lonely lives. But the characters are so annoying and so lacking in any admirable or affecting qualities that we simply don't care what happens to them. Ephron and her sister Delia co-wrote this mess, which is based on the presumably funnier French film Le Père Noël est une Ordure. But their team does not work any miracles here. Except, maybe, for getting a fairly notable cast involved in such a disaster. The dialogue is so bad that it's hard to believe anyone would even want to try to deliver it. But try they do and the results are pretty dismal. (Can any of these folks really have read this script before accepting a role in Mixed Nuts?) I kept hoping that if I could make it through Sandler's painful performance as the stupid troubadour or Lewis and LaPaglia's I-can-yell-louder-than-you-can turn as dueling bozos, I would be rewarded with some savory tidbit. But though there's half a cashew of Steve Martin's amazing physical comedy, a couple of pecans of Sven Nyqvist's beautiful cinematography and a few eye-catching filberts of very Venice-y set decoration, it's not nearly enough to satisfy. Be forewarned: Open this can of Mixed Nuts and you'll find nothing but a bunch of goobers.