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4 reviews, 13 user ratings

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Deck the Halls
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by Peter Sobczynski

"A Silent-But-Deadly Night At The Movies"
1 stars

If you took “Christmas With the Kranks,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and the underrated John Belushi-Dan Aykroyd vehicle “Neighbors” and tossed them into a blender set on puree, you would most likely wind up with several thousand feet of shredded celluloid and a thoroughly trashed blender. As a result of this action, you would most likely have to spend several hours on the phone with the various distributors of the films explaining what happened to their valuable property and an equal amount of time either waiting in a repair shop for your blender to be fixed or running out to your local appliance store in order to purchase a replacement. And yet, I can pretty much guarantee that even though these chores may sound utterly dismal, they will provide you with far more entertainment value than “Deck The Halls,” a strained bit of failed holiday whimsy that so completely misses the mark in every possible way that it makes “Santa With Muscles” look like “Miracle on 34th Street” by comparison.

A stricken-looking Matthew Broderick plays Steve Finch, a small-town optometrist with a Christmas fixation that makes the guy from “Christmas Evil” look like Scrooge by comparison–he runs the town’s Winterfest, has a different tradition for every day in December and forces his family–perky wife Kelly (Kristin Davis), surly daughter Madison (Alia Shawkat) and neurotic son Carter (Dylan Blue)–into those tacky holiday sweaters that everyone makes jokes about even though you rarely actually see them in real life. Alas, his Yuletide peace is shattered by the arrival of new neighbor Buddy Hall (Danny DeVito), a goofball with an improbably hot wife, Tia (Kristen Chenoweth), improbably hot twin daughters (Sabrina & Kelly Aldridge) and a major inferiority complex. To cure the latter, Buddy inexplicably decides one day to begin festooning his house with enough Christmas lights so that the resulting glow can actually be seen from outer space. As a result of this ludicrous endeavor (which makes even less sense if you even vaguely begin to estimate the costs of the lights and power, let alone the animals he acquires for the adjacent manger scene), Steve and Buddy become mortal enemies trying to outdo each other before remembering the true meaning of the holiday or some stuff like that.

Essentially a feature-length version of one throwaway gag in the middle of “Christmas Vacation,” “Deck the Halls” is a film that cynically tries to praise the simple joys of the holiday season within the framework of one of the tackiest and most off-putting Yuletide movies that I can recall seeing. It offers us the sight of watching two of the least pleasant screen characters in recent memory acting like jackasses for 90 minutes, which might have been funny if the filmmakers had gone further with the idea and made Broderick an unyielding tyrant and DeVito an unrelentingly gauche nightmare neighbor. Alas, we can’t have any unsympathetic characters in a major film–especially a holiday-themed one–so we learn that Steve’s Yuletide fixation is a result of having been denied it as a child and DeVito’s sudden mania is borne of a desire to prove himself to his family. Meanwhile, their respective wives shake their heads, furrow their brows and bond over their gradual distaste for the escalating feud. Me, I kept waiting for Davis to declare war on Chenoweth for moving into town and jeopardizing her position as the local MILF.

Of course, some of you may be thinking that an all-out MILF war is not the most appropriate material for a holiday comedy but I guarantee that it is nothing compared material that actually is on display. I guess that once you introduce a camel into the proceedings, you have to expect at least one scene in which someone finds himself on the business end of some unpleasant expectorations. However, there are plenty of jokes (including gags about the bimbette daughters, Tia’s career as a nude art model and the local sheriff being a cross-dresser) that are so smutty, especially within the confines of something being pitched at family audiences (or at least the families who couldn’t get into “Happy Feet”), that it makes you wonder who the film is being aimed at in the first place–the low point comes when Steve and Buddy take time out from their feud to lust after the rear ends of a trio of alluringly-clad holiday hotties until the girls turn around and–surprise!–turn out to be their daughters. Thanks to jokes like this, “Deck the Halls” may go down as perhaps the only Christmas movie ever made where the playing of “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” is actually one of the more tasteful elements.

As far as I can recall, I sort of laughed exactly once during “Deck the Halls” and that was at best an inadvertent laugh–Chenoweth informs DeVito that the ceiling in their bedroom is too low to install their stripper pole, which is funny only because the two of them are so short that a studio apartment next door to Bilbo Baggins would theoretically provide them with more than enough head space. Other than that, this is the kind of holiday film that is so bad that it stoops to including clips from such authentic classics as “Meet Me In St. Louis” and “Miracle on 34th Street” and even they wind up being somewhat tarnished by the comparison. Crass, crude and cloying–sometimes all at once (as during a finale in which the entire cast waves their lit cell phones in the air while singing “O Holy Night”)–this is a cinematic lump of coal that is so awful that it makes me think that I might have been a little too hard on “The Santa Clause 3" a couple of weeks ago.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15281&reviewer=389
originally posted: 11/26/06 02:06:24
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User Comments

11/01/09 art A POOR EXCUSE FOR A MOTION PITCURE! 1 stars
5/19/09 art THIS MOVIE STINK"S! 1 stars
11/27/08 little Red Such a waste of 9 bucks 1 stars
8/27/08 Shaun Wallner Devito is so Funny!! 5 stars
11/24/07 mike started out lame and only got more lame. just an annoying movie 1 stars
2/05/07 William Goss Christmas lights must make for swell nooses... 1 stars
1/14/07 Millie Maelstrom Could haters' REAL objection be that it DARES play songs referring to birth of Christ?!? 3 stars
1/12/07 Britney Spears into pruning hooks Maybe not a classic, but not nearly so bad as everyone seems to think. 3 stars
12/11/06 Tiffany It was ok. 4 stars
12/01/06 shagtex save your money or if in theatre sneak to another screen 1 stars
12/01/06 James Black CSE should be called "IT Sucks Balls" Devito is a perfect height to do the job. IT SUCKS !!!!!! 1 stars
11/24/06 Jeff Anderson Absolute crap, unfunny & depressing, but at least DeVito's having a great time! XMAS JUNK!! 1 stars
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  22-Nov-2006 (PG)
  DVD: 06-Nov-2007



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