The formula goes way back before “Airplane” or even its antecedent, “Kentucky Fried Movie.” Scholars trace it back to 1941’s “Hellzapoppin,” a farcical musical that made the transition from Broadway to the big screen pretty much intact.
Unfortunately (for you), that formula is alliterative. Random, rapid fire running gags and randy retorts, delivered in a comedic blur over 90 minutes.
That’s what the creators of Canadian Christmas farce “Cup of Cheer” were going for. Co-writers Jake Horowitz (he also directed) and Andy Lewis throw a whole lot of laugh-lines on the soundtrack, mostly neglecting sight gags and slapstick, and hope enough of them land for this to come off.
They don’t and it doesn’t. But there are a few chortles as they jingle all the way through the holiday.
It’s a “How do we save Christmas” comedy starring Storm Steeson and Alexander Oliver. She’s Mary Nice Lady and he’s Chris Mast. Subtle. And that’s as subtle as it gets.
Mary is an aspiring magazine writer reporting a feature on a small town during the holidays. He’s inherited Grandma’s Cup of Cheer, a Canadian hot cocoa institution in Snowy Heightsville Falls, which changes names every time someone mentions it.
They “meet cute,” and testily.
“I look forward to never seeing you again!”
Oh yeah? Well “not seeing each other ever again would be too soon to…not see each other ever again.”
“You and your big city double-negatives!”
What’s more, “You’re only ‘small town hot.'”
“I’d rather be small-town ‘hot’ than low-budget Christmas movie leading man material!”
At her magazine, Mary claimed to be from Snowy Heights. Or Falls. Or Heightsville Falls. Probably not. But once there, she sees the impending closure of Cup of Cheer as her feature story — which won’t make print until what, two months after Christmas? Never mind.
Mary, in makeup that would pass muster at any Noh Theatre in ancient Japan, gets sized-up by every single “friendly” small town person she meets.
“You young Aryan Princess, you!” “Oh. You’ a lesbian. Most folks in the big city are!”
There’s a “town’s racially diverse cop” (Steve Kasan) and the local foul-mouthed busybody (Helly Chester).
She wisely counsels Chris that “Love is always right under your nose,” running her finger under his nose as if to wipe it — then sucking on that finger. She also marvels that this Christmas is breaking out in “wholesome white dudes from all over.”
One is a time-traveling red-coated British royal from the past who goes by “Authuh” (Jacob Hogan), another the farting fellow (Shawn Vincent) with serious intestinal distress who wants to close the Cup of Cheer.
“He’s my ex,” Mary confesses. Yes, and his name’s “Mai Ex.”
Mary’s constantly wondering “What would my dead parents do?” Authuh tries to be helpful by showing off his marksmanship/hunting skills.
“I’ve procured dinner! I hope you like ‘child.'”
And on and on it goes, over 90 minutes of film, maybe 30 minutes of one-liners that land. But as Mary laments, that’s par for the course due to “unsolicited recaps of your life” and “the needs of the story and the characters’ relationship arcs.”
It’s all cheerfully cheesy with the occasional off-color crack, a whole lot of jokes that don’t land, and a cast that’s not-quite-amusing-enough to remind us that Leslie “Airplane/Naked Gun” Nielsen was the Best Canadian at this kind of comedy. And he’s long gone.
MPA Rating: unrated, profanity, sexual innuendo, drug humor
Cast: Storm Steenson, Alexander Oliver, Liam Marshall, Jacob Morgan, Helly Chester, Braden Barrie and Shawn Vincent.
Credits: Directed by Jake Horowitz, script by Jake Horowitz, Andy Lewis. An IndieCan release.
Running time: 1:35