VOD film review: All I Want for Christmas
Unrealistic expectations of human relationships2
Ivan Radford | On 16, Dec 2016
Director: Robert Lieberman
Cast: Harley Jane Kozak, Jamey Sheridan, Ethan Embry
Watch All I Want for Christmas online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
There are certain things that are guaranteed at Christmas. Brussel sprouts. Bad jumpers. A Doctor Who special. And, inevitably, that Mariah Carey song. Before you scratch your ears out at the thought of hearing it for the millionth time, though, there’s good news: All I Want for Christmas has nothing to do with Mariah Carey. The bad news? It’s much worse.
The film follows Hallie and Ethan (Once Upon a Time’s Ethan Embry), a brother and sister whose parents (Harley Jane Kozak and Jamey Sheridan) divorced several years ago. Both kids, though, wish their family would get back together. And so that’s exactly what Hallie does: when the local department store Santa comes into town, she promptly queues up and, perched on his lap, asks him to get her parents to marry again. Santa looks at her with the wide-eyed deadpan surprise of Frank Drebin – because, yes, St. Nick is played by none other than Leslie Nielsen himself. Not even Leslie Nielsen as Santa, though, can save this – and that’s how you know things are bad.
Leslie’s not the only actor of note in the production: Hallie and Ethan’s disapproving grandmother is given some good wither by Lauren Bacall, while Hallie is played by a young Thora Birch, who steals the whole show with her fake illnesses, sassy wisecracks and naive Christmas wishes. But one adorable child character does not a good film make, and writers Thom Eberhardt and Richard Kramer rapidly wheel out all the cliches, with terrible dialogue riding on top.
There’s little point or depth to most of it – an opening scene involving a choir goes nowhere, while a romantic subplot with a girl that Ethan likes reaches for John Hughes charm but ends up several miles short – and even their mum’s new suitor, whose one job is to be despicable, is too boring to be loathsome. (A prank by the kids involving a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream truck mostly comes across as cruel.) Their dream dad, on the other hand, might need reporting to social services. The time we spend with him mostly involves using his children as extra staff in the diner that he opened as part of his mid-life crisis – lazy parenting at its best, unpaid child labour with little regard for health and safety at its worst.
The crux of the plot comes down to the fact that Hallie asked Leslie NielSanta to get her parents to marry again, but didn’t specify that they should marry each other – a classic lesson in the importance of understanding the distinction between a transitive verb and intransitive verb.
(Marry, as an intransitive verb, does not require an object, so can refer to someone marrying anything. For example, John got married. As an intransitive verb, though, marry specifies the object being married. For example, John married Susan. Fun fact: This brief grammar lesson is more entertaining than the whole film put together.)
There’s nothing wrong with a Christmas movie offering a message, but when it comes to All I Want for Christmas, the lesson it teaches has nothing to do with grammar: instead, it teachers us that if you’re a child and you wish your divorced parents get back together for Christmas, there’s a good chance they will. For an adult watching, it’s a quaintly idealistic notion, but for a young child, it could actually set up an unrealistic expectation that leads to genuine heartbreak further down the line. Merry Christmas, kids. No, Santa can’t mend broken marriages. Oh, and he’s not real either. All I Want for Christmas Is a Realistic Depiction of the Complexities of Human Relationships? That’s hardly a classic Christmas movie. Then again, neither is this. Maybe Mariah Carey would be better after all.
All I Want for Christmas Is You is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, as part of a £11.99 NOW Cinema Membership subscription.