November 25, 2006

Movie Review: Deck the Halls

This is the kind of movie that makes you loathe the holiday movie season. It is a movie that is devoid of heart and soul, it grinds the holiday season down to a competition of lights. It presents a story in a town of some alternate universe, probably also inhabited by the Kranks of Christmas with the Kranks, populated with paper thin characters and the superficial cliches of the season.

Watching the movie, I could not help but be reminded of the real Christmas light show video that circulated the internet last fall. In it a man in Ohio used an extraordinary number of lights in combination with 16 light controllers and some special software to conduct a light show setting his house lights to "Wizards in Winter" by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It was an amazing achievement, and it would not surprise me if it proved to be responsible, at least in part, for the genesis of this project. I can almost see it now, some executives sitting in a boardroom around a laptop playing the video. One of them says: "Hey! Let's make a movie about these lights." Another one seconds the idea, "Yes, we can have a Christmas competition between a pair of neighbors who don't really like each other and eventually become friends." The clincher comes when a third chimes in "Brilliant, we can get a couple of recognizable actors and have it ready in a month!"

Deck the Halls features Matthew Broderick as Steve Finch, successful eye doctor, and Mr. Christmas for his town. Each year everyone turns to him for their decoration suggestions, and he plans out his family's time so they can fit in all of the holiday activities, from hanging a wreath to caroling. His world starts to implode when Danny DeVito's Buddy Hall moves in across the street. Buddy is a guy always looking for the next thing to occupy his short attention span. His focus turns to Christmas lights, he becomes infatuated with making his house visible from space.

Buddy's efforts to light his house has another affect, he usurps Steve's Christmas mantle. This change in the town's dynamic pushes Steve to the brink. The two warring neighbors wage battle in ever escalating pranks which threaten to tear their families apart. Of course, since this is a cheery family movie, the two kiss and make up before the final credits roll, in an attempt to give you that uplifting feeling of the season.

It is just a shame that for as talented as members of the cast are, they are unable to bring any real life or reason to care into the mix. The characters are flat and not interesting in the least. No reasons are given to care about these people, where they are and what they are doing. The movie doesn't have depth or heart, it is more interested in how many lame gags they can throw at the screen, serving them up the snowballs and pelting the audience with them.

I do have to admit there was one moment that elicited a chuckle from me. That was the segment with the "Santa Babies" that was seen in one of the trailers. Steve and Buddy are whistling at some suggestively dressed Santa helpers on stage. As Steve shouts "Who's your Daddy?" They turn around to be revealed as Steve and Buddy's daughters. In horror, Steve exclaims "I'm the Daddy!" I am sorry to have spoiled that for you, but think of it as being saved the experience. Now you can focus on more worthwhile Christmas films.

Bottomline. I really should have known better. Deck the Halls does nothing to spread seasonal cheer, it does not embody the spirit of the holiday. It is a movie that sucks the life out and makes a weak attempt to stop the hemmoraghing at the end with a half hearted climax which brings everyone together. You'd be better of seeing the amazingly mediocre Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, than this mess.

Not Recommended.


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