“It’s a Wonderful Knife” – Not the sharpest in the block [MOVIE REVIEWS]
After the killer sliced open her best friend, Winnie Carruthers found herself next in line. She turned the tables and killed him instead. She should have been the town hero when she killed the white-robbed murderer terrorizing the slice of americana she lives in. But she’s not. Even her family chooses to ignore the issues of the past year and in so doing, ignores her. When Winnie’s brother gets a truck for Christmas and she gets a track suit; when she discovers that her boyfriend has been sneaking behind her back with one of her friends; when she doesn’t get into NYU; she’s had enough. And just like George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” she raises her fist in the night air and wishes she’d never been born. Presto changeo! She’s transported to the town where she was never born; one that is still being terrorized by a masked killer targeting teens. Her parents don’t recognize her; her brother was murdered shortly after her best friend. The white hooded monster has continued his killing spree for the last year, racking up the bodies.
But as much as she knows about everyone, no one recognizes her, not even what’s left of her family. Alone, she joins forces with Bernie, aka Weirdo, the loneliest girl in town. Always was, still is. She enlists Bernie to help her get back to her reality but that won’t be possible unless she, once again, carves out the cancer that has infected the town. Of course it’s more complicated than before.
Tyler MacIntryre, directing from a script written by Michael Kennedy, tries hard to camp up the horror and the premise. I must confess that I have never seen any of the myriad “Freddy,” “Halloween” or “Nightmare” movies so I cannot attest to the level of reality or believability they reveal on screen. Obviously that was not the intention with “It’s a Wonderful Knife.” I have to admit, as much as I avoid the horror and slasher genre, this comedic premise got me. It never entirely works, though, because there’s too much wink wink. Comedy films, and that’s what was intended, work best when the cast doesn’t appear in on the joke.
The actors, primarily unknowns, or at least unknown to me, try hard to carry the ball across the goal line and almost succeed. Jane Widdop is a fine lead as Winnie Carruthers. Although it’s probably not going to jump start her career, she does deserve better. She understands the virtue of playing it forthrightly in order to enhance the funny. The two famous, not quite “A”-list actors, Joel McHale as Winnie’s father, and Justin Long as Henry Waters, the town’s richest citizen, are a mixed bag. McHale understands that comedy is best served straight and that’s how he plays it. Even if the script is foolish, his character never is. There is no subtlety to Justin Long’s performance so his machinations are never in doubt. Now it may seem ridiculous on my part to criticize performance in an obviously over the top premise but that’s just the point. A bit more fear of evil would have gone a long way toward enhancing an obvious plotline.
Although this is set, both in the Winnie-present and the Winnie-absent scenarios, during the Christmas holidays, I doubt this will become part of a Holiday genre that includes its godparent “It’s a Wonderful Life” (obviously), or “A Christmas Carol” and “Miracle on 34th Street” (both featured on the marquee of the town’s single screen cinema). It’s probably a one-off like “Christmas Bloody Christmas,” “Dismembering Christmas,” Black Christmas” or John Woo’s upcoming “Silent Night.” Even so, this is a relatively fun, mindless 90 minutes. Wait until it arrives on a streaming platform you already subscribe to unless it’s running at a discount on VOD.
Opening Friday November 10 at the AMC South Bay Galleria 16; the AMC Del Amo 18; and the AMC Rolling Hills 20.