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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Mixed Nuts (1994)

Mrs. Munchnik: A fruitcake?
Philip: Yes.
Mrs. Munchnik: Remarkably like the one I gave you last year.

- Madeline Kahn, Steve Martin

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: December 18, 2001

Stars: Steve Martin
Other Stars: Madeline Kahn, Robert Klein, Anthony LeParlia, Juliette Lewis, Haley Joel Osment, Parker Posey, Rob Reiner, Adam Sandler, Liev Schreiber, Rita Wilson
Director: Nora Ephron

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sex-related humor
Run Time: 01h:36m:48s
Release Date: December 04, 2001
UPC: 043396065345
Genre: black comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C+ C+B+B D

DVD Review

Flying high after the success of Sleepless in Seattle, writer/director Nora Ephron had little trouble assembling a first rate cast for her next foray into motion picture directing, Mixed Nuts. But despite an impressive cast of established stars (Steve Martin, the late Madeline Kahn) and promising newcomers (Adam Sandler, Liev Schreiber), the film—an outlandish, pessimistic, and overdone black comedy—failed to find much of an audience in theaters (or much of a fan base of critics). But on video it has attracted a small following in the years since 1994, becoming a perennial Christmas favorite for some.

Every film needs a high concept gimmick. This time, the set-up is actually pretty good (though it isn't original—it was lifted from the 1982 French film Le Pere Noel Est Une Ordure): the staffers at a crisis and suicide help line, LifeSavers, are actually more screwed up and mentally imbalanced than many of the callers. Philip (Martin) is only good at helping people on the phone. Catherine (Wilson) is smitten with Philip, but can't bring herself to say anything directly (she just goes on crying jags whenever she gets a call, what with all the pent up emotion). Mrs. Munchnik (Kahn) is an idealist when it comes to her job and helping people, but bitter and short-tempered in real life. The wacky ensemble extends to include the mentally questionable neighbor who lives below the office (Sandler, in his usual idiot savant role) and a mixed-up married couple, Felix (LePaglia) and Gracie (Lewis), along with depressed drag queen Chris (Schreiber) and, to top it all off, a mysterious serial killer known only as the Seaside Strangler.

The plot, such as it is, is pretty simple. LifeSavers is in financial trouble, and their landlord (Larry Sanders, in an unfunny cameo) is ready to push them out the door even if it is Christmas Eve. This puts Philip on edge, especially considering his wife has just left him, and the wacky hilariousness just takes off from there with the rest of the film feeling much like a series of vignettes, including Mrs. Munchnik trapped in an elevator, some angry rollerbladers, a gun-wielding Santa, and, finally, the revelation of the Strangler.

Ephron seems to alternate between sweet relationship comedies (Sleepless, You've Got Mail) and surprisingly mean-spirited farces (Mixed Nuts, Lucky Numbers). She has much more success with the former, and it is easy to see why. The script, by Ephron and sister Delia, is devoid of any sympathetic characters. They're all pretty terrible people, and, thus, not always a lot of fun to watch. It doesn't help that much of the material is tired and overplayed. The physical comedy falls flat, and the "bits" (like the fruitcake that nobody wants, a gag that was already dead when it appeared years ago in a Garfield comic strip) are overly familiar.

The excellent cast, however, slightly elevates the proceedings. Madeline Kahn is good in everything, and her scenes are the best in the film—can she make her voice shrill or what? Martin, even when he's sleepwalking through a role, is always funny. Schreiber gives a surprisingly subdued drag performance that still manages to be funny. The rest of the cast fails to distinguish themselves, but all have their moments.

No, the real problem is Ephron's direction. She seems to rely too much on the success she had with Sleepless in Seattle—she drenches the film in the same retro music and another sickly sweet ending. The only problem is, the tone of Mixed Nuts is entirely inconsistent with these choices.

Somehow, though, I can't say I disliked this one. It certainly isn't a good film, but I liked the quirky characters and the cast. Even though most of the jokes are pretty weak, a few still managed to make me laugh. I could easily see this one growing on me. After all, who doesn't get a little cynical around Christmas?

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicyesno


Image Transfer Review: As catalog titles go, Mixed Nuts looks pretty good. Though it appears somewhat soft throughout, with only a fair amount of visible fine detail, color reproduction is good, with the garish L.A. Christmas color scheme of bright colors, with no bleeding or blooming (even in the ever-present red tones). Black level is fine. Edge enhancement, film grain, and print damage do not present any obvious problems. Both an anamorphic 1.85:1 and an open matte 1.33:1 transfer are offered.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.0
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Despite the promise of surround action on a 5.0 track, Mixed Nuts offers very little for audiophiles to get excited about (but then, it is a dialogue-driven comedy). Dialogue is mostly confined to the center channel, and sounds clear and crisp, although at times, ADR is obvious. Other than that, the great soundtrack of Christmas standards fills out the front soundstage, resulting in a satisfying, but unimpressive, mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring So I Married an Axe Murderer, Roxanne, Drowning Mona
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Nora Ephron usually participates in the release of her films. It'd be interesting to know if the lack of extras on this box-office catastrophe was her decision or the studio's. Anyway, what we do get are some basic filmographies for the main cast, the trailer, and a trailer gallery featuring Roxanne, So I Married an Axe Murderer, and Drowning Mona, which I guess means Columbia TriStar thinks Mixed Nuts is a black comedy.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

My feelings on Mixed Nuts are appropriately mixed. I liked the cast and some of the jokes, but too much feels labored and overly schmaltzy. The DVD is nice though, with a decent price and acceptable (but minimal) extras.

 


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