[Review Rewind] Christmas Classics: The Ref (1994)


I love this time of year, and as someone who does celebrate the wonderful commercialism of Christmas, I always grab the Holiday/Christmas movies and watch them during December.

So why not talk about some ‘Christmas Classics‘? One film I didn’t watch last December and I was reminded about this year, is the 90’s classic The Ref starring Denis Leary, Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis. I remember watching this film a lot back in the late 90’s, I think I was in love with Denis Leary (still am) and Kevin Spacey was just awesome (The Usual Suspects was one of my favourite films then – still is). I am not sure what happened, but as I got older I didn’t watch it as much and my re-visit was an absolute blast.

The premise is great, a burglar (Leary) on Christmas Eve winds up taking a family hostage Lloyd and Caroline (Spacey and Davis), but their arguing ways causes him to go a little crazy and be their ref (hence the title). Things don’t get much better when their delinquent son Jesse (Robert J. Steinmiller Jr.) comes back home, and then Lloyd’s mother (Glynis Johns) and crew also show up for dinner.


Mistake number 1 – he didn’t gag them!

The cast really makes this film as great as it is. Who’d have thought putting these actors together would give us comedy gold? Looking back, I mean it still surprises me that they all pulled this off. I wouldn’t at the top of my head place Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis together but it’s great. The banter the couple has is great and it does remind me of what Spacey and Annette Bening have in American Beauty. These two feel like an actual couple who after 15 years have lost it, it’s amazing to watch from the moment we meet them in therapy with Dr. Wong (B.D. Wong). It never lets up for a second, the chemistry sizzled through out the film and these two did an amazing job.

Denis Leary was the perfect go between guy for them as well. I love him, he really is a great actor and he did inject some of himself into this character. The look on his face or the reactions he has to the bickering couple is priceless. Who wouldn’t lose the plot being around that? He was like the kid who gets fed up their parents fighting, and it’s almost funny to think how these three people have formed a bit of a bond by the end. His character isn’t a bad guy, and I think we’ve all felt the way he does here at one point or another.


“Mr. Wizard, get me the hell out of here!”

I love when Lloyd’s patriarch mother shows up with his brother and his family. The woman is clearly a huge bitch, and the situation goes from everyone walking on egg shells trying to please her, to Caroline’s drunk behaviour finally speaking the words we want to hear. Our burglar even can’t stand the woman and speaks up, then everyone does turn against her and rightfully so. It’s just so funny to see these problems get worked out while they are technically being held hostage!

I think having this set on Christmas Eve adds to everything, because the Holidays is the time of year when families usually come together and arguments and bickering are bound to happen. Here it is taken to a whole new level, but it’s just so funny to see them try get through their family Christmas dinner. Caroline likes to add tradition to everything, so everyone winds up with candles on their head (just watch the film for that) and food they don’t want. It’s awesome and hilarious and yep it feels a whole lot like Christmas!

Plus we also get to see Denis Leary punch a drunk Santa!


It’s a picture of a Spanish Inquisition torture device right?

The Ref certainly is a ‘Christmas Classic‘ and it was perfect for me to watch this week. It hasn’t been a good week and this lifted my spirits and gave me bucket loads of laughs. It doesn’t get much better than that, and it is a good film to really get you in that Holiday spirit.



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