I’ll Be Home for Christmas (1998)

Film and Plot Synopsis

Jake Wilkinson has not returned home to his father’s home for years after the untimely death of his mother. His father’s relatively quick re-marriage has provided an incentive for Jake not to return home. However, when his father offers Jake a vintage 1957 Porsche 356 if he makes it home by 6PM on Christmas Eve, Jake begins a cross-country trip that he never expected. After being kidnapped by the school bully and left in the desert in a Santa Claus suit, Jake must make across the continental United States with nothing but the clothes on his back.

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I'll Be Home For Christmas

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‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
I'll Be Home for Christmas (1998)Jake Wilkinson (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) is an 18-year-old attending a boarding school in California. Jake has not been home to his father’s residence in Larchmont, New York for any holiday breaks since his mother’s untimely death. His father (Gary Cole) has moved on with his life and remarried ten months after Jake’s mother died. Jake is not very accepting of his new step-mother, Carolyn (Eve Gordon), which is one of the reasons he has not returned home.

A few days before Christmas Eve, Jake’s father offers to give Jake his vintage 1957 Porsche 356 if he returns home by 6:00 PM Christmas Eve for Christmas dinner. His father includes an airline ticket to New York City for Jake. Jake takes the ticket and exchanges it for two tickets to Cabo San Lucas over Christmas break. He asks his girlfriend Allie Henderson (Jessica Biel) to go with him instead of going home to New York. However, Allie turns down Jake’s Mexico trip. Jake reluctantly reconsiders his father’s deal and exchanges the tickets for two tickets to New York. Allie agrees to fly with him since she is from New York as well.

However, the school bully, Eddie Taffet (Adam LaVorgna), and a trio of his goons kidnap Jake and leave him in the California desert dressed as Santa Claus to punish Jake for not getting an exam cheat sheet for them. Eddie has learned of Jake’s father’s offer for the Porsche and Jake’s planned trip to New York with Allie. Eddie is interested in Allie himself and offers to give her a ride to New York himself. Believing that Jake has stood her up, she accepts his offer.

Meanwhile, Jake has only three days to get to Larchmont to fulfill his obligation to his father. He begins the long trek across the country. He encounters a simple-minded thief named Nolan (Andrew Lauer) who is driving stolen kitchen goods to his dealer in New York. Nolan agrees to give Jake a ride to New York. On the way, they are pulled over for speeding by a police officer named Max (Sean O’Bryan) in Red Cliff, Colorado. Still dressed as Santa Claus, Jake lies to the officer and tells him that Nolan is his elf, Snowpuff, and they’re donating the goods to the children’s hospital. The officer invites them to accompany him to North Platte, Nebraska to help win back his wife Marjorie (Lesley Boone).

At the same time, Allie convinces Eddie to stop and stay at a novelty hotel in a Bavarian village in Iowa. A news crew is doing a live report from the hotel. Allie and Eddie inadvertently stand underneath some mistletoe and are coaxed into kissing on camera. Jake sees the kiss on television while he’s waiting at a bus station in Nebraska. He boards the bus and tries to convince the bus driver to drop him off at the Bavarian village hotel. He obtains a cooler and a slab of meat, writes Allie’s name and address on the cooler, and convinces the whole bus that the cooler needs to be delivered to a little girl at the hospital in the Bavarian village for a transplant.

Once Jake gets to the hotel, he finds Allie and Eddie’s room. Allie lets him in just as Eddie walks out of the shower clad in only a towel. Jake assumes that Eddie and Allie have slept together. Allie makes up with Jake, but when Jake expresses his frustration that Eddie has prevented him from getting home by the deadline, Allie concludes that he cares more about the car than her. She storms onto the bus and takes Jake’s seat.

Jake and Eddie drive off together in Eddie’s car. Eddie eventually realizes that Jake will ultimately get Allie and the Porsche if he makes it home. To prevent this from happening, Eddie throws Jake out of his car somewhere in Wisconsin. While in Wisconsin, Jake decides to enter a Santa Claus race for a chance to win a $1,000 prize so that he can buy his own ticket to New York. At the same time, Eddie is arrested after insulting two policemen dressed as Christmas trees patrolling the race. During race registration, Jake meets a nice man named Jeff Wilson (Ian Robison).

Jake barely beats Jeff in the race. Jake immediately gets into a cab to go to the airport with the prize money. The cab driver (Kurt Max Runte) informs Jake that Jeff is the Mayor of the town who usually wins the race every year. As part of the winning tradition, the Mayor donates the prize money to buy food for the needy. Jake feels guilty for using the money for a selfish purpose and gives the money to the Mayor for the charity.

Later, Jake calls home and talks to his sister, Tracey (Lauren Maltby). She makes arrangements for an airline ticket for him from Madison, Wisconsin. However, Jake can’t get on the plane in Madison due to not having a photo I.D. Jake takes the drastic step of stowing away in a dog kennel on a cargo plane with a very large dog. Once at the airport in New York, he takes a variety of forms of transportation to get home, including hiding on a train, hitching a ride in a car, and stealing a one-horse open sleigh from the local parade.

Jake arrives on his father’s street. He apologizes to Allie for being selfish and the couple make up. Jake then rides the sleigh home and arrives at 5:59 PM. He intentionally waits a few minutes before going inside so that he does not make it in time for the Porsche. Nevertheless, his father is happy to see and offers Jake the car anyways. Jake refuses the Porsche, but finally accepts Carolyn as his step-mother. The film ends with the Wilkinson family and Allie getting into the sleigh just as the local parade arrives. They join the procession as one big happy family.

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Buena Vista Pictures released I'll Be Home for Christmas on November 13, 1998. Arlene Sanford directed the film starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Jessica Biel, and Adam LaVorgna.

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