Mixed Nuts has been my favorite Christmas movie since I was a wee tween. (For more proof, scroll to the end of a post I wrote back in 2010.) My yearly present wrapping ritual is not complete unless I watch it in its entirety. It’s magical. One year, I was at college and had forgotten my VHS copy of the movie at home. I was upset, but set to the task of wrapping my pile of gifts as I halfheartedly flipped through the channels. To what did my wondering eyes appear? Motherfucking Mixed Nuts. Starting in ten minutes. Like I said. Magic.
Upon its release Mixed Nuts was a complete and utter bomb both commercially and critically. The delightfully talented Nora Ephron was coming off the wildly successful love story, Sleepless In Seattle. Due to this success, she was given free reign for her next project, so obviously she decided that her next move would be to write and direct a broad comedy set at a suicide hotline on Christmas Eve. This definitively proves that Nora Ephron is my type of woman.
As this year is the 20th anniversary of the film’s release, I felt compelled to express my undying love for Mixed Nuts, as it’s most certainly an underappreciated gem in Ephron’s oeuvre. Here are 5 reasons why you should add it to your Christmas viewing list ASAP.
One – The plot is unique and surprising. Steve Martin is the head of a struggling suicide hotline on the verge of eviction on Christmas Eve. I’ll try to avoid spoilers since in all likelihood you haven’t seen it yet, but I can say that the script is wonderfully odd and full of madcap twists. The inclusion of a transvestite as a main character, and the conceit of centering a holiday film on heavily flawed characters may seem common now but remember that two decades ago, back in the world of VHS, these ideas were relatively untested. Mixed Nuts was ahead of its time in many ways, and in my opinion the plot has only gotten better with age. In fact, I think it would make for a fantastic stage production, but that’s a topic for another post.
Two – The ensemble cast is a veritable treasure trove of gifted comedians cast in offbeat roles. Aside from Steve Martin, Rita Wilson, and Madeline Kahn who play the employees of the aforementioned hotline, a famous funny person embodies each supporting character to perfection. Liev Schreiber plays a prissy, misunderstood transvestite, Adam Sandler is a goofy songwriter with a ukulele (so, basically he’s just playing Adam Sandler with a ukelele), Gary Shandling is a heartless landlord, and Juliette Lewis is a pregnant makeup artist. For good measure, Jon Stewart and Parker Posey pop up in brief cameos throughout the film as a preppy roller blading couple obsessed with finding the right Christmas tree.
|If this picture doesn't convince you to watch this movie, I don't know what will.|
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Three – Madeline Kahn free-style raps. Using a children’s toy microphone. While trapped in an elevator. And it’s wonderful. That’s all you need to know.
Four – Given this talented group of actors, physical comedy abounds. Steve Martin waltzes around a cramped apartment with Liev Schrieber as a broad-shouldered transvestite. At one point Schrieber even tosses Martin into the air in a hilarious pirouette move. Haven’t you ever wanted to watch Steve Martin dance with a transvestite twice his size? Why am I even asking? Your answer to that question should be yes.
Five – Mixed Nuts has the funniest fruitcake in film history. In a possible homage to Johnny Carson’s running joke that there’s only one fruitcake in the world and that it just gets passed around from family to family, the fruitcake in this movie is like the re-gift from hell. The shiny red tin pops up numerous times throughout the movie in situations each more comical than the last.
Fun Drinking Game Alert: Drink every time a character mentions "fruitcake". Merry Christmas to you.