December 5, 2007

DVD Review: Deck the Halls

Christmas movies are a dime a dozen. The problem is that the majority of them are downright awful, or they are covered in sappy over sentimentality that kills any real emotion. Good Christmas movies are like searching for a needle in a haystack. However, when a good one is found, everybody will find it, it may take a few years, but they will be uncovered and the world will flock to them year after year. Among those films are Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, and Elf. Yes, there are also the classics, Miracle on 34th Street and It's a Wonderful Life come to mind, but those other three are among my favorites. That brings me to Deck the Halls. Where does it fall? Well, let's just say that it won't be joining my "Favorite Christmas Movie" list any time soon.

Deck the Halls is the sort of movie that sucks all of the spirit out of the season. It seems to have contempt for the spirit of the holidays as it focuses securely on the superficiality of the season's decorations. Sure, the end tries to bring about a spirit-lifting climax to the conflict and send the crowds off into the night with, hopefully, a smile on their face.

I had the displeasure of seeing this in the theater. It is a year later and my feelings have not softened for this Christmas turkey. As much as I dislike the film, there is one good use for it, other than being a coaster that is. If you ever feel yourself overcome by the Christmas spirit, to the point where you cannot stand it and are unable to find a release, reach for a copy of Deck the Halls. Before the final credits roll you will be wanting to claw your eyes out, Christmas spirit will no longer be a problem.

The central focus of the movie is a conflict between Matthew Broderick's Steven Finch and Danny DeVito's Buddy Hall. Buddy comes to town and sets his sites on Finch's position as Mr. Christmas. The battle comes down to an ever-escalating contest of Christmas lights.

The lights are clearly inspired by this YouTube video. 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 flashing to "Wizards in Winter" by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Of course, Deck the Halls takes this idea and takes it to ridiculous heights that go way beyond the potentially entertaining and end up merely annoying.

The cast is has a lot of talent, however they are unable to bring any real life to the mix. There is nothing interesting about these characters. Despite all efforts by Broderick and Devito, plud Kristen Davis and Kristen Chenoweth, there is no reason to care about any of them. The movie doesn't have depth or heart — it is more interested in how many lame gags it can throw at the screen, serving them up as snowballs and pelting the audience with them.

I will admit there was one moment that was kind of funny, and it was in the trailer. That was the segment with the "Santa Babies." 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!" With that out of the way, you can focus on more worthwhile Christmas films.

Audio/Video. The copy I have is a burned pre-release copy (I know this has been out for a few weeks, I'm just a bit behind). This being the case, I cannot speak to how well the technical quality of this disk compares to the production copy you will find on the shelves. It didn't look all that bad, but I do not wish to mislead.

Extras. The release has a couple of features accompanying it, the featurettes are presented in non=anamorphic widescreen on this promo disk, although the menus for both wide and full screen sides are anamorphic, go figure:
  • Commentary. The track features director John Whitesell and Danny DeVito. I sampled the track and found it to be rather dull. They have plenty to talk about with regards to the shoot and details surrounding it, but it is pretty dry. This appears on both sides.
  • Construction of the Homes. This was actually kind of cool. The two houses were built from the ground up in Vancouver, where they were shooting and then built a framed tent over the two to give them more darkness, as there is only 6 hours of darkness there. It was an amazing amount of work. (4 minutes, widescreen side)
  • Lighting Design. Take a peek inside how they controlled all of the LED lights and designed the look of amazing house designs. (3 minutes, widescreen side)
  • Winterizing/Shooting a Christmas Movie in July. This is a fluffy little look at the use of ground up paper for snow and interviews with the cast on how they pretended to be cold when it was really hot out. (4 minutes, widescreen side)
  • Trailers. There are two trailers, neither for the film on the disk. They are the colorized (yuck) version of Miracle on 34th Street and Home Alone: Family Fun Edition. (widescreen side)
  • Dylan Blue Cast Interviews. Dylan plays Matthew Broderick's son. The camera follows him around as he conducts brief interviews with the cast. (4 minutes, fullscreen side)
  • Deleted Scenes. Three deleted scenes are included, none of which would have made the movie any better. (5 minutes, fullscreen side)
  • Bloopers. Standard collection of flubs. (6.5 minutes, fullscreen side)

Bottomline. Deck the Halls does nothing to spread cheer and 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.

Not Recommended.


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