I’ll Be Home For Christmas (1998)
Cross-country Claus chaos
The holiday season is upon us, and many students will be making it home to join their family to celebrate, well, whatever it is that their particular family celebrates. Christmas. Hanukkah. Kwanzaa. Winter solstice. Milla Jovovich’s birthday. Hopefully each student’s journey is a safe and relatively uneventful one. Maybe you’ll have a run-in with a rude flight attendant. Maybe your luggage will get damaged. I pray, however, that you don’t run into as many obstacles as the main character does in the film that I will be examining this week, I’ll Be Home For Christmas.
Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Home Improvement) stars as Jake, a somewhat selfish young man who is currently attending college in California, along with his girlfriend Allie (Jessica Biel). He plans to take Allie to Cabo San Lucas for the holidays, but she puts the kibosh on those plans. She wants them both to head home to New York to spend time with their families. Jake gives in, but not to please Allie, but rather because his father has made him an offer he cannot refuse.
Gary Cole shines as Jake’s father. Cole is best known however for his role as Bill Lumbergh in Office Space. Basically, he tells Jake, “Ummm, I’m gonna need you to go ahead come home before 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve. So, if you could be here around 6, that would be great, mmmk… oh oh! And I almost forgot, ahh, I’m going to go ahead and give you a Porsche if you make it here on time, ’kay?” I’m paraphrasing a bit, but that is the gist of his message.
It sounds pretty straightforward, right? Jake just has to get his and Allie’s patooties across the country, and he’ll land a sweet ride. Well, that wouldn’t make for much of a movie. Luckily, shenanigans ensue. Jake’s rival Eddie and his buddies take Jake (who is wearing a Santa suit) out into the middle of the desert and leave him stranded there. This allows Eddie to swoop in and save the day by driving Allie home.
So while Allie fumes the whole way home thinking that her boyfriend has abandoned her, Jake engages in a series LOL escapades as he makes his way across the country dressed as Santa. He manages to win $1,000 cash by competing in a Santa Claus race, and it looks like he will make it home in time. But things get complicated when he learns that the runner-up was the mayor of the town, who has won the race every year, and uses the money to buy turkey dinners for needy families.
Hold the phone! Up until this point in the film, the writing of Michael Allin, Tom Nursall and Harris Goldberg has been absolutely perfect. But clearly they spent so much time researching college students, family dynamics and the racing abilities of mall Santas that they didn’t know a darn thing about mayors. Let’s get this straight. Mayors divert taxpayer money for their own personal use. They smoke crack cocaine. They inexplicably sprint across the room at council meetings, knocking down any grandmothers in their path. They make inappropriate remarks about their wife’s genitalia. They most certainly do not feed the hungry. Frankly, it would have been more realistic to have had the mayor transform into a helicopter during the race.
Once Jake hears about this preposterous scenario, he feels guilty, and drops the money off at the mayor’s home. The mayor invites Jake in to partake in Christmas dinner with his family, but Jake realizes that he has more than enough to eat at home, and makes one last ditch effort to join his family for their holiday feast.
Does Jake make it home? Does he win back the heart of Allie, and earn the keys to the Porsche from dear old Dad? You’ll just have to watch the film and find out for yourself. The film is available on Netflix, and according to Wikipedia, it has aired on CBC every Christmas season since 1999. Consider that information my Christmas gift to you, and yes, I do expect something in return.
I guarantee you will love this motion picture. Despite the terrible characterization of the mayor, I still feel that I’ll Be Home For Christmas is the greatest holiday offering since a wise man brought myrrh to baby Jesus 2,000 years ago.