Lisa Schwarzbaum
November 20, 1998 AT 05:00 AM EST

I'll Be Home for Christmas

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season

We gave it an D+

Sometime soon, nine-year-old girls with a jones for Home Improvement‘s Jonathan Taylor Thomas will be able to enjoy this sugary message of family reconciliation and idealized seasonal goodwill on video. Until that time, why rush to see a dowdy, mechanical lesson-of-Christmas movie in which Thomas — hair seriously frosted and looking alarmingly like his former TV dad, Tim Allen — plays Jake, a smarmy college kid in California who agrees to return home to New York for the holiday only because his father has bribed him with a fancy car? 7th Heaven‘s Jessica Biel costars as Jake’s more mature girlfriend, who nevertheless is patient while her guy works out aspects of jerkhood as he makes his way cross-country in a Santa suit, the legacy of a punishment laid on him by classmates fed up with his high-handedness. (He’s sad and angry inside, see: His father remarried just 10 months after his mother’s death.) At its worst, this family comedy finds unearned laughs in old women and dog flatulence. At its best, there’s a nice moment where every girl in the dorm wears a pore-cleansing strip on her nose — the true expression of the holiday season. D+

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