Though Deck the Halls lost out on the 2006 Razzie for Worst Excuse for Family Entertainment, it proves itself a worthy nominee. A tepid, unfunny waste of film, it does little to get you into a festive mood. That there is only one truly spiteful character, Steve Finch, the local Christmas expert played by Matthew Broderick, should not count as a positive. Steve hopes to pick up his family’s sagging spirits by going all out on the holiday traditions this year, even more so than usual, and he’s the one to sympathize with in the early going. His young son is experiencing a mid-life crisis, his daughter (Alia Shawkat) is just another grumpy teenager, and his wife, Kelly (Kristin Davis) is going nowhere as a cookbook editor.
Enter new neighbors from hell, at least that’s what Buddy (Danny DeVito) and Tia Hall (Kristin Chenoweth) appear to be the moment they crunch their way down the quiet suburban street with the moving van, in the middle of the night no less. Buddy bangs on the door the next morning, a bit grabby and overzealous, and is joined by his zippy wife who alludes to the stripper pole being installed in their bedroom. When their twin teenage daughters appear with shorts that skirt their butt cheeks (the most clothes they’ve worn all year, according to their mother), it’s a sure bet that this family is going to make life miserable for the square Finch family.
But when Buddy reveals himself to be nothing more threatening than a disappointed car salesman who wants something more out of life, the inevitable neighbor-a-neighbor struggle loses heat. Suddenly you’re reminded that it’s Christmastime, or that you’re a decent human being, and you want Buddy to achieve something great too, even if it is to make his house so brightly lit that it’s visible from outer space. Meanwhile, all Steve can think about is how Buddy’s stealing his “Christmas Guy” title and thunder. I think he’s petty, his wife and children think he’s petty, the whole town thinks he’s petty, but that’s not enough to stop anyone from turning Steve’s lame, one-man attempt at revenge and sabotage into a full length movie.
While he’s waging his war, everyone else has their eyes on Buddy, including Kal Penn as a British satellite monitor in a random and amusing surprise appearance. Lest we get sentimental about his attempt, however, you should remember that decking out one’s house in so many Christmas lights that it can be seen from space is a ludicrous idea. Was there nothing else Buddy could have done to give his life meaning? Perhaps organize the largest teddy bear drive for the children’s hospital or dressing up as Santa and secretly distributing gifts to the needy? He is never mean-spirited in his quest but the whole affair also seems inconsequential when the most he’ll really get is fifteen minutes of fame and a lot of camel dung on his front lawn. The sentimental ending doesn’t do much to redeem the wasted ninety minutes, but you will be rewarded with a brief scene where Chenoweth leads the neighborhood in Christmas carols under a snowy, midnight sky.
Prod: Arnon Milchan, Michael Costigan, John Whitesell
Dir: John Whitesell
Writer: Matt Corman, Chris Ord, Don Rhymer
Cast: Danny DeVito, Matthew Broderick, Kristin Chenoweth, Kristin Davis, Alia Shawkat, Dylan Blue, Jorge Garcia, Kal Penn
Time: 93 min
Country: United States