A film all about buying your child's love? hmmm. Well its not all as bad as it sounds, the film does manage to turn that on its head by the end, just about, close call though.
Yep so Arnie is a bad dad who only thinks about his work and misses his whiny kids karate class awards ceremony stuff. So to make it up to his little brat he offers him the choice of anything he wants for Xmas, bad idea. The little darling wants a Turbo-Man action figure which is massively popular with kids. So Arnie must now find this toy which would have been easy if he hadn't forgotten about it and was left with only Xmas Eve to find one.
So the hectic day begins as Arnie strives to find a Turbo-Man figure. The plot is simply but pretty effective methinks, right away you know there is gonna be lots of mayhem and madness as parents scramble to get hold of this elusive toy. Even without seeing a trailer you can tell there is potential for some classic Chevy Chase-esque holiday hijinx. The fact its the Austrian oak adds to the fun because you can take advantage of his size by making him Hulk out in amusing places.
I like the toy design in this film, they really managed to capture the type of toy and its universe perfectly. A kind of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers scenario with a 'Buzz Lightyear' looking hero. His adversaries were very much a visual blend of the MMPR's bad guys with that Japanese flavour and a hint of Marvel with Turbo-Man's arch-nemesis. The TV show we see in the film is a typical MMPR approach, virtually a parody of it, or homage.
Apart from the loony pratfalls and childish visuals the film works because people can relate to it. I'm sure many parents know the horror of Xmas shopping for their kids and trying to get a hold of a particular toy. Hell even if you don't have kids you can relate to the nightmare of Xmas shopping and trying to get a hold of anything specific. So its fun to see Arnie as a regular everyday man trying to achieve something which would seem relatively simple. We can all sit back and watch someone else go through the hell we all know too well, much like travel ('Planes Trains and Automobiles').
I think the best scene in the film for me is the warehouse full of seedy Santa's and mischievous little helpers which are led by an unsavoury Santa in the form of Jim Belushi. The whole underground Santa's grotto idea is really good and quite funny when you think about it. Belushi really really fits this role like a glove and the fight that ensues is brilliant, only for seeing Arnie beat up a bunch of Santa's. The whole idea of a bad, grouchy, sleazy, disreputable Santa that is mean or rude to kids is just funny, the fact there is an entire organisation of them churning out duff toys is hilarious.
This is definitely one of Arnie's better comedies for me as it has a nice slightly dark side for adults as well as the soft marshmallowy side for kids. Adults have Sinbad vs Arnie, Sinbad threatening to blow up things because he's a disgruntled postal worker, seedy Santa's, a brilliantly slimy Hartman and the whole angry parents trying to kill each other at the shops thing. The kids of course have the actual toys in the film, silly pratfalls, Xmas and a nice mushy happy ending where Arnie proves himself to be a great dad after all.
In the end its very enjoyable and Arnie proves he can still do comedy films almost as well as action...after his previous attempt with 'Junior'. The film holds up well today too, the Xmas setting will always work at the right time, effects towards the end are a bit crappy, bit too silly, but in general its quite a good holiday romp. The very final scene with the two happy parents leads to a neat and amusing little twist.