“You know what I’m going to get you next Christmas, Mom? A big wooden cross, so that every time you feel unappreciated for your sacrifices, you can climb on up and nail yourself to it.” Not many Christmas-themed movies would trot out dialogue like that (made all the more bitter and nasty by the venomous reading it gets from Kevin Spacey), but that only one of the great lines in Ted Demme’s terrific 1994 comedy The Ref. Released by Touchstone in March of that year (nice scheduling!), the film was promoted primarily as a vehicle for Denis Leary and his angry-smoker persona. The few who saw it in that initial run were surprised to discover a smart, well-written (by Fisher King scribe Richard LaGravanese), insightful look at a dysfunctional family and a crumbling marriage — a kind of Christmas with George and Martha. Luckily, it found a second life on home video, where we can enjoy Spacey and Judy Davis’ holiday-themed sniping forevermore.
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