Directed by Arnold Schwarzenegger
Expectations: Not much.
Right up front: I’ve never seen the 1945 original that this film is a remake of. I imagine this is probably the better way to see this most likely inferior version, as it allowed me to take it for what it is instead of what it isn’t.
Christmas in Connecticut is about Elizabeth Blane (Dyan Cannon), a TV cook in the vein of Martha Stewart. She’s got the perfect family and the perfect house and she makes perfect food. When Park Ranger Jefferson Jones’s (Kris Kristofferson) cabin burns down, the only thing that survives is a cookbook of Elizabeth’s. Never one to miss an opportunity, Elizabeth’s manager/director Alexander (Tony Curtis) finagles a live prime time special featuring Elizabeth at home for Christmas with her family, with special guest Jefferson Jones. It sounds really stupid to type it out, but it plays a little better than it sounds.
General consensus seems to concur with my assumption of what Arnold thinks, but I honestly liked the movie quite a bit. It’s not very good, and it is kind of abrasively loud a lot of the time, but its heart is in the right place. It is a Christmas film, after all, so you can’t watch it with a closed heart and a questioning scowl and expect to extract much entertainment out of it. That being said, it’s not a standard Christmas movie by any stretch of the imagination. The scenes designed to pull those Christmas heartstrings are there, but they are far outshined by the over-the-top chaos that inhabits a good portion of the film. Within this chaos, a lot of comedy is created. Sometimes it works as intended (like the ending when Elizabeth goes off the script), but the majority of it probably worked for me because I like B-Movies and offbeat humor. Would “normal” people laugh at the method-actor boyfriend staying in his serial killer role? I don’t know, but I know that I did, specifically because it was so strange and unexpected. I also wonder if the broadness and the exaggeration is rooted in the original film, as that kind of thing was more prevalent in the ’40s than it was in the ’90s.
As the opening continues past Jefferson pumping up, it juxtaposes his life against that of our other main character, Elizabeth. Jefferson’s life is defined by its reality and the daily struggle of living in the wilderness. He is alone, completely self-sufficient and also completely selfless. When he gets the call that a kid is lost in a blizzard, he heads out and survives for almost a week without food while rescuing him. Meanwhile, Elizabeth sells an image to her TV audience while she is actually unable to do anything she claims. She lives alone in pure indulgence, frivolously buying a figurine (for the insane amount of $2500) and eating food prepared for her by her maid.
Christmas in Connecticut is a film that I imagine most people wouldn’t enjoy, but what can I say, I liked it. Arnold’s direction leaves something to be desired, though, specifically in his boring and often poorly framed shots. He did manage to squeeze a gleefully over-the-top performance from Tony Curtis, and Dyan Cannon is wonderful, especially as the film moves towards its conclusion. I don’t necessarily recommend it, because I don’t know who would really be a good audience for this, but if you’re into ’90s TV movies there are probably worse ones out there than this!
Next up in this chronological journey through the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger, I’ll be revisiting Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines! See ya then!