For the most part, Thanksgiving is the red-headed stepchild of pop culture where most of the holiday focuses on bickering families and stupid fights. I don’t care for movies like Home for the Holidays and only memorable for the fact that Robert Downey Jr. has admitted he was so whacked out on drugs and alcohol during the filming.
And Dutch is such a twisted movie, I’m surprised it’s still so liked. Ed O’Neill comes off as a psychopath who believes violence solves everything and makes so many awful mistakes, it’s a surprise at the end he’s actually a rich guy who has his own construction company. And Ethan Embry (credited as Ethan Randall) is such an awful twerp, it’s hard to even wonder why we’re supposed to like him.
Boomerang – While this Eddie Murphy romcom isn’t one of his best, it’s a change for Murphy as a ladies man who gets played by his boss, Robin Givens, and finds a good woman to be with in Halle Berry. The movie is noticeable for a Thanksgiving dinner in which the late John Witherspoon shows up as the father to David Alan Grier’s character and has sex with his wife in the bathroom. The scene is hilarious and you can see why Witherspoon is sadly missed. Martin Lawrence also is in this scene in one of his earliest roles. I never had chitlins ever but I’m sure it’s a dish at many T-Day dinners.
Cheers – The NBC sitcom about bar workers and its patrons ran for 11 seasons and entertained so many. But one of its most memorable episodes features a food fight breaking out as they all gather at the home of Carla (Rhea Perlman). Norm (George Wendt) brings the turkey and spends hours cooking it as the food goes cold. Diane (Shelley Duvall) shows up as does Sam (Ted Danson) as their plans change. Seeing the gang outside the bar is a nice change. It’s also the closest the show came to actually showing Norm’s wife, Vera, who is the recipient of a pie in the face.
Eddie Murphy: Raw – This is Murphy’s only concert film as Delirious was an HBO special. And while some of the material is very dated, the opening skit set at Thanksgiving 1968 is worth watching. Murphy co-wrote it with Keenan Ivory Wayans, who directed. Deon Richmond plays a young Murphy who surprises his family with a joke featuring scatological humor about a monkey urinating and defecating on a lion. The only one who seems to find it amusing is his uncle, played by a then-unknown Samuel L. Jackson. Tatyana Ali also appears in a small role as a Murphy family member.
Grumpy Old Men – Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau reteamed again for a series of movies throughout the 1990s beginning with this one. Here, they play two elderly neighbors in Wabasha, Minn., who have been feuding for years. When a younger free-spirted woman played by Ann-Margaret moves in across the street, they vie for her attention. The movie has a brief sequence set at Thanksgiving where their friend Chuck (Ossie Davis) shows up to call on her while they watch from across the street surprised.
The Ice Storm – Ang Lee’s look at two WASP families New Canaan, Conn., during 1973 dealing with issues isn’t exactly as good as the critics make it out. Kevin Kline seems miscast as the All-American dad stereotype who is having an affair with his neighbor. Joan Allen and Sigourney Weaver save the movie with their opposing roles of how WASP wives are supposed to be portrayed. The movie is notable for its early roles for Elijah Wood, Tobey Maguire, Katie Holmes and Allison Janey. It also features Christina Ricci in the first of her more mature roles.
Rocky – While the Oscar winner about underdog Philadelphia boxer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) takes place mostly around the Christmas/New Year’s season, it’s memorable for a scene between Rocky and Adrian (Talia Shire) on Thanksgiving. When he’s invited to dinner by her brother Paulie (Burt Young), she gets a little upset. Rocky and Adrian go out to a skating ring, but it ends up the rink is closed but they are able to spend some time on the ice. It’s a very romantic scene. Don’t laugh but film critics once considered Stallone the next Marlon Brando. Stallone shows his acting chops in this movie that came out at the right time as America was still trying to recover from the Watergate Scandal and the Fall of Saigon.
Seinfeld – The 1994 episode titled “The Mom and Pop Store” is notable for an early appearance by Bryan Cranston as recurring character Tim Whatley, a dentist. Jerry is not sure or not if he’s invited to Tim’s annual Thanksgiving party. At the same time, George (Jason Alexander) buys a LeBaron after being told it belonged to Jon Voight. At the same time, Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) answers a radio contest for her boss Mr. Pitt so he can march in the Thanksgiving Day parade. Kramer (Michael Richards) also tries to save a shoe repair store, thus the title of the episode. While the appeal of Seinfeld has been deflated like the Woody Woodpecker balloon over the years as younger generations don’t like it as much, this is one of their peak seasons most notable with an ending referencing Midnight Cowboy.
Tower Heist – Brett Ratner may be garbage but this action comedy is not a bad movie to watch. Alan Alda plays a Bernie Madoff-inspired investor who has ripped off people and arrested for his actions. Ben Stiller plays the building manager of the wealthy apartment skyscraper where Alda’s character is under house arrest who discovers the workers at the apartment have lost all their retirement savings as they were given to Alda’s character to invest. After losing his job and upset over a suicide attempt by an aging co-worker, Stiller’s character and others including Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick, Murphy once again, Michael Pena and Gabourey Sidibe to break into his penthouse as they think he’s stashed their money in a hidden vault. They plan this heist as the Thanksgiving Day parade happens right outside.
WKRP in Cincinnati – In its initial season, the sitcom about the daily outgoings at a radio station produced one of the best Thanksgiving episodes ever. As the station prepares a promotion to give away free turkeys, Arthur Carlson (Gordon Jump) and Herb Tarlek (Frank Bonner) throw turkeys out of a helicopter outside a shopping center as news reporter Les Nessman (Richard Sanders) relays the events on live radio ala the Hindenburg crashing. No turkeys are harmed or even seen as the camera focuses on Les’ reaction as well as those in the booth, Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman) and Venus Flytrap (Tim Reid), as to what’s happening. The episode has Jump’s iconic line, “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”