DECK THE HALLS (2006)
Starring Danny DeVito, Matthew Broderick, Kristin Davis, Kristin Chenoweth, Alia Shawkat, Dylan Blue, Kelly Aldridge, Sabrina Aldridge, Jorge Garcia, Fred Armisen, Gillian Vigman and Kal Penn.
Screenplay by Matt Corman, Chris Ord and Don Rhymer.
Directed by John Whitesell.
Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox. 95 minutes. Rated PG.
I have an idea. In the interest of peace on earth and good will for all mankind – what say we declare a moratorium on goofy Christmas comedies?
They show up every holiday season like a lump of coal in the stocking – loud, obnoxious, slapstick, supposedly about religion, but actually about all that is shallow and empty about the season. Granted, it’s not impossible to make a good Christmas comedy, but it is sad that the most recent ones I can think of are Elf (2003), The Ref (1994) and A Christmas Story (1983). That’s three in almost 25 years; four if I’m feeling really generous and add National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) to the list, though that’s a stretch.
Meanwhile, in recent years we’ve had a deluge of junk. Christmas with the Kranks, anyone? How about Surviving Christmas? Unaccompanied Minors? The Santa Clause 2? The Family Man? Trapped In Paradise? Jingle All the Way?
The list goes on and on. It’s enough to get a viewer in a humbug.
The latest, believe it or not, is scavenging with Christmas With the Kranks for the crumbs at the bottom of the stocking. (Nothing, hopefully, will ever again quite hit the depths of that horror show.)
The level of comedy on display here can be gleaned by the tagline on the movie poster: “There glows the neighborhood.” If you find that clever and funny then you’ll probably be all in for the movie. The rest of us are groaning; Oh, no, not another movie about suburban families who are battling over Christmas decorations.
Deck the Halls is the story of Steve Finch (Matthew Broderick), an essentially nice if way-too-uptight optometrist, who is very wrapped up in the his hometown in the holidays. He supervises the decorations, sets up the annual events and micro-manages his family’s yuletide experience. He is known in his picturesque little village as “Mr. Christmas.”
His reign as Mr. Christmas is thrown into great jeopardy when a loud, pushy, slightly obnoxious used car salesman named Buddy (Danny DeVito) moves in next door.
Buddy decides – for reasons that are so strained that I don’t think even he really understands them – that he wants his house to be seen from space. That’s right, from space! Like lots of aliens are up there looking in his neighborhood to see the holiday lights. This man is getting his self-worth from one of those satellite internet sites that show spy pics of homes. The fact that you can’t see his house is apparently symbolic of his feeling that he is invisible in the world. See, it’s so ridiculous that there was no point in trying to explain it…
This all leads to an all-out war between the new neighbors – a silly mano a mano of juvenile practical jokes and pranks. These lead to “funny” scenes like a camel spitting on a man, an elderly woman being knocked from her feet with a snowball and a super-firecracker flying around wild inside a house.
On the rare occasions when the guys try to play nice, things just get worse – like the scene where they decide to do some guy-bonding by making catcalls at a girls’ dance troupe in the town square, only to find out that the three girls (whose faces are strangely hidden the whole time) are their own children.
Yeah, letching on your daughters, that’s fine family viewing…
Granted, it’s slightly understandable. Buddy has two tall, leggy, supermodel-gorgeous daughters, played by identical twins Kelly and Sabrina Aldridge. They aren’t given much to do here, but they are a constant distraction throughout the film. You’re always wondering how Danny DeVito (who is short and not exactly the world’s most handsome man) and Kristin Chenoweth (who is only slightly taller than DeVito) could give birth to these willowy glamour girls who tower over them. Of course Alia Shawkat, who was so cute and complicated as Maeby in the late, lamented TV comedy Arrested Development, looks absolutely nothing like Matthew Broderick or Kristin Davis, either – but at least her daughter character is given a tiny bit more depth.
Speaking of the women, particularly hung out to dry here are the two actresses who have to play the wives of these feuding goofballs. Kristin Davis continues her post-Sex and the City streak of beautiful-but-quietly-exasperated suburban wives in cheesy comedies. (See also: The Shaggy Dog, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl.) Granted, she is not the greatest actress in the world, but she is beautiful and has a charming screen presence that deserves something more substantial.
Extremely talented Broadway baby Kristin Chenoweth is also stuck in the same bad place, often playing beautiful-but-loudly-exasperated (and exasperating) and just slightly low-class suburban women. (See also: RV, Bewitched.)
These two Kristins need to meet up with another Kris – Kris Kringle, who is never once mentioned in this Christmas film, now that I think of it – and ask for roles in better movies.
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 20, 2007.