This video was featured on College Humor several years back, but it’s definitely worth a watch if you are A) a girl in the market for a Halloween costume or B) a person who has never seen this video. I never said I couldn’t feature a commercial parody for the Ad Jerseum column! This one is hysterical and extra points for creating the little nuances to make the video look as if it was ripped from an old VHS recording. Look at all these f*cking costumes!!
Remember those family gatherings when someone at the dinner table would caution everyone not to discuss politics and religion? Well the 2008 film A Jersey Christmas obviously didn’t heed that warning because its abundant racial and moral commentary spoils this festivus for the rest of us.
My intention is always to give credit to indie filmmakers, not to needlessly rip them like some a-hole critics who know nothing about films anyway. Making an actual film that doesn’t look like it was slapped together accidentally by a 3 year old on his parents iPhone is a huge undertaking, and even if the movie sucks, most young directors and cast deserve an A for effort at the very least. If I was only judging it on effort, A Jersey Christmas would receive and A+ with a possible induction to the National Honor Society. Unfortunately, it boils down to one question for me: Will I ever want to watch it again? The answer is no, although, if some tweaks were made I’d make it part of my annual Christmas viewing tradition.
Clerks influence on indie filmmakers based in New Jersey is apparent since the story centers around a group of Christmas store employees. Kevin Smith would have a field day writing a film about this place because it’s way more diverse than the local Quick Stop. Coincidentally, mostly all of The Xmas-O-Rama employees don’t celebrate Christmas because of their various religious backgrounds. There’s a Jewish guy, a reformed Jewish girl, an Indian girl, an Arab, and a former Christian gay male who graduated from Rutgers with a masters in American Literature because he “likes to read.” The gist of the story focuses on how Christmas is viewed in the eyes of non-Christian twentysomethings. The group discovers that even though they express jealousy and frustration about the holiday, they are all brought together by the Christmas spirit.
As described on IMDB, “degenerate gambler” Mike Malcolm (James Villemaire) is in deep debt (or shit as we say here in Jersey) and owes a couple of thugs a lot of money. He runs a Christmas store to try to recoup some cash to pay his debts, but winds up screwing his employees out of several weeks pay. The action takes place on Christmas Eve when he demands that the store stay open until midnight to intercept last minute shoppers. Malcolm escapes to a poker game to try to win back some of his losses while the diverse crew at the Christmas store works late and hashes out their differences in religion, thoughts on Christmas, and even share some romantic moments.
I guess I was expecting something with a little more wacky hijinks. Often, the film teetered on the verge of being fun, but never officially made the jump. Sadly, the dialogue is so dumbed down and the characters refer to being Jewish and Arabic excessively. A Jersey Christmas would’ve benefited from making the racial/religious differences a minor theme instead of the main attraction. Regardless of these flaws, the cast is surprisingly natural and talented for a bunch of predominantly unknown actors. Anitha Gandhi and James Villemaire’s performances resonated with me.
Villemaire, who seems to be attempting to channel a young Mickey Rourke or Bruce Willis in this film, also co-directs with Eric Weber. Weber wrote the film, but I think it should’ve stayed on paper rather than been brought to life as a movie. This is the type of film that could be shown in college classes studying religious or racial tolerance; not so much the light hearted Christmas movie based in Jersey that I was hoping for. Ultimately, there really aren’t any similarities to Kevin Smith’s Clerks, but there should’ve been. I for one wouldn’t mind seeing a Christmas styled knockoff of Clerks. In that case the racial and religious references would be welcome. Snoogans.
What keeps me from ripping A Jersey Christmas is the fact that the film isn’t necessarily funny, but it’s not heart wrenching or dramatic either. Being middle of the road is it’s best attribute, since it would’ve totally lost my attention if it got bogged down in too much drama. This is one film you should only sink your time into if you just dig indie movies, or you have a serious obsession for all things Jersey like The Sexy Armpit does.
Since the production company, Tenafly Films, is named after a city in New Jersey, they not only filmed on location in Bergen County, NJ but they also infused plenty of Jersey shout-outs into the movie. Among others there were mentions of Garden State Plaza Mall, Kearny, Hackensack, and the Elmwood Park Diner.
“C’mon, this is Hackensack, New Jersey, no scout comes here you understand that? A train’s going through the outfield right now…” – Spike Nolan, Brewster’s Millions
We first see Brewster (Pryor) as the pitcher on the minor league Hackensack Bulls. At first the film is reminiscent of 2000’s The Replacements, and it’s possible that this low rent, rag tag baseball team might get a shot at the big leagues later in the movie. Once the plot is exposed as fairly un-baseball related, the story becomes a bit cockamamy. Brewster stands to inherit $300 million dollars from his deceased great uncle, but only if he’s able to spend $30 million in 30 days. Brewster does everything he can to spend the dough, including running for Mayor of New York City and hiring the New York Yankees to take on the Hackensack Bulls in a 3-inning exhibition game.
Brewster’s Millions is one of those ’80s films that seems to get lost in the shuffle. The film is mildy humorous, thanks mostly to John Candy as Brewster’s friend, Spike Nolan. Candy was clearly not given the best material to work with but was still amusing as always. As the main character, Monty Brewster, even Pryor’s performance was mediocre at best. The storyline isn’t meant to be hysterical, but one would think that combining the comedic powers of Pryor and Candy on screen would equal gold, but it’s unfortunately not the case. I’m in no way implying that there are no funny parts in this film, but just not as many as I had hoped.
According to IMDB, Jennifer Beals was up for the role of Brewster’s love interest and financial advisor, Angela Drake, but the role ultimately went to Lonette McKee. McKee’s performance was dull and the film could’ve used a female lead with some sort of spark. McKee and Pryor didn’t have much chemistry at all and just the idea of Beals playing the role of Drake is much more enticing. I’m not sure why Beal didn’t get the role, but after reading more about Beals’ career, it seems to be a trend. She passed up the role of Appolonia in Purple Rain, and she was apparently the first choice to play Andie in Pretty in Pink, but lost out to Molly Ringwald.
Also thanks to IMDB, the exterior shot of Torchy’s Bar is also seen in 1979’s When a Stranger Calls:
Brewster’s Millions offers various other mentions of New Jersey, Newark, and the fictional Hackensack Bulls baseball team. Look out for a hysterical cameo by Rick Moranis as Morty King King of the Mimics and Yakov Smirnoff as Vladimir the driver.