When filmmaker Nora Ephron brings together an all-star cast led by Steve Martin, you expect something terrific. Mixed Nuts was Ephron’s follow-up to her smash success Sleepless in Seattle, and when it was released by TriStar Pictures on December 21, 1994, she was greeted with some of the most visceral reviews of her career, and experienced a spectacular failure that would briefly scare her career.
An adaptation of the successful (but obscure to American audiences) 1982 French farce Le Pere Noel Est Une Ordure (loosely translated: Santa Claus is a Bastard), Mixed Nuts retained very little of what made the French farce so dark and uncompromising. At the same time, Ephron tailored the film to something more along her style and managed to give the characters of the piece some hope and love through a cynical story. Right here, it’s easy to see why the film failed at the box office: The film wanted to be hopeful and dark at the same time, and a comedy can’t quite succeed when they’re trying to counter-balance that. It is a weird holiday film made for those who are looking for something a little different than films like A Christmas Story or National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
What if someone you never met, someone you never saw, someone you never knew, was the only someone for you? That’s the question asked by Nora Ephron’s 1993 hit Sleepless in Seattle, which climbs into the Reel Rumbles ring this week to do battle with 2004’s The Notebook, a film that claims that behind every great love is a great story. Are these films promising chick flick classics, or just heavy-handed weepy tear-jerkers going for cheap shots over quality storytelling? Find out as the bell rings for The Notebook vs. Sleepless in Seattle.