Comedy, Holiday or Holiday Adjacent, Kids and/or Family

Tom Wopat in: Jingle All the Way

as: Howard Langston

Has there ever been a better holiday movie than Jingle All the Way? Has there ever been a better, more nuanced performance in a holiday movie than the one Arnold Schwarzenegger turns in as Howard Langston in Jingle All the Way? The answer to the first question is a resounding “No.” The answer to the second is, “There would be if Tom Wopat had played the part instead.” Let’s speculate further, shall we?!

Why Wopat?

jingle all the way

For starters, Jingle All the Way was filmed and set in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. Tom Wopat is originally from Lodi, Wisconsin, USA; Arnold Schwarzenegger is from Thal, Styria, Austria. Wopat’s natural Sconnie accent would’ve been far more geographically accurate than Arnie’s Austrian one. Additionally—and I say this as an unapologetic Schwarzenegger fan—it would’ve been much easier to understand the dialogue with Wopat as Howard Langston. Ah-nuld’s accent seemed to be particularly thick in this flick, for whatever reason.

Second, Tom Wopat makes a much more believable, regular joe mattress salesman. I always find it odd when Schwarzenegger plays characters that just have normal jobs, because, for example, why would a mattress salesman be built like a professional bodybuilder? Maybe stick with playing legendary warriors and killer cyborgs and genetically engineered superhumans, Arnold. Wopat is an average-sized fellow and would be more convincing in an everyday job occupation like mattress salesmanship.

Wopat’s comparative averageness would also make at least one other scene in the movie more believable, as well. After a confrontation with Jim Belushi’s evil, toy-counterfeiting Mall Santa character, Langston escapes a police raid by posing as an undercover cop. It seems far more likely that an average, not-the-size-of-a-phone-booth guy would be able to sneak out the door under that ruse. The other policemen would probably recognize a Mr. Universe-looking guy on the force, or, more accurately, recognize that Mr. Universe was most definitely not a fellow cop because wouldn’t they remember that huge guy? How about that pretty average dude who looks like an older Luke Duke, recognize him? I don’t know, I think that’s Stoharski; I’ve definitely seen him around before.

Photo credit: Ben Sutherland via / CC BY

Comedy, Holiday or Holiday Adjacent

Tom Wopat in: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

as: Cousin Eddie

Yeah, we know that Christmas was a while ago. But actually, now that the 2015 holiday season is well behind us (that $#!t seems to drag on forever), we thought now would be a prime time to revisit what is arguably the best installment in the Vacation series.

With this flick, it was a no-brainer as to whom we’d be replacing with Tom Wopat, and thereby vastly improving the movie in the process. Randy Quaid is great as Cousin Eddie, but given the actor’s recent real-life woes, it might be best to retroactively remove him from the Vacation universe. Besides, good as Quaid was, he’s no match for Tom Wopat.

Key Changes

In the original version of Christmas Vacation, Cousin Eddie is a prototypical white trash bumpkin, thoroughly lacking in self-awareness and, from the look of it, personal hygiene. That works perfectly fine with Quaid in the role, as it fits fairly well into his acting oeuvre. However, the Wopatized version of Cousin Eddie would have to be more charming and less rough around the edges; no one would buy the dashing Tom Wopat as a slovenly hillbilly.

With that in mind, Cousin Eddie Wopat would be more of the free-spirit, hippie type. He still drives an RV, still dresses strangely, and still lives by his own weird rules, but because he wants to, man, not because he’s a bumbling dipstick who doesn’t know any better. We’d add a brief backstory explaining that Cousin Eddie is independently wealthy—almost ridiculously so—thanks to some random, convoluted invention that was popular just long enough for him to make his fortune.

We’d take his family out of the equation, and have him be a roaming, roving ladies’ man. This would set up ample comedic opportunities for him to harmlessly flirt with Ellen Griswold (Beverly D’Angelo), his cousin Clark (Chevy Chase)’s wife. Eddie Wopat would do this will no ill intent, just to get his cousin’s goat, which it would never fail to do.

Additionally, we’d add another bit of backstory establishing that Eddie and Clark have a cordial but contentious history of competition. This would make the above land that much harder (and funnier), and set up additional gags where the cousins try to one up each other in holiday festiveness.

"Ha! Amateurs." - Clark Griswold

“Ha! Amateurs.” – Clark Griswold

Representative Scene

If you’ve seen Christmas Vacation, you undoubtedly remember the sledding scene, in which Clark, Rusty, Cousin Eddie, et al adjourn to the local sledding hill for a bit of outdoor hijinks. Our version would play out much the same, with one key element added.

From the outset, Cousin Eddie Wopat would challenge Clark to a downhill race. Clark would politely decline, but each time he set off on a run, Cousin Eddie would jump on his own sled and overtake Clark on the way down. At the bottom, he’d chalk up a point for himself and challenge Clark to a rematch. Clark would again decline and climb back up the hill, only to have the process repeat itself over and again.

Finally, Clark, having lost every “race”, would’ve had enough. That’s when he’d break out the aerosol can containing one of the experimental non stick coatings his company has been working on, spray the bottom of his saucer sled, and zip off down the hill at an insane speed.

After Clark had skidded the highway and crashed to a stop, Cousin Eddie Wopat, still standing at the top of the hill with Rusty, would remark, “Okay, that’s one point for your dad, I guess.”

Photo credit: Srini Sundarrajan via / CC BY