A correction was made to this review on Dec. 20, 2006.
Finally a Christmas movie that invokes one of the best-known yet least discussed holiday traditions: regifting. If nothing else, “Christmas Do-Over” is “Groundhog Day,” sloppily rewrapped and presented with less flair and good will.
There is a bit of nice casting with Adrienne Barbeau as Daphne Zuniga’s mom. But soon after horny, alcoholic grandma mistakes her gift of earrings as pasties and Jay Mohr’s character punches out — in succession — Santa Claus, Jesus and Mary, things pretty much fall apart.
Scribes Trevor Reed Cristow and Jacqueline David don’t supply much to root for. Mohr’s character is such a dislikable, nonresponsive parent and ex-husband, that his transformation from acerbic and smug to slightly less acerbic and smug just isn’t that moving. Although the film follows a near identical pattern of confusion, liberation, dejection and finally inspiration when reliving the same day, Bill Murray’s transformation in “Groundhog Day” was alternately funny and heartwarming. With Mohr, not so much.
Here, Kevin (Mohr), a frustrated commercial jingle writer begrudgingly travels to the boonies to spend Christmas Day with his son, ex-wife and family. His ex-in-laws are less than thrilled at the reunion, but most put on a good show for the benefit of Ben, a cute-as-a-button 6-year-old still devoted to his dad. Jill (Zuniga), his ex, has a new beau in Todd (David Millbern), who is basically everything Kevin is not — successful, thoughtful, gracious and attentive. Everyone but Kevin has happily moved on, so it seems rather unwarranted when Kevin is given the chance to win back his old life by repeatedly reliving Christmas Day.
The continual do-over makes for a handy movie concept and do come up with some genuinely funny quips.
The repetition, however, becomes tiresome, and without a deft touch, the undercurrent of malice surrounding Mohr’s character trails him throughout his various incarnations.
The notion that one day can truly make a difference in life is worthy food for thought this time of year. Digging a little deeper, though, is a disheartening subtext that seems to say that if a woman just sticks with the mean and selfish guy, eventually he’ll figure it out. Other notions of good will are also hampered by the supposedly heartwarming holiday ditty that marks Kevin’s redemption. It’s memorable mainly as the worst display of TV lip-synching since Ashlee Simpson.