Thursday, December 14, 2017

Movie Review: "I'll Be Home for Christmas" (1998)

Director: Arlene Sanford
Year: 1998
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 26 minutes

A student named Jake is attending the Palisades Academy in California. He has promised his dad he'll come home to New York for Christmas for the first time since his mother passed away. In exchange for coming home, his father promises to give him his old classic Porche if he makes it back by 6:00 pm on Christmas Eve. When Jake gets left in the middle of nowhere without a ride, this task becomes seemingly impossible.

Sometimes, late at night, usually after a half-dozen margaritas, one's mind may drift to thinking about life's big questions. Does God exist? Is there life on Mars? Whatever happened to one-time child actor Jonathan Taylor Thomas and why didn't he ever go on to bigger and better things? Then, one evening, you find yourself searching for stuff to watch on Hulu and stumble across a movie like "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and it all becomes very clear. You realize, even without a half-dozen margaritas, that JTT really wasn't a very good actor and that having a baby face and a voice that matched it is probably why his career didn't have any longevity.

"I'll Be Home for Christmas" is directed by Arlene Sandford, who is best known for directing "A Very Brady Sequel," as well as a bunch of television shows. The film stars the aforementioned Jonathan Taylor Thomas who plays Jake, a student attending the Palisades Academy in California, far, far away from his hometown in New York. He hasn't been back for Christmas since his mother passed a few years earlier. His father wants to see him, but Jake doesn't think he can make it home... that is until his dad promises to give him his classic Porche if he makes it home for Christmas Eve dinner by 6pm. Unfortunately, after upsetting a group of football players, Jake gets dumped in the middle of the desert in a Santa costume with no ride and no way to get home. Joining JTT is Jessica Beil as his girlfriend Allie, Adam LaVorgna as his rival Eddie, and Gary Cole as his father.

We love Christmas movies, but in our effort to find all of the good ones, we have certainly come across plenty of bad ones. "I'll Be Home for Christmas" definitely falls into the latter category because it is simply a bad Christmas movie. There are many holiday films that aren't great but still manage to be charming enough with likable enough characters that make for a schmaltzy, festive viewing. This, however, is a movie about a selfish, unlikable little shit of a main character who is meant to learn a lesson and have a real character arc, but never comes about one naturally. He remains his old selfish self until the contrived script needs him to learn whatever lesson he is supposed to learn. Most of the comedy here just doesn't land and consists mainly of pratfalls and dog farts. Maybe the stuff discussed in this movie was more humorous and relevant in the 1990's, but in 2017, nah dawg. Though there is an occasional double-entendre that does work, these moments are a bit surprising to be found in a PG-rated kids movie (though the 90's were certainly more lenient time). As we mentioned, the acting is really bad but not from just Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Nobody gives a good performance. Everyone's acting feels stiff and forced. Nothing at all feels natural in the slightest. Maybe we should cut them a break because it was early in their careers.

Many kids who grew up in the 1990's will love "I'll Be Home for Christmas," but we thought it was a waste of time. It's one of those movies that are better off forgotten unless you have some misplaced nostalgia because of your crush on teen heartthrob Jonathan Taylor Thomas. It's a little bit cheesy, but it has terrible writing, terrible acting, and an unearned ending.

My Rating: 4/10
BigJ's Rating: 3/10
IMDB's Rating: 5.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 23%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

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