One Of The Most Depressing Christmas Movies Of All-Time Is An Adam Sandler-Steve Martin Comedy
Despite the fact that Christmastime is often a huge bummer for lots and lots of people – as evidenced by *gestures to humanity* – holiday movies don’t always reflect that reality. One film that actually does illustrate the more Debbie Downer-esque elements of the holiday season is 1994’s now mostly-forgotten Mixed Nuts, starring Steve Martin and… one of the greatest casts in the history of comedy?
The rare Christmas movie to take place almost entirely within the offices of a suicide prevention hotline, Mixed Nuts also features Madeline Kahn, Rita Wilson, Steven Wright, Garry Shandling, Robert Klein, Parker Posey, Jon Stewart, and a young Adam Sandler in one of his first, most ukelele-heavy movie roles.
The film was co-written and directed by the late Nora Ephron, her follow-up to the blockbuster success of Sleepless in Seattle. In retrospect, one can easily see why audiences at the time, who paid to see a new movie from the director of everyone’s favorite Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan smoochfest, were disappointed. Mixed Nuts is frequently bleak and often flat-out depressing – although it’s not quite as dire as the original film it remade, Le père Noël est une ordure, which translates to Santa Claus is a Stinker.
While both films involve an attempt to cover up the accidental murder of the building’s super, Le père Noël est une ordure (spoilers for a forty-year-old French farce) ends with the protagonists hacking up the body and feeding the pieces to local zoo animals.
A lot about Mixed Nuts doesn’t hold up so well today, from the frequently glib depiction of mental illness to some cringey jokes that undercut the inclusion of a trans character (played by Liev Schreiber) to the sight of Jon Stewart attempting to rollerblade. But still, in an age when half-assed pseudo-movies starring members of the Cameron family seem to rule the holiday season, one has to admire how Mixed Nuts eschews traditional gooey Christmas sentimentality for pitch black comic anarchy.