The only time to watch “El Camino Christmas” is far-removed from the Christmas season. No sense ruining Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah or Kwanza.
But truth be told, there is no “good” time to watch this sour, mostly-humorless holiday hostage “comedy.”
It wastes a lot of funny folks in a bloody debacle of a farce, a bullet-riddled bloodbath that, like its central situation, “didn’t have to go this way.”
A young guy, Eric (Luke Grimes) rolls into town, looking for the father he never knew. The foul-mouthed drunk (Tim Allen) who now lives in the old man’s last known address is a ‘Nam vet, more than happy to hustle drinks out of the kid in the vintage Chevelle.
“This a ’71? That’s the year I found our lord and savior, Jesus Christ. And the honorable Jack Daniels. Jack’s still with me.”
Kurtwood Smith is the jaded, insult-prone, hired-too-many-relatives sheriff, with Dax Shepard as the well-meaning boob deputy and Vincent D’Onofrio the hothead, drunken burnout deputy.
Michelle Mylett is Kate, the single mom with an “on the spectrum” son she has to bring to work at Vincente’s Liquors.
They’re all brought together when the cops railroad the young guy, devolving into a hostage situation with the trigger happy deputy and bystanders trapped along with Eric, “the suspect.”
We’ve seen how worthless Carol (D’Onofrio) has became as a cop, how he and hapless Billy (Shepard) arrested the “stranger” on suspicion of making meth because he bought a bottle of Drano.
“What is this?”
“It’s an interrogation!”
“Am I being charged here?”
“You’re fixin’ to be.”
Theodore Melfi and Christopher Wehner cooked up this script, and couldn’t figure out ways to unravel that arrest, the prisoner’s “escape” and the ensuing Christmas Eve hostage situation that wasn’t tone deaf and bloody.
They put all their wit into sketching in one or two-scene characters — Kate’s trashy mom Jewels (Kimberly Quinn) on the prowl for a new man — “You want somethin’ in life, you gotta GROWL for it.”
Jessica Alba’s a very pregnant small-market TV reporter who smells her “big break” in this story.
And lonely Vincente (Emilio Rivera), who owns the liquor mart still mourns his late wife.
We’re treated to incompetent cops yelling “Shots FIRED!” when they’re the ones doing the shooting, Vietnam War stories and “We Got Married in a Walmart” on the soundtrack.
All in a little Nevada mountain town where it never snows (hint hint), where the town drunk goes by “Bukowski, Charles” and dozes off, topless, so that his burning cigarette wakes him up before he sets the place and himself on fire.
The drunk provides the best one-line review for this mess, one a pretty talented cast should have taken to heart before taking Netflix’s money.
“Not all ideas are good ones.”
MPAA Rating: TV-MA
Cast: Dax Shepard, Jessica Alba, Luke Grimes, Kurtwood Smith, Tim Allen, Vincent D’Onofrio
Running time: 1:29