Friday, November 09, 2007

"Christmas in Wonderland" -- ZERO STARS

Criticizing "Christmas in Wonderland" for being abominable is like giving the retarded, crippled kid in your class an 'F' on his finger-painting: it already has so much working against it, and the parts comprising it made the end result unavoidable, so you feel bad shitting on it, but still, it must be done. With a cast headlined by Patrick Swayze, Chris Kattan, Carmen Electra and an alarmingly fat Tim Curry, I already felt bad for this movie going in; I was willing to cut it some slack and give it some points for good intentions, but alas, it doesn't even have that. This is a completely soulless, incompetently-made piece of shit. It destroys any chance for pleasantly surprising you by being not-so-terrible within its opening minute.

The "plot" as it is, involves a family recently moved to Canada (Swayze is the muscle-shirt-wearing patriarch), and has fallen on hard times monetarily.While the mom is out of town for some reason, Swayze takes his daughter and two sons to the mall where wacky shenanigans ensue. Most of the proceedings revolve around the kids finding a bag of counterfeit money belonging to two criminal brothers, one, a latently homosexual cynic (Chris Kattan) who says things like "Christmas, what a racket," and the other a seemingly autistic, morbidly obese fellow (Preston Lacy, of "Jackass" fame) who just eats donuts and wants to go see Santa.

It's ironic that "Christmas in Wonderland" is about a family that can't afford a Christmas, since the production values indicate the filmmakers couldn't afford a movie. Everything on display here is so low-rent, from the opening credits to Swayze's cheap facelift to the Santa costume utilized (he looks more like Dumbledore), that I'm surprised they were able to afford using "Walking on Sunshine" during a hackneyed montage midway through. Hell, they couldn't even afford to use name-brand milk during the kitchen-set scenes; instead, the family is seen drinking from a container with just "MILK" printed on it.

I'll cut "Wonderland" SOME slack and overlook that it blatantly exploits women more than any kids film I can recall (no less than two female characters are used solely as eye candy for our adolescent protagonist), and instead focus on other nearly-as-creepy things about it. The oldest of the three siblings in the movie is portrayed by "Birth" boy Cameron Bright, now disturbingly gone through puberty. I was never a fan of Bright, even in movies like "Thank You for Smoking," but I feel bad for him more than anything else that now that he's lost his cute/creepy kid-ness and gained a deep voice, he'll be confined to cheap junk like this. Needless to say, starring in a Christmas movie with Patrick Swayze is a long way from sharing the screen with Nicole Kidman, Ian McKellen and Aaron Eckhart. Also, I couldn't help noticing that said Dumbledore-esque Santa was one of the creepiest ones on record, continually winking at our leading little girl (Amy Schlagel), and showing up on the family's lawn for *SPOILER!* our surprise, twist "Santa is real!" ending.

There are numerous attempts at comedy here, but they're all the sort of things that would only amuse an especially immature five-year-old, and only if he was really, really high. A sample joke: someone makes a crack about a lobotomy, and the supposedly cute little girl responds, "What's a lobomomy?" Get it?!? She doesn't know how to say words right! It's hilarious AND adorable!

There is literally not one good thing about this movie, and while it may technically be the worst movie of the year, the only reason it won't snag my number one spot is because it didn't actively anger me as much as certain films featuring Eddie Murphy and Adam Sandler did. It's movies like this that actually make me appreciate movies like "The Game Plan." While that may be a generic, awful wasteland that's only intent is to bilk parents out of their hard-earned money, at least it featured some semblance of production value, and set-pieces and dialogue that vaguely resembled jokes. "Christmas in Wonderland," on the other hand, feels like a movie the Pax Family Channel would've made, had they existed in 1983.


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