Mixed Nuts (United States, 1994)
There must be something about the combination of Steve Martin and Nora Ephron that doesn't work. Anyone remember My Blue Heaven? (For that matter, does anyone want to remember My Blue Heaven?) Regardless of how dreadfully unfunny that Martin/Ephron collaboration was (she wrote it; he starred in it), it was only a precursor to Mixed Nuts, as unwatchable a motion picture as you're likely to find this Christmas season.
The movie can boast one rather impressive first, however. Even though she has a fairly hefty part, Juliette Lewis somehow manages not to be the most annoying person on screen. At least three others have a more legitimate claim to that title. There's Adam Sandler, who whines and whimpers his way through the role of the ukulele-strumming Louie; Liev Schreiber, who overacts as the angst-riddled crossdresser Chris; and Madeline Kahn, whose Mrs. Munchnik (sounds like the wife of the florist from Little Shop of Horrors) sings off-key rap songs in stuck elevators.
How Steve Martin got involved in this mess is something of a mystery, although his choice of movies has been slipping recently (Mixed Nuts follows in the wake of this year's A Simple Twist of Fate and 1992's Leap of Faith). Here, as Philip, the proprietor of a Los Angeles crisis phone line, the comedian appears lost. His jokes fall flat and his attempts at manic physical humor come across as forced and unnatural.
As for Ephron, it's hard to believe that this film is the work of the same woman who wove the magic and romance of When Harry Met Sally (which she wrote) and Sleepless in Seattle (which she wrote and directed). There's certainly nothing here to remind an audience of her previous efforts.
Mixed Nuts revolves around the lives of a group of inert caricatures brought together for an incredibly tedious Christmas Eve. In addition to the aforementioned people, there's the timid, mousy Catherine (Rita Wilson, aka Mrs. Tom Hanks), who's secretly in love with Philip, and her best friend Gracie (Lewis), a pregnant woman who can't make up her mind whether or not she wants to spend the rest of her life with her unborn baby's father (Anthony LaPaglia). Also dropping in for a scene or two are the likes of Rob Reiner (as a veterinarian who stitches people up), Robert Klein (as a dog-loving mechanic), and Garry Shandling (as Mr. Tannenbaum -- the name is a clue to his eventual fate).
It boggles the mind that someone actually allowed this choppy, unpolished script to reach the production stage. There's nothing even remotely funny here. Lines like "I didn't want to tell you this over the phone -- I really wanted to fax you" are representative of the quality -- or lack thereof -- of the so-called humor. And there's a version of "Deck the Halls" that may make you wish you never hear the song again.
Mixed Nuts makes a point of stating that there's magic at Christmas. After seeing this movie, I'm a believer. After all, it's virtually impossible to come up with an alternate explanation of how something this awful could make it to theaters across the nation.
Mixed Nuts (United States, 1994)
Cast: Steve Martin, Rita Wilson, Madeline Kahn, Juliette Lewis, Anthony LaPaglia, Liev Schreiber, Adam Sandler, Robert Klein
Screenplay: Delia Ephron and Nora Ephron
Cinematography: Sven Nykvist
Music: George Fenton
U.S. Distributor: TriStar Pictures
U.S. Release Date: 1994-12-21
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Profanity, Mature Themes)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
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