Ho! Ho! No! Much like its own ripped-off plot from Groundhog's Day, I tried over and over again to reset my critical self and enjoy Christmas Do-Over, because occasionally, something funny would happen and I'd think, well, maybe it will get better. But alas, the purgatory continued, unabated. Starring Jay Mohr and Daphne Zuniga, Christmas Do-Over premiered on ABC Family (what's up with that weird channel?) last year, and now shows up on this plainwrap Sony DVD release.
To many viewers, the notion of stealing so blatantly from another movie will be reason enough to never see Christmas Do-Over, and I can certainly understand that position. Christmas Do-Over so slavishly follows Groundhog Day that while watching it, one is constantly reminded of that far superior predecessor, to the point where I was going, "Oh yeah, I remember this scene - they did it so much better in the other film." But other well-regarded books and films have been borrowed from, particularly Christmas-themed stories (A Christmas Carol and It's a Wonderful Life are constantly "re-imagined"), so I tried to give Christmas Do-Over the benefit of the doubt. Alas, to no avail.
Jay Mohr plays Kevin, a failed musician and absentee father whose divorce from Jill (Daphne Zuniga) has further spiraled him into depression. Never one to have the Christmas spirit, Kevin makes a desultory visit to Jill's parents' house for Christmas Eve, in order to see his son, Ben (Logan Grove). Jill's mother, Trudi (Adrienne Barbeau) tries to put on a positive face for the visit, but Arthur (Tim Thomerson), Jill's father, makes no bones about hating Kevin. If this holiday visit isn't awkward enough, Jill has invited her super-successful new boyfriend to visit for the day: cardiologist Todd (David Millbern), who lavishes a new car on Jill and a smart train set on Ben. Kevin, shopping at the very last minute the night before, gets an Easy Bake oven for Ben.
As the day progresses, Kevin disappoints more and more of the family, even though Ben is happy he's there for the day, even going so far as to wish that this day would never end. And bingo, a strange wind blows into the dining room, and when Kevin wakes up the next day, he's right back at Trudi and Arthur's house: he's become trapped in a never-ending cycle where Christmas Eve is repeated over and over again. Going through various stages of trying to cheat the cycle, to being cruel and mean to the people he dislikes, to trying to buy off Jill to return to him, to finally growing as a human being, Kevin eventually learns what it means to be a good guy
From the various off-color jokes, it's apparent that the makers of Christmas Do-Over were trying for something a little more edgy than the usual Christmas fare, which is fine - if the film is aimed at adults. But clearly, Christmas Do-Over is intended as a "family film," and that's where I parted company with any good feelings for it. Within the short running time of Christmas Do-Over, there are jokes about blow-up sex dolls, humping a plastic Santa, three blows-to-the-groin jokes, a stripper's pasties joke, a fistfight with not only Santa, but also the Virgin Mary (who tosses the baby Jesus to join the fracas) and Joseph (even though the film calls him Jesus), and a dirty-minded grandma (Ruta Lee), who constantly grabs Kevin's rear-end (in close-up), as well as describing how she stripped naked once for a man, spread out on a bed of rose petals, and helpfully shaved a heart in her...well, you get it. Evidently, this is what passes for "family Christmas movie material" nowadays. Again, I don't have a problem with any of this, had the movie been aimed at adults or even older teens, but clearly this is inappropriate material for a family film.
Equally inappropriate is Christmas Do-Over's lack of even the most rudimentary spark of originality. Jay Mohr has his moments now and then (he can deliver a smart-assed line pretty well), but over all, this pallid copy of Groundhog's Day is satisfied to just grind along, telegraphing its every move and offering zero surprises, to the point where even those who haven't seen Groundhog Day will be ten steps ahead of the film at any given point. The rest of the cast is okay, but they're clearly on auto pilot, just like Mohr (who you can catch at times visibly wandering off focus, as if he's got one eye on the studio clock). With a cribbed script, a slew of inappropriate sex-and-pain jokes, and a cast that looks like it would prefer to be anywhere but on this set, Christmas Do-Over is a Christmas Don't.
The anamorphically enhanced, 1.85:1 widescreen video image for Christmas Do-Over is fine, with a reasonable sharp picture and good color values. I saw no compression issues or edge enhancement.
The Dolby Digital English 5.1 audio mix is way more mix than is needed for this trifle. English and Spanish subtitles are available, as well as close-captioning.
There are no extras for Christmas Do-Over.
Ripping off a better film, providing no original spark of its own, showcasing a dispirited cast to often ill-advantage, and providing plenty of decidedly inappropriate sexual humor for a family film, makes Christmas Do-Over a Christmas Doo-Doo. Skip it.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.