Cookie-cutter Christmas movie falls flat

Deck The Halls

on November 22, 2006 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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It's priggish Matthew Broderick versus obnoxious Danny DeVito in a ho-hum Christmas movie that adds nothing of interest to the holiday film pantheon. Broderick plays uptight Massachusetts dentist Steve Finch, who is more than a little vexed when car salesman Buddy Hall (DeVito) moves in across the street. Not only are Buddy and his family pushy and overbearing, but Buddy is also determined to create the splashiest Christmas light display the world has ever seen—one that, in fact, can be seen from space. As the lights go up, so does Steve's blood pressure, and, despite his calm wife's entreaties, he decides to declare war on his new neighbor by sabotaging his pet project.

Deck the Halls could have made a mark if it displayed even a modicum of wit, humor or imagination. Alas, these are all in short supply here. What's plentiful are stupid pratfalls, obvious plotting, cozy homilies and a big helping of saccharine moralizing as everyone comes to their senses and makes peace just in time for the big day.

They don't come any more calculated than Deck the Halls, and the lead actors seem to know it, offering pale, rote variations on personas that we've seen them do much better in movies like Addicted to Love and Get Shorty. As their wives, Kristin Davis and Kristin Chenoweth do bring a few sparks to their parts, but they're quickly relegated to passive observers of the main action, as is pretty much everyone else in the cast. Obviously, there's a need for some family-friendly fare at this time of year, but would it be too much to ask that those movies be a little more creative and original than this Christmas dud? Distributor: Fox
Cast: Danny DeVito, Matthew Broderick, Kristin Davis and Kristin Chenoweth
Director: John Whitesell
Screenwriters: Matt Corman & Chris Ord and Don Rhymer
Producers: Arnon Milchan, Michael Costigan and John Whitesell
Genre: Comedy
Rating: PG for some crude and suggestive humor, and for language
Running time: 95 min.

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