I bought this film second-hand on the off-chance: director Ramis has, of course, done the fantastic Groundhog Day, and having read the brief synopsis, it sounded like a darkly comic 'christmas crime noir' (and there's a genre we need more of!)
The problem this film has is a lack of ANY sympathetic characters. Even John Cusak's character - who is obviously meant to be the (very weak) moral centre of things just isn't generating enough on-screen empathy: he is, at best, neutral, and that's not enough.
The black humour is fleeting and largely flat, but most of all there's no SPARK: the setting and set-up ought to deliver great moment after great moment, but sadly not.
I didn't expect to see Santa every two minutes or a Capra-esque ending, but a big part of the pitch for this was the festive setting which is hardly referenced at all. Also, and this is a rare one for me to moan about: I didn't like the general tone towards women in the story as a whole. Usually, I'm your standard ignorant-bloke on this type of thing, but even I became a little tired of the uniformaly negative and/or weak role-call of female characters - it only really hit me when I was pondering it all in the days following.
I can't fault the DVD package (commentary, alternate endings - proper ones too, not the usual attempts at that where someone says or does something slightly differently, so as to just meet the dictionary definition of 'alternative') so perhaps in the end it just wasn't my cup of tea. John Cusak is always worth a watch, but I think here everyone is struggling to find their places in the story, and so much seems to happen off-screen or be simply referred to by characters rather than shown, it all came off very flat.
NO ho ho!