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A Christmas Tale about the Pursuit of Happiness in a Toy Action Figure
on 29 November 2015
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the lead role of Howard Langston, the workaholic forty-something CEO of a company based in Minneapolis. He's a bedraggled and weary suburbanite, who's seriously overcrowded business diary conflicts sharply with his family commitments.
Christmas Eve arrives post haste in Howard's diary and the neglectful father suddenly finds that he needs to buy his 9 year old son, Jamie, a Turbo Man doll (the super hero equivalent of an Action Man figurine), which is the ultimate "must have" Christmas toy of that particular year.
Howard reassures both his long suffering wife and expectant son that there's absolutely no need to worry, and that a Turbo Man toy will definitely be sat under the Christmas tree for the following morning. Inevitably, the hopelessly optimistic dad then finds himself in a desperate, last minute race against time to track down a Turbo Man, which has already sold out in all the toy stores and malls, and has become as rare as hen's teeth.
Myron Larabee, aka Sinbad, is a forty-something postal worker. He's another remiss father, who also finds himself scouring the busy shops and streets of holiday period Minneapolis, in a futile hunt for the last Turbo Man figure. Sinbad soon comes into a very lively conflict with Howard, as the two dads become fierce rivals in the chase for the precious toy...
This is an energetic and quite likeable festive period flick, albeit that it suffers a bit from a relentlessly materialistic view of Christmas. It's by turns a funny and vaguely nasty celebration of holiday mass marketing and greed, but Howard's sudden obsession with doing the right thing for his boy, doesn't gel too well with his hitherto lackadaisical approach to parenting.
Arnie nonetheless gives a feisty and spirited performance as the hapless dad, and with the physique of a real life Turbo Man, he has the necessary muscularity to try to see off all comers in the race to find the elusive toy, including a deliciously seedy conman Father Christmas, who's played with relish by James Belushi.
Sinbad's role isn't much more than a peripheral one though, and he's a fairly weak foil to Howard's testosterone fuelled quest to get hold of the toy at nearly all costs. Sinbad's character might well have been better portrayed by a fine comedy actor like Chevy Chase or Danny Devito.
All in all, it's a reasonably engaging and high tempo Christmas flick, even allowing for its underlying message that life is just one long competition, and if you win, you get all the goodies, and if you lose, well, you're just a loser.
A vaguely similar tale about an intense Christmas rivalry between two dads, is Deck The Halls (Danny Devito and Matthew Broderick), which is probably worth a view. Bad Santa (Billy Bob Thornton) is a sublimely dark and drole tale about a hard drinking, store robber posing as Santa, and which is a deliciously wicked take on the meaning of the festive period.
Thank you very much for kindly taking the time to read this review.