The holiday spirit goes into life-threatening cardiac arrest with the Christmas-themed comedy Mixed Nuts. Based on a French hit [movie, Jean-Marie Poire’s 1982 Le pere Noel est une ordure], it’s lost something crucial in translation.
Philip (Steve Martin) operates the Venice, Calif, help line Lifesavers. In fact, the crew manning the phones could stand a little bit of counseling. Blanch Munchnik (Madeline Kahn) is a tart-tongued widow and Catherine (Rita Wilson) is repressed.
The landlord has served notice on the service unless it can come up with a large chunk of dough. Somewhere in the mix, there’s a parade of weirdos on the line and in the office. A pregnant woman (Juliette Lewis) blows hot and cold about her goof-off, ex-con boyfriend (Anthony LaPaglia); an Amazonian transvestite (Liev Schreiber) is looking for a dance partner; and a ukulele-playing delivery boy (Adam Sandler) is just plain irritating.
Director/co-scripter Nora Ephron pitches the humor at a cacophonous level and displays the comedic equivalent of two left feet in evolving an absurdist, slapstick yarn. Truly alarming is watching some fine performers, including Kahn and LaPaglia, at their very worst.