That's right, it's Christmas time and I'm treating you guys to a very special holiday teen treat but first, a little background info. Way back in the 90s, one of the hottest teen heartthrobs was none other than Jonathan Taylor Thomas, or JTT for the hardcore fans.
Stop laughing, guys, your generation likes Bieber!
He was made famous, starring as Randy, the middle child of the Taylor family on Home Improvement. From there, his teen idol status grew as he was offered more and more movie roles so that teen girls could drool over him for 90 minutes on the big screen. The show ran from 1991 to 1999 and was extremely popular, possibly solely because young girls thought Randy was cute. Don't get me wrong, I watched and enjoyed Home Improvement when I was younger but it is a pretty stupid show, however I'd probably watch it if I caught an episode TV just for sheer nostalgic purposes. Anyways, by 1998, JTT was growing tired of the limelight and wanted quit the show to focus on his University studies. Tim "the Tool Man" Taylor, was extremely supportive of this decision and let him leave the show and they parted on good terms.
Then, lo and behold, right at the end of the year a movie comes out starring none other than JTT himself and Tim is pissed. He thinks Jonathan lied to him about needing to focus on schooling and really quit so that he could make feature films. Why do I bring this little story up? Well because the film in question was none other than I'll Be Home for Christmas. Was this movie worth burning his bridges with Tim Allen? Well, why don't we see for ourselves:
My first thought is "no"
The movie starts off with JTT strutting down his school hallway, looking like he's a big shit and the most important thing ever and right away I feel like I'm going to hate this prick. Not a good sign seeing as how he's going to be the main character in this thing. He springs his nerdy friend out of his locker but not until this friend gives him a bunch of things he wants.
You stay in that locker until you give me mah mail, bitch!
Oh but he's so delightfully charming, or at least the movie wants us to believe he is, that he can talk his way out of any situation. Like when his girlfriend's roommate blocks him from coming into their room...for some reason and he bribes her with her favourite candy bar...energy bar...granola bar? Not sure what but she seems to love that shit so she lets him in and then he proceeds to tell her to get lost.
As it turns out, they are on Christmas break and JTT (I don't care if he has a character name, I'm calling him JTT) is surprising his girlfriend, played by Jessica Biel of 7th Heaven fame, with a trip to Cabo San Lucas and she's less than thrilled. After being in sunny California for school, she wants nothing more than to go home to New York for Christmas and see the snow and decorate a Christmas tree and all the traditional Christmas stuff. She gets mad at JTT for not asking her first what she wanted to do and questions why he doesn't go home for Christmas. JTT claims he wants to lie in the sun with his girlfriend. Ok fair, he is a teenaged boy after all.
Then he gets a call from his father who practically begs him to come home for Christmas and he proceeds to lie to him about studying. Ass. The father grills him about what he is really doing and JTT confesses all nonchalantly that he is taking his girlfriend to Cabo because he'd rather lie on the beach next to his hot girlfriend than see his family for Christmas. Ass. Hole. His father then tells him that he misses him and that he hasn't been home for Christmas for a few years. Wait, isn't JTT supposed to be 18? Was he shipped off to boarding school or something? Anyways, cool JTT doesn't care about that he still doesn't want to come home. Yeah, fuck family at Christmas time he could be sitting by himself on a beach in Cabo since his girlfriend is going home. Then his father resorts to something so absurd and so profoundly sad that my heart almost breaks watching this scene:
Sing it with me people: A-SS-HO-LE!
Really? Your family begs you to come home because they clearly miss you and you callously crush their hearts and make them resort to bribing you to come home? The only reason you want to go home is to get a car? I guess the writer was going for a redemption thing but did they have to make him this unlikably cold hearted? What's sadder is that when the Stepmom questions this, the Dad is just too overjoyed that his son is coming home for Christmas to care that he had to bribe his son to make him want to. Dude, Ebeneezer Scrooge thinks you're soulless.
You disgust me, kid.
Because we need to pad this movie out, JTT makes a deal with some school bullies to help them cheat for money. The plan backfires when the ringleader Eddie, who likes JTT's girlfriend, sabbotages his plan and the school bullies fail their test as a result. They go to teach JTT a lesson and hilarity ensues!
JTT wakes up in the middle of the desert...with a Santa costume glued on. I don't really get why they did that to teach him a lesson, seems a bit extreme and random but since it's JTT, I'm ok with it.
I am mildly upset with the situation that I am in!
So his girlfriend, Allie, thinks that he has ditched her and with no other way home, she has to take a ride home with Eddie, the bully. I love how they go out of their way to make this guy out to be such a douche just to make JTT's character seem better by comparison. I'm still rooting for the bully though.
As you can imagine, JTT encounters a lot of obstacles on his way back home so that he can get a porche and since his character is just so unlikable to me, I kind of relish in all of the hell he is put through. In fact the first ride he gets is with a bunch of old ladies and I just love what they put him through.
At least now he's lost the beard so that he's once again "hot" for the ladies. Oh yeah.
JTT then gets a ride with a poor man's French Stewart who just so happens to be about as slow in the head as French Stewart as well. JTT asks the man to speed up to catch up with his girlfriend and they get pulled over by the cops but it's ok because JTT lies his way out of the ticket by saying he's delivering toys to hospitilized children. We're supposed to like this guy? Anyways, the cop offers to escort them and JTT is forced into doing...charity! Eww, that's like so totally gross. JTT is way too cool to do charity for poor sick kids. Of course, since this is Disney, through plot contrivance cute little kid wish, JTT is shown the true meaning of Christmas and tries to talk to his Dad but he's not home.
Meanwhile, Allie is singing Aqua (Ah, the 90s) in Eddie's car while he watches her with a smile on his face. Right here is where my mind kind of went in the direction that this would have been a more interesting movie. You have this girl who is uptight about school and has to get a ride with a slacker guy that she doesn't like. The guy clearly likes her but is just a little slow and I think there is something sweet in that. He asks her what the hell she sees in JTT and I have to admit I'm quite curious about that too.
I agree with Eddie, what a nerd.
Back with JTT, he agrees to help the cop who escorted him to the hospital get back with his wife in exchange for a bus ticket back to New York. Once again, because this is a Disney movie, even though the guy kissed another girl in front of the whole town and humiliated his wife, she takes him back because he sang her a crappy song really really badly.
Don't worry folks, we're at the halfway point now. JTT has his ticket home and is riding the bus for the last time since he is sure to get his sweet, sweet porche. Except that oh, noes! He sees Eddie kissing his girlfriend for a split second under the mistletoe on TV.
You see, Allie and Eddie decide to pull over and spend the night in a German themed Christmas town and it really looks like they are bonding. I could totally buy this as the romantic comedy part. I mean Eddie seems genuinely into her and she is pretty wowed by the kiss. I guess we're supposed to think that she is starting to like Eddie so we feel bad for JTT but honestly, I'm kind of hoping that she'll dump JTT and get with Eddie who in another RomCom would reform his douchey ways and grow as a person thanks to Allie's love. But this is a JTT film so we're still rooting for him. I guess.
I don't know, maybe it's just me but these moments are sweet.
JTT cons the bus he is on into going to the German Christmas village, Edelbruk, by stealing people's things and pretending that there is a little girl waiting for a liver transplant. Charming. The bus gets to Edelbruk and JTT hurries to find his girlfriend before Eddie has a chance to kiss her any further.
He's just so charming.
Anyways, he finds her, Eddie reverts back to being an annoying douche and she immediately forgives him for ditching her since it wasn't his fault. Then JTT goes and snaps at Eddie for stranding him out in the middle of nowhere so that he won't get home before six o'clock. Idiot. Now Allie is questioning him about why he needs to be home by 6 and he confesses that his Dad was going to give him the porche if he made it home by then. Allie is pissed and ditches both guys in Edelbruk by taking JTT's bus ride home. *gasp* You mean people don't find it charming that you have to be bribed to go home for Christmas?
Eddie gives JTT a ride home and for a split second you think they are going to bond and forgive each other but again, this is a Disney film and the "bad guy" must get his comeuppance. Eddie kicks JTT out of the car because he decides he doesn't want to help him get home to get a cooler car than his and give him a chance to get back with Allie. JTT stumbles across a Santa marathon which has a prize of $1000 to the winner and he enters it. One Santa even offers to fund his way into the race. He seems like a nice guy. Eddie tells some cops to get out of his way and this gets him arrested. *cough*
The Santa race is almost over and JTT and the Nice Guy who funded him in are neck and neck for the lead but JTT loses his hat. Nice Guy actually waits for JTT to get his hat and catch up before running again and seemingly lets JTT win. JTT is extatic until he finds out that Nice Guy is the Mayor of the town who wins the race every year and donates all of the winnings to buy turkeys for people who can't afford them. JTT begrudgingly goes to the Mayors house to give him his winnings because he's changed and become nicer. I just see him as a petulant child who is only doing it to not appear like a douche rather than someone who genuinely wants to do the right thing.
Aw! Stupid Mayor, now I have to give back the money.
Anyways, his sister takes pity on him and buys him a ticket which is useless because JTT doesn't have any I.D. on him so he stows away with a gassy dog. Disney flick, remember? He then proceeds to ride on top of people's cars for some reason and then steal a sleigh from a Christmas parade all while his Dad's heart breaks because JTT hasn't come home yet.
Awwwww! Poor Dad, having a douche for a son.
His first thought is, of course, going to his girlfriend's house to apologize to her. She forgives him again and they proceed to speed to his parents' house. Does he go in right away? No. The jerk asks his girlfriend to watch his family until it is after six. Yes, lets sit here and watch my family have Christmas dinner while feeling like shit because their worthless son once again stood them up. Their pain is like an aphrodisiac, mwa hahahaha!
Once he is certain he's proven to his girlfriend that he doesn't want the porche, he ends his family's suffering and goes inside where his Dad offers him the porche anyways because it's not a fucking fairytale and he was only a few seconds late. Knowing this still makes him look douchey, JTT says he doesn't want it because they'll need to spend more time together fixing it up. Awww. Oh and he resolves his issue with his Stepmother in possibly the weirdest bonding moment ever.
Y-you asked me for my sweater size? You really do accept me! *tear*
They go outside to watch the parade walk by that he stole the carriage from and just when you think he will get a comeuppance for being a jerk, they remember that this will add too much screen time and wrap it up in another awkward fashion:
He stole our sleigh, let's get him! Oh, he complimented my wings? It's cool.
That was I'll Be Home for Christmas and oh what a pile of shit it was. The protagonist was an unlikable douche and I don't really think he redeemed himself at all. It seemed like the writers were trying to make his character into this Ferris Bueller like guy but in my opinion, JTT just doesn't have the charisma or likability to pull it off. He just comes off as a smug asshole who thinks he deserves everything. Sure he makes it up with his girlfriend and family in the end but he got off light considering how shittily he treated them all in the beginning.
I may have bought into it with a more likable actor but JTT just never did anything for me. He was a smug know-it-all in Home Improvement and he's a smug know-it-all here. Before anyone says that I should cut this movie slack because it's a Disney movie and the excuse that "It's Christmas, these movies are supposed to be cheesy!" I will just say that just because it is meant for teens or kids and it is Christmas themed, doesn't mean it doesn't have to at least try to be good. I cut a lot out of this review so you guys didn't have to read a freaking novel about it but if you want to get nostalgic or you liked JTT as a kid maybe give this one a watch but if you're like me, I say miss it.
As you can imagine, this movie didn't do very well at the box office (rightly so) and JTT kind of faded into obscurity. Home Improvement moved on without him despite the lower ratings and I imagine he went to college with his tail between his legs. To be fair, I think JTT probably did this movie for one last quick paycheque before starting school because school is pretty freaking expensive but he probably should have disclosed the fact that he was doing this movie to Tim Allen instead of lying and saying he needed time to prepare for University.
So, what happened to JTT after this movie? He's had some guest starring roles since this movie but according to IMDb, he hasn't been in anything since 2006. So I guess it really doesn't pay to get on Tim Allen's bad side but at the same time, teen idoldom really doesn't last long and you can't coast on looks alone forever, even though I never really got what was so appealing about him in the first place.
I wish there was a better teen roadtrip movie set around Christmas to show you but where on Earth could I find such a movie? It will be a task, I'm sure but for you guys, I'm willing to try.
I'm Blinvy and this has been another Teenage Wasteland review.
I'll Be Home for Christmas - Disney
I'll Be Home for Christmas - Disney