Workaholic Howard Langston (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has a habit of letting down wife Liz (Rita Wilson) and young son Jamie (Jake Lloyd) due to his hectic schedule. But on Christmas Eve, Howard realises that he has forgotten to pick up one of the hottest selling action toys ever – Turbo Man – months ago and now faces a race across the city to find one.
Crossing paths with fellow desperate Dad Myron (Sinbad), the two form a deceptive allegiance to hunt down the figure, but not without trying to outsmart the other in their attempt to get one by any means at their disposal.
Howard also has to deal with a sleazy Santa (James Belushi), a cop (Robert Conrad) and slimy neighbour Ted (Phil Hartman) as the clock ticks down to the big Wintertainment Christmas Parade Howard promised he’d attend with the family. Jamie’s faith in his father hangs in the balance…
Appealing to anyone who has been in Howard’s situation, it focuses well on the brutality and desperation of parents who seek out the hot toys and gifts for Christmas at the very last minute, turning them into mindless animals who will do what they can to get what they want. Schwarzenegger manages to use his general deadpanning and slow-burning temper to great effect as a bumbling, desperate Dad who makes enemies with everyone he meets. Sinbad can come across a little over-enthusiastic and trying to be funnier than he is capable of being in his comedic side-kick role, bouncing off the efforts of Schwarzenegger, and is a little irritating in places, but his family-friendly manner is harmless enough and nothing short of what you’d expect.
Young Jake ‘Anakin Skywalker’ Lloyd gives a so-so performance as little Jamie (or “Chamie” as Arnie pronounces it), showcasing the ups and downs of the film as he and Schwarzenegger form a pleasant enough bond to keep the main moral tale of appreciating and valuing your family over anything running in the background, as does Rita Wilson as long-suffering wife Liz; one of the best actors here who shows plenty of range as a wife and mother (or “mudda” as Arnie pronounces it) watching her family fall apart over Christmas.
Topped with lots of dry one-liners from Arnie’s family man, mixed with a cartoonish blend of violence with cheesy special effects that are just a little tacky in this, it’s that sickly, sugary Christmas family nonsense that you can’t help but find a little soft spot for at the right time of year with the spirit of the season. Apart from the finale which descends into an overloaded blend of weak CGI, cringe-worthy character redemption and silly slapstick, the film in general is short, full of festive cheer and enjoyable with a fitting soundtrack, energetic performances to not outstay it’s welcome.
Oh, and put that cookie down. NOW!
Dir: Brian Levant
Scr: Randy Kornfield and Chris Columbus
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Jake Lloyd, Rita Wilson, Phil Hartman, James Belushi
Prd: Chris Columbus, Michael Barnathan and Mark Radcliffe
DoP: Victor J. Kemper
Music: David Newman
Country: United States
Run time: 88mins
This 20th Century Fox / 1492 Pictures release is on digital, DVD and Blu-ray globally.