Deck The Halls

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a turkey and you won’t find a bigger one than this in the current crop of festive releases.

Cute, brash little Buddy (Danny DeVito) is a car salesman who wants to make his mark on the world, literally. He plans to put thousands of Christmas lights on his house so that it can be seen from outer space. Hey, cool idea Buddy.

His traditionalist neighbour, the anally retentive Steve (Matthew Broderick) has other ideas. Christmas, in Steve’s opinion, is all about ugly sweaters, home grown Christmas trees and Advent calendars.

Will Buddy get his lights up in time for Christmas? Will Steve stop him? Will they both learn heart warming lessons about the spirit of Christmas? Will the boredom send us to sleep before the sentimentality makes us throw up? One thing’s for sure: don’t go expecting any laughs.

They say:

Los Angeles Times: “Like a fatally snarled string of Christmas lights, Deck The Halls promises holiday cheer but delivers only frustration.”

San Francisco Chronicle: “The elves who cobbled together Deck The Halls were working strictly with the scraps from the floor of Santa’s workshop.”

Washington Post: “I literally did not count a single laugh in the whole aimless schlep except for the hucksters who made it, on their way to the bank.”

We say:

Poor old Danny DeVito! There’s no pro like an old pro and, no matter how bad the script or how non-existent the gags, he works his little socks off trying to make things work. Sadly, not even Santa himself could magic this film into anything other than it is: an unoriginal, unfunny and uninteresting waste of celluloid.

Matthew Broderick is equally professional in trying to find the humour in his role but these two fine actors are just not given any material to work with so they are forced to spend the film thrashing around for laughs that never come.

Make no mistake, Deck The Halls is an idea and joke free zone. The producers obviously set out to cash in on the festive season assuming that everyone is so befuddled and emotionally exhausted by the whole Christmas bandwagon that any old rubbish can draw us into the cinema and earn them loads of dollars.

It’s as if they came up with a list of minimal requirements for a Christmas hit. All you need is snow, it’s pretty and it’s always good for people to fall over in; Christmas trees for the “Ah, don’t you just love Christmas?” factor and for the family guilt thing – ours is bigger than yours; and, not forgetting, a continual soundtrack of festive music, to supply the emotional spirit without having to come up with anything original.

Add to the mix two contrasted families – one vulgar and lively, the other conservative and uptight – and all you need is a soppy Christmassy denouement and, if you can think of them, a few jokes.

The trouble is that it just isn’t funny. Buddy may want his Christmas lights to be seen from outer space but it’s not the lights, it’s the gags that we see coming a mile off.

The idea is so ridiculous, and, knowledgeable electricians will tell you, impractical, that we simply don’t care. Buddy wants to make a mark but can’t see that he’s already done so by marrying a blousy blond with a heart (the perfectly cast Kristin Chenoweth) who is just the right height (four foot nine) and sired a pair of identically gorgeous but terminally thick twin daughters (Sabrina and Kelly Aldridge, who are so sexy, leggy and pouting and such bad actors that, if they appeared in a soft porn film, the makers would be accused of unoriginality). What else can a man want? Forget the Christmas baubles mate.

Similarly, Steve (Matthew Broderick), with his sad longing for a traditional family gathering, just comes across as pathetic and unattractively intolerant. Admittedly in the family stakes, he doesn’t have Buddy’s advantages.

He’s married to that irritating actress out of Sex In The City (which one? you ask), no, not Sarah Jessica Parker (that’s Matthew Broderick’s “real” wife) but the simpering Kristin Davis who reprises her role as a gawky, prim middle class princess.

Worse than that, instead of having beautiful twins, his standard couple of kids consist of a moody adolescent daughter (Alicia Shawkat, the moody adolescent daughter out of television’s Arrested Development) – a bit of an ugly duckling, inevitably – and a whiney, prepubescent son (the wonderfully but improbably named Dylan Blue).

Whilst we’re collecting irritating actors out of television series, there is also a guest appearance from the annoying fat guy from Lost (Jorge Garcia) who, alone in this movie, seems to be underplaying his role. He is one of the local “characters” in the cutsey, New England small town where the snow is always crisp and white and the food is always wholesome.

All the other residents are wacky in a reassuringly folksy kinda way. They include an ineffectual cross-dressing police chief, the inevitable dotty old lady who falls over in the snow and an accident-prone mayor who can fall down with the same side-splitting hilarity as any clown from your local circus.

Without spoiling the ending, it does that for it itself, be warned that there are a lot of watery eyes, candles, kisses and easily digested moral messages before Buddy’s missus launches into song with a sugary rendition of The Holy City which, if there were a just God around this Christmastide, should have provoked a bolt of lightning from above reducing the whole sorry scene to ashes.

If you want better entertainment for your kids this Christmas, take them round a supermarket on Christmas Eve.

Cert PG

Danny DeVito, Matthew Broderick, Kristin Davis, Kristin Chenoweth

John Whitesell

Running time:
95 minutes

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