Sunday, December 25, 2016
NO ENCORES: Christmas in Connecticut (1992)
Christmas in Connecticut (1992)
Director: Arnold Schwarzenegger
2016's Christmas movie marathon began with “Christmas in Connecticut” and so it ends with “Christmas in Connecticut.” I've made no secret of my fandom of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Like many actors, Schwarzenegger decided he wanted to try directing. Considering how controlling Arnold has always been of his image, I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner. The year was 1992, when the Austrian superstar was at the height of his popularity and success. At that point, he probably could've directed any type of movie. For some reason, Arnold's feature directing debut was a straight-to-cable remake of a mostly forgotten Christmas flick from the forties. Aside from a mediocre episode of “Tales from the Crypt,” it is Schwarzenegger's only directorial credit.
Schwarzenegger's “Christmas in Connecticut” attempts to update the original's premise for the cynical nineties. Barbara Stanwyck's Elizabeth Lane becomes Dyan Cannon's Elizabeth Blane. Instead of being a famous food writer, now she's the host of a popular cooking show. But Elizabeth is still a fraud, who is good at smiling for the camera but can't actually cook. Jefferson Jones transforms from a war hero to a park ranger, who daringly rescued a missing boy during a blizzard. Jones' cabin burns down and Blane's cookbook is the only surviving artifact. This gives Elizabeth's sleazy manager an idea. Jones will be invited onto a live Christmas special, where Blane will cook a meal for a “family” made up of actors. What nobody counted on was Elizabeth and Jones falling for each other, causing the cracks in the deception to show.
What made the original “Christmas in Connecticut” so likable was the chemistry between Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan. The remake slots Dyan Cannon and Kris Kristofferson into the same parts. Cannon has decent comedic timing, showing an amusing energy during the film's more manic moments. Kristofferson doesn't have Morgan's leading man charm. Instead, he employs the stoic toughness seen in most of his acting. Dyan and Kris play off of each other decently. They share a convincing smile or kiss occasionally. Ultimately, the script brings the two together in a way that isn't natural. Krisofferson's acceptance of the deception is too easy.
The script creates cheesy bonding moments for Elizabeth and Jefferson. Such as a botched hunting trip, which lays down some dramatic cards too early. They cut down a Christmas tree together, in an especially treacly moment full of slow-motion. Scenes devoted to dancing or sled riding are equally contrived. The actors are okay but the film lingers too much on these moments, raising the stakes to artificial, syrupy levels. There's none of the light humor or genuine chemistry that made the 1944 version successful. In its place are eye-roll worthy moments of overly cheesy romance.
Twins” is seen on television in the background. The most prominent, and groan worthy, in-joke involves a character donning sunglasses and a leather jacket before croaking “I'll be back.”
It's not like “Christmas in Connecticut” was an untouchable classic. It was an entertaining, likable flick with room for improvement. A remake could've been really cool. But the 1992 “Christmas in Connecticut” aims low, underwhelming the audience in just about every way. It doesn't even match the original's Christmas-y atmosphere. Arnold Schwarzenegger, god love him, doesn't show much aptitude for directing. So it's probably best he would never helmed another feature film. [5/10]