Guest blogger (and non-scientist) Jack Sharp reviews I’ll Be Home for Christmas.
N.B. there’s no mention of science in this review, but c’mon, it’s Christmas!
When it came to picking a Christmas film to review, the typical festive favourites sprung to mind. Among these films was the warmly remembered Tim Allen vehicle The Santa Clause. The film’s plot: a cantankerous businessman accidentally kills Santa and puts on the dead man’s pants, thereby fulfilling a contractual agreement that requires him to take over Santa’s duties. Admittedly, it’s a little grim for a kid’s movie, but a lot of fun nonetheless.
As an adult, however, the film seems a little different to how I remember it. It’s a surprisingly dark, psychologically charged tale of two divorced parents, one of which (Tim Allen) suffers a variety of hormonal imbalances, ends up gaining 100 pounds and believes himself to be the real Santa Claus. Eventually, he ends up losing custody of his whiny son Charlie, and ceases to have a normal life ever again.
The final scene of the film consists of Charlie’s mother begging her ex-husband not to fly his sleigh over any oceans when traveling with his son on board. And yet, in an act of defiance and sheer madness, Tim Allen is seen flying quickly towards the sea moments before the movie fades to black. Whether Allen and Charlie survive is anyone’s guess.
Needless to say, I needed cheering up after watching The Santa Clause, so I turned my attention to the lesser known I’ll Be Home for Christmas, a late-1990s movie that stars Allen’s Home Improvement co-star Jonathan Taylor Thomas and a young Jessica Biel. My interest in the film was based entirely on the smiley DVD cover, which sees Thomas leaning up against a particularly prickly cactus, seemingly unconcerned by the many spikes that appear to be penetrating his skin.
Thomas stars as Jake, a grotesquely arrogant, spoiled college kid, whose smugness can scarcely be contained by his own skin. “What’s that, Jake?” he regularly says to his pouting, naked reflection, “You want me to kiss you?” But now even Jake is starting to think that his self-admiration is starting to get a little too much. He has a girlfriend named Allie (Jessica Biel) and a family who he rarely sees, even at Christmas. This year, Jake’s father hopes things will be different. In a tremendous act of parenting, he makes him a deal: if Jake comes home in time for Christmas, he gets to drive the family Porsche.
I know from personal experience how much fun driving around the suburban town in which you were raised can be, running in to people you vehemently despised back in school at the local petrol station, and scratching your head at how they’ve somehow managed to forget how awful they used to be. And to do all that in a gratuitously flashy car? No wonder Jake gleefully agrees to his dad’s bribery. There’s just one problem: Jake’s a massive dick.
Amazingly, it’s revealed that he hasn’t been home since his mother died two years ago. And because of this, it’s a little difficult to sympathise with his character, even after he’s beaten up by some jocks and ditched in the middle of nowhere. The person responsible for this senseless, surprisingly brutal attack is an avaricious bro named Eddie, who dreams of making Allie his own.
While Jake regains consciousness, and discovers that his hat and beard have been glued to his skin, Eddie offers Allie a ride back home. Believing that Jake has stood her up, she begrudgingly accepts, even though Eddie’s presence makes her skin crawl. It’s hard to see why Allie’s so disgusted by Eddie considering he shares many characteristics with her boyfriend. In fact, in many ways, Eddie is less arrogant than Jake. Granted, he’s not a nice character, but he certainly doesn’t appear to be the sort of person who’d only return home to see his mourning father when promised a Porsche.
In real life, these two situations—Eddie and Allie traveling home together and Jake left stranded in a desert—would turn out very differently than they do in the film. Jake’s story would ultimately end with him dying of dehydration in the desert, shortly after attempting to avoid starvation by eating his polyester Santa beard. And Eddie and Allie’s story would climax in immediately regrettable sex in a layby, as Eddie yells, “Oh, yeah, baby! I call this one ‘Eddie Style’!”
What actually happens isn’t much more upbeat. Jake ends up lying his way across the country and telling people various made-up stories to emotionally manipulate them into giving him a ride. Meanwhile, Allie continues to despise Eddie, despite an awkward moment in which they’re forced to share a German-themed hotel room together. Jake picks this moment to catch up with Allie and naturally presumes that she and Eddie are together. But I know what you really want to know. You want to know if Jake gets to take “Ol’ Red” for a spin, right? I mean, that’s what Christmas is all about, right?
Well, I don’t want to spoil this wonderful moment in the film. I want you to watch this first hand. You need to watch this big emotional payoff and feel the tears descend down your cheeks. I will say one thing, though: Ricky doesn’t really learn any lessons during his arduous trek home. This really is just a film about a bratty kid who wants to drive his dad’s Porsche really, really bad. And isn’t that the real meaning of Christmas?
Jack Sharp is the self-proclaimed neurotic geek behind blog no soap radio polka. He also happens to be my (Gemma) biological brother… so that’s the science bit.