out of Five
Running time: 99
Traditionally dreadful Christmas comedy that's brought down by a combination of atrocious acting, terrible writing, cloying sentimentality and jaw-droppingly bad special effects.
What's it all about?
Directed by James Orr, Christmas in Wonderland stars Patrick Swayze as Wayne Saunders, who's relocated his family to Edmonton, Canada for a job, only to get laid off on arrival. On Christmas Eve, with their stuff still unpacked and their mother (Rachel Hayward) attempting to fly home in time for Christmas, stressed-out Wayne takes his three children – teenaged Danny (Cameron Bright), 10-year-old Brian (Matthew
Knight) and six-year-old Mary (Amy and Zoe Schlagel) – to the enormous West Edmonton Mall for a last-minute Christmas shopping spree.
However, things quickly spiral out of control when Brian and Mary find a bag full of counterfeit money belonging to bumbling villains Sheldon and Leonard (Preston Lacy and Chris Kattan) and their bitchy boss Ginger (Carmen Electra). Thinking the money is a gift from Santa, the kids start spending it on extravagant Christmas presents, which puts both the crooks and a dogged detective (Tim Curry) on their tail.
Christmas in Wonderland is the latest recipient of the give-it-a-brief-theatrical-release-then-rush-it-out-on-DVD treatment, presumably to cash in on Swayze's recent death (sadly this was one of his last films) and the fact that there aren't many Christmas movies out this year.
Swayze does his best, but he wears a “So it's come to this...” expression throughout that suggests he knows a straight-to-DVD effort when he sees one. There's also some atrocious over-acting from Curry, Kattan and Lacy that's so bad that you'll probably be able to smell it from the foyer.
The biggest problem is that it just isn't funny, with the increasingly desperate script eventually resorting to fart gags and poorly directed slapstick. Aside from the derivative plot, the film tries to shoe-horn in a badly conceived Christmas miracle element with a series of twinkly old men (all played by Matthew Walker) who are meant to be Santa, though, curiously, a Santa who's decided to dress like Dumbledore. On top of that, there's a laughably poor special effects shot of some elves that has to be seen to be believed.
Ultimately, Christmas in Wonderland is less of a film than an extended commercial for the West Edmonton Mall. One to avoid.
Christmas in Wonderland (PG)