Genre: Action, Comedy, Christmas, Family.
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Phil Hartman, Rita Wilson, Jake Lloyd.
Year Of Release: 1996
Runtime: 89 Minutes
Director: Brian Levant
Synopsis: “A father vows to get his son a Turbo Man action figure for Christmas, however, every store is sold out of them, and he must travel all over town and compete with everybody else in order to find one.” IMDB
This film can be a very firm love it or hate it, but on the whole it has been accepted as a staple in the Christmas family film schedule. It balances slapstick violence, wry one-liners and family sentiment for very easy watching for all ages, which is the main goal of this. It’s not a film disguised as something else; it is sheer family fluff suitable for all ages.
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 dead panning 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”), 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”) watching her family fall apart over Christmas.
However, it’s Phil Hartman who manages to steal a lot of his scenes with that slimy yet loveable brown-nose neighbour Ted who is the rival of Howard in terms of being a “perfect” family man. Hartman has a wonderfully wicked way of delivering his lines in a way that you know HE knows how much more favoured he is in the community than Howard, and their bickering and covert digs at each other aren’t as common as they could have been, which is a shame as they are some of the more funnier moments of the film.
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 likeable and enjoyable with a fitting soundtrack, energetic performances and a short enough running time to not outstay it’s welcome.