"I'll Be Home for Christmas" surprised me. Granted, I wasn't expecting
very much, especially when most live-action Disney films are admittedly
terrible, but this film was actually quite enjoyable, thanks to mostly
likable characters and a worthwhile, if not all that original, story.
Jake (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), an 18-year-old student at Palisades
College in Southern California, has a sweet, understanding girlfriend,
Allie (Jessica Biel), but is the type of person who mostly just thinks
about himself. He is very apprehensive about going home to his family in
New York for Christmas, especially after his father (Gary Cole) married
another woman (Eve Gordon) only ten months after Jake's mother's death.
Things turn around for him when his father makes him a proposition he
can't refuse: be home by 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve and get the family's
vintage porsche. Although Jake plans to ride home with Allie, who also
lives in his hometown, he finds himself stranded in the desert with a
Santa Claus suit glued to him, thanks to a bunch of jocks at school,
leaving Allie no choice but to get a ride with Jake's rival at college,
Eddie (Adam Lavorgna). Meanwhile, as Jake desperately tries to get home
by any means possible, he has several run-ins with different people on
the road, and through it all, he begins to understand what's really
important in his life.
This sort of story and moral has been done in many other films, and is
very closely related to the wonderful 1987 comedy, "Trains, Planes, and
Automobiles," but what I liked about," I'll Be Home for Christmas," was
the treatment that it was given. It was a delight to meet the different
supporting characters, and a few of them were especially memorable and
brightly written, particularly a policeman (Sean O'Bryan) whom Jake
meets along the way that is trying to get his own girlfriend (Lesley
Boone), a bubbly waitress working at a restaurant, back.
Jonathan Taylor Thomas has yet to make a great feature film, but it is
obvious he is talented, and could be amazing in a more challenging role.
And Jessica Biel, who starred in last year's "Ulee's Gold," is perfect
as his girfriend, and perhaps the standout in the cast.
There are elements that don't work in the film, however, starting with
the character of Eddie, who was very annoying and basically a
one-dimensional creep. The overall plotting was also highly predictable,
and it was obvious from the beginning how everything will turn out in
No one, I doubt, will be expecting a cinematic masterpiece when they
see, "I'll Be Home for Christmas," though, and sometimes it is fine just
to sit back and watch an entertaining, harmless family film for a
90-minute duration. Nothing that occurred in it was earthshaking or
shocking or particularly inventive, but it was well-done, all the same,
and I really did like it.
Copyright © 2000 Dustin Putman