Leslie Nielsen Is Santa In The ‘90s Most Deranged Holiday Movie
While in no way associated with Mariah Carey, 1991's childhood classic All I Want For Christmas is a seasonal favorite for many and still available for all to stream, but... it's insane? Yeah, in retrospect, this movie is clearly the work of Hollywood madmen. Despite what the poster would have you believe, the film is not about two small children going full Hostel on St. Nick to satiate their holiday greed.
What All I Want For Christmas is actually about is a super-wealthy brother and sister duo (played by a pre-Can't Hardly Wait Ethan Embry and a pre-Hocus Pocus Thora Birch) whose parents have recently split. Why? Because the dad, a former businessman, ruined the relationship by quitting his job to pursue his dream of running a mid-tier New York greasy spoon diner. Seriously, that's the reason they're divorced. He left behind a life of "yuppie" riches and now runs his own business and lives in this squalid apartment/palatial loft. Are we sure this restaurant isn't selling baggies of coke on the side? And how is opening a gentrified cafe not still in the "yuppie" wheelhouse?
Thus, Thora Birch decides to head to a department store and ask Santa Claus for help. But, rather than offering her, say, a Cabbage Patch doll or a Vanilla Ice sleeping bag, Santa instead seems surprisingly cool with the idea of forcing her parents back into their loveless marriage. Oh, and Santa is played by Lt. Frank Drebin, himself: Leslie Nielsen.
Not wanting to leave the situation purely in the hands of Kris Kringle, the older brother decides to take matters into his own hands by straight-up Parent Trap-ing his folks. The only problem is that their mom has a new boyfriend, played by the great Kevin Nealon.
So a key part of his plan involves luring the boyfriend – who's actually a fiancé at this point – into the back of an ice cream truck and locking him inside. The poor guy didn't even have a winter coat on at the time. The filmmakers seemingly saw this as an opportunity to make a little extra cash, hence why the ice cream truck prominently features the Ben & Jerry's logo, who was apparently cool with its frozen desserts being associated with a literal abduction.
Note: Nealon's character isn't mean or abusive in any way; he's just kind of awkward and boring and pays the bills with a job on Wall Street. His greatest offense at this point was wanting to take the kids' mom to a performance of Cats – but, sure, throw him in an icy cell and transport him across state lines. It's a wonder that this movie didn't end with the discovery of his frozen corpse looking like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
Meanwhile, the kids arrange to have the mom spend the night at the dad's flophouse/luxury apartment; she even snuggles up with the guy because the daughter's bed is too small. However, it hardly seems like they've totally fallen back in love at any point during the evening/federal crime. Luckily, Santa shows up and spreads a little Christmas magic.
The following day the mom and dad totally get back together while not appearing even remotely alarmed that their children are missing. This even continues when the kids show up, and the details of their felony-filled plan come to light. Kevin Nealon then gets the boot when he calls the kids "brats," but considering that he was kidnapped on Christmas Eve, forcibly dragged to New Jersey, and probably contracted hypothermia in the process, dropping the b-word seems like a pretty goddamn reasonable response. These kids are lucky that he didn't show up at their door with the NYPD in tow.
Also, Santa pops by to drop off Thora Birch's lost pet mouse and pretty much confirms that their parental reunion was his doing. So, in addition to gifting toys, Santa also has the power to play matchmaker, thus robbing people of any semblance of free will by forcing them back into failed relationships without their consent. But at least these former husks of human beings – now puppeteered by Christmas magic rather than their actual needs and desires, presumably as their souls are forever trapped in a silent, futile rage – are back together for the holidays.
All of this is a terrible message to send kids. "Hey, yo, if your parents break up, despite the complexity of adult relationships, you can always simply turn to superpowered winter deities/morally flexible truck drivers to force them back into an unhappy union."
If the central premise wasn't odd enough, All I Want For Christmas also shoehorns in a number of bizarre, fleeting, surprisingly dark gags. For example, Ethan Embry calls up his buddy for help in his scheme, while in the background, we see that his grandmother has seemingly died because she drank too much eggnog.
In another scene, the brother attends a holiday party, but his dance partner is obsessed with Nazis, making this the only family Christmas movie to feature references to Joseph Mengele’s skull.
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