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Finding John Christmas (2003)

John Christmas

Rating: 2/10

Running Time: 91 minutes

US Certificate: PG UK Certificate: U

‘Finding John Christmas’ might be set over the festive period and feature a sticky-beaking angel, but that’s about all it shares in common with the mighty ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’. You see, the Frank Capra classic is touching, heart-warming, entertaining, and most of all magical. ‘Finding John Christmas’, by comparison, is not. In fact, it’s rubbish.

Featuring Peter “Columbo” Falk in a reprisal of his role as Heaven-sent pensioner Max (he first played him in 2001’s ‘A Town Without Christmas’), it’s the tale of a random bloke (William Russ) who, bizarrely, gets his picture on the front page of the local rag and sparks a public frenzy. Snapped wrapping up his scraggy old pooch in an American flag, the pic for some reason makes big news and the paper offers up $50,000 to whoever can identify him. Step forward sickeningly kind-hearted spinster Kathleen (Valerie Bertinelli), who’s taken a break from organising charity fund-raisers to announce that the fellow in question is her long-lost brother Hank.

So who is this guy really? The paper dubs him “John Christmas”. Kathleen insists he’s “Hank”. He refers to himself “Mitch”. Me? I call him “the dad out of ‘Boy Meets World’”, but each to our own.

There’s a lot that’s crappy about ‘Finding John Christmas’, and not much that’s any good. Kathleen is apparently trying to drum-up a hundred grand to save the local E.R., so has put together a small amateur concert which, ridiculously, is predicted to raise half that amount. So instantly the fact that there’s another sub-plot on the go involving another $50,000 sets alarm bells ringing that there’s an extremely large and not remotely plausible coincidence on the horizon.

Then there’s Falk’s character, Max, who frankly just doesn’t do very much. Although I admit enjoying the fact that he’s a bit like an honorary member of the Village People (one minute he’s dressed as Santa, the next he’s a fire chief, then a janitor – I was only disappointed he never appeared in Red Indian get-up), why include an angel in a story if you’re not going to have him make any major contribution?

Perhaps the biggest problem, though, is that the whole thing is based on a premise that just doesn’t make much sense. Why is this photograph of an Average Joe considered newsworthy in the first place? If he was obviously a down-and-out and therefore perhaps considered representative of the harsher, unseen side of Chrimbo then I could perhaps understand it. But, in actual fact, he’s fairly well-kempt. There’s no big shaggy beard or tatty pair of fingerless gloves, he doesn’t stand next to a bin-fire swearing, and not once does he attempt to stab a passer-by in the eye with an old syringe.

This is a film that had me bored out of my skull by the half-hour mark, with the rest of it dragging on to near-painful extremes. Okay, so I admit I was desperate for John to go home, but it wasn’t to put an end to his family’s suffering – it was to put an end to my own.

It's Got: An appropriately-named cast member in the form of Tania Rudolph.

It Needs: “Just one more thing…” (that’s my Columbo impression, in case you didn’t quite get it).

DVD Extras Not so much as an old episode of ‘Columbo’. DVD Extras Rating: 0/10


You might find John Christmas, but you’ll instantly find yourself wondering how you can lose him again.