Deck the Halls
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
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
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
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: October 20, 2007.