One Of The Most Depressing Christmas Movies Of All-Time Is An Adam Sandler-Steve Martin Comedy

‘Mixed Nuts’: The Christmas comedy, with an astonishing cast, that no one remembers or talks about.
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. 

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter! And check out the podcast Rewatchability. 

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