10 December 2012 | vchimpanzee
Dysfunctional, but they show they care
Roger is flying home to Spokane for Christmas. He is bringing his English girlfriend Brenda. At the airport, they meet Roger's brother Jason, who is kind of nervous and gets nosebleeds easily.
Roger's mother Audrey is a popular radio host who hopes to get a TV show. The family has not been together in years, but Audrey's audition for the possible series is a live Christmas Eve broadcast showing the family enjoying Christmas together. This will be quite a challenge. Plus there is an open house at the family home at midnight. Audrey has been married several times and Max is her latest husband. Audrey is very demanding, having to have everything just right, and she goes all out in her decorating. Poor Max has to follow her orders and is generally submissive.
On another plane are two of Max's daughters. Sandra is a spoiled brat and Kaye is normal. Their bubbly airhead sister Chinelle has bad news for Sandra: she is engaged to Sandra's ex Carey, who is Polish and for that reason gets subjected to plenty of offensive humor.
When the family all gets together in one house, it's pretty much what you'd expect. Lots of fighting and disagreements, but there's love and caring in there somewhere. Carey doesn't help matters when he says he doesn't eat refined sugar and, essentially, neither should anyone else. Not a good thing in this Christmas paradise.
So you can imagine what the live Christmas broadcast is going to be like. But it's even worse than that: if you were laughing before, there is only one funny line between the TV show and the humorous final scenes.
The turn toward drama is not a bad thing. At long last this family proves they love each other, and even Sandra manages to redeem herself.
This is not an outstanding movie, or even one that pleasant to watch, but it is enjoyable in its way. Somehow I couldn't just enjoy these people's misery as much as I would have liked to.
Julia Duffy and David Ogden Stiers both do a good job. I know Duffy best as Stephanie on "Newhart", though she's somewhat more mature here. Seeing Stiers as wimpy is kind of surprising if you know the Charles Emerson Winchester character, but he does it well and even manages to show some courage later.
There are appealing spoiled brats, but Sandra does not manage to be one of them. But her change in behavior later does show enough range to make up for what we saw earlier.
Chinelle is adorable. Joey Lawrence, meanwhile, shows no similarities to his "Blossom" character. He looks like a punk rocker and is about as appealing, though he's more Moby than Billy Idol.
Kirby Heyborne--who looks to me like Roger Daltrey, is appealing enough and manages to carry the movie with occasional narration, along with being one of the more normal characters.
The decorations are great. Most people say they wouldn't like to be in a house like that, but if I'm just looking at it, the overdone Christmas paradise is really nice.
There is some good music too. Not all of the music is my taste, but some of it is.
It's not a classic, but it's pleasant enough.