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MIXED NUTS

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, Robert Klein, Anthony Lapaglia, Juliette Lewis, Rob Reiner, Adam Sandler, Rita Wilson
Director: Nora Ephron
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.0, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1, Standard 1.33:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: Theatrical Trailers
Length: 97 Minutes
Release Date: December 4, 2001

Film **

Following the success of Sleepless in Seattle, director Nora Ephron chose perhaps a most unlikely follow up; a holiday-themed comedy dealing with suicidal patients and the even more crazy employees at a life-saving hotline. Mixed Nuts does have individual moments of laughs, not to mention a top-flight comedic cast, but the movie as a whole doesn’t feel quite satisfactory. With a cast that includes no less than Steve Martin, Juliette Lewis, and Adam Sandler, one would expect a mostly memorable comedy enterprise, but Mixed Nuts never quite hits that mark.

Set in Venice Beach, where the weather climate is never different than that of summer, Martin plays Philip, who runs Lifesavers, a local suicide hotline, who is in the middle of a devastating crisis of his own. Lifesavers is in danger of being shut down, unless Philip can come up with five thousand dollars by the first of January for his completely uncaring landlord (Garry Shandling). Philip chooses to keep the foreclosure a secret from the other two employees, Blanche (Madeline Kahn) and Catherine (Rita Wilson).

Philip experiences an even greater dilemma when all of the zanies come out on Christmas eve crying for help, or simply showing up for the occasion. Among the zany list of characters is a homicidal Santa Claus (Anthony Lapaglia), his outraged and pregnant girlfriend (Juliette Lewis), and a ukulele playing unemployed writer (Adam Sandler). In addition to handling the crises of those individuals, Philip also faces the unexpected possibility that Catherine may have something of a crush on him, making for a most unusual Christmas night.

Nora Ephron is a much accomplished director, but she has simply faired better with films such as Michael and the most underrated Lucky Numbers. In the end, no matter if the material ends up funny or not, mixing together elements of a feel good holiday story with the subject of suicide doesn’t strike me as a satisfactory combination, or at least one that will appeal to moviegoers. Mixed Nuts is occasionally funny, and the cast does what it can, but the end result is simply a let down, more or less.

Video ***

A nice and serviceable transfer from the folks at Columbia Tri Star. Picture quality is mostly clear, sharp, and lively bright, with nice vibrant colors. A few instances of softness here and there, but nothing major to distract from the viewing. Not a great looking disc, but extremely far from bad.

Audio **

A light job is the case on the audio transfer. Other than your usual 2.0 channels, what is offered is a less than thrilling 5.0 digital track? Granted, this is only a comedy that relies on dialogue and not much of anything else, sound wise, but for the presentation at hand, the sound is reduced to that of coming from the front area.

Features *1/2

Just a set of trailers for this film and the other Columbia Tri Star releases Roxanne and So I Married an Axe Murderer.

Summary:

Mixed Nuts is, in short, a missed opportunity for doing much little with a massive A-list cast. It does have moments that show promise, but it never achieves proper momentum.