|I'll Be Home for Christmas|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Arlene Sanford|
|Story by||Michael Allin|
|Music by||John Debney|
|Edited by||Anita Brandt-Burgoyne|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|Box office||$12.2 million|
I'll Be Home for Christmas is a 1998 American Christmas family comedy film directed by Arlene Sanford. The plot follows a college student who must make it from his campus in Los Angeles, California to his family's home in Larchmont, New York in time for Christmas dinner in order to win his father's Porsche. It stars Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Jessica Biel, Adam LaVorgna, Sean O'Bryan and Gary Cole and was released on November 13, 1998.
Jake Wilkinson (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), an 18-year-old attending the (fictional) Palisades College in California, has not been home to Larchmont, New York for any holidays since his mother died and his father remarried 10 months later. A few days before Christmas Eve, his father offers to give him his vintage 1957 Porsche 356 if he is home by 6:00 PM Christmas Eve for Christmas dinner. Initially, Jake had traded in his airline ticket to New York City for two tickets to Cabo San Lucas to take his girlfriend Allie Henderson (Jessica Biel), who is also from New York. When she declines, Jake reconsiders his father's deal and retrades the tickets back to New York. Allie agrees to ride with him.
With his trio of goons, Eddie Taffet (Adam LaVorgna), Jake's nemesis and rival for Allie's affections, leaves Jake in the desert dressed as Santa Claus to punish him for not getting an exam cheat sheet (a deal they had that Eddie secretly sabotaged on purpose). While Jake is stuck in the California desert, Eddie ends up giving a reluctant Allie a ride to New York after she thinks Jake bailed on her again.
Jake has only three days to get to Larchmont if he wants the car. He stumbles upon Nolan (Andrew Lauer), a simple-minded thief who is driving stolen kitchen goods to his dealer near New York. A police officer named Max (Sean O'Bryan) pulls them over in Red Cliff, Colorado for speeding, so Jake lies that Nolan is his elf, Snowpuff, and they're donating the goods to the children's hospital. The officer invites them to accompany him to North Platte, Nebraska to help him win back his wife Marjorie (Lesley Boone).
Meanwhile, Allie convinces Eddie to stay the night at a novelty hotel in a Bavarian village, the Amana Colonies in Amana, Iowa. They are unknowingly standing beneath mistletoe when a news anchor is reporting live. Jake sees them kiss while he's waiting at the bus station in Nebraska and develops a scheme to convince the bus driver to drop him off at the Bavarian village. He obtains a cooler and a slab of meat, writes Allie's name and address on the cooler, and convinces the whole busload that the cooler needs to be delivered to a little girl at the hospital in the Bavarian village for a transplant.
After Allie lets Jake into her and Eddie's room, Eddie walks out of the shower only clad in a towel and Jake assumes he and Allie have slept together. Jake and Allie make up until Jake blurts out that Eddie prevented him from getting home by 6 PM. Upset that Jake cares more about the car than about her, Allie storms onto the bus and takes Jake's seat.
Jake and Eddie drive off. Eddie suddenly becomes jealous realizing that Jake will get Allie and the Porsche if he makes it home, and throws Jake out of his car somewhere in Wisconsin. Jake decides to enter a Santa Claus race for a chance to win the $1,000 prize to buy an airline ticket to New York. Eddie is arrested after insulting (and possibly doing more) two policemen dressed as Christmas trees patrolling the race. While registering for the race, Jake meets a nice man named Jeff Wilson, whom he barely beats in the race. But en route to the airport, the taxi driver informs Jake that Jeff is actually the mayor of the town; he usually wins the race every year and uses the prize money to buy food for the impoverished. Jake feels bad and gives the money to the Mayor.
Jake talks to his sister, who arranges for an airline ticket for him from Madison, Wisconsin. The airline doesn't let him board because he has no photographic identification, so he stows away in a dog kennel on a cargo aircraft with a large dog named Ringo. From the airport he hides on a train, tries to hitch a ride in a car, then steals a one-horse open sleigh from the local parade. When he reaches his street, he apologizes to Allie and they make up. Jake rides the sleigh home, arrives at 5:59 PM, and intentionally waits a few minutes to go inside so he isn't in time to get the Porsche. When his father offers it to him anyway, he refuses. He also finally accepts his stepmother. The Wilkinsons and Allie get into the sleigh just as the parade arrives and join the procession.
I'll Be Home for Christmas made $3.9 million in its opening weekend, finishing at 6th at the box office. At the end of its run, the film grossed $12 million, against its $30 million budget, making it a box office bomb.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 23% based on 43 reviews, with an average rating of 4/10. The site's critical consensus says that "Neither parent nor child will find any merriment in this mess." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.
Roger Ebert gave the film 1/4 stars and described the film as Pleasantville made from "anti-matter", saying the film is about "People who seem to be removed from a '50's sit-com so they can spread cliches, ancient jokes, dumb plotting and empty cheerful sanitized gimmicks into our world and time."Christopher Null called the film "surprisingly engaging" and gave it 3 out of 5 stars.