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Deck the Halls
The harsh complexities of suburban life
Deck the Halls
Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito Star in "Deck the Halls".
OPENING WEEKEND: $20,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $80,000,000
OTHER PREVIEWS: Alatriste (7/10)
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

August 2nd, 2006: Steve (Matthew Broderick) is a typical, suburban dad, blessed with an attractive wife (Kristin Davis), a lovely daughter (Alia Shawkat), and a wonderful home. His perfectly organized life would be just about ideal if it were not for his obnoxious neighbor, Danny (Danny DeVito). To say that the two are polar opposites would be an understatement. Danny’s loud and outlandish personality is the type that can get under anyone’s skin. He doesn’t mean to offend; it’s just the way he is. When Danny decides to put up the world’s largest Christmas light display during the holiday season, the ensuing chaos drives Steve to the breaking point. He will do anything to thwart his neighbor’s attention-seeking ploy and the two are soon butting heads like never before. Oddly enough, Steve decides to beat Danny at his own game and starts to flaunt his home with an elaborate decoration of his own.

What to Expect: My eyes are rolling as we speak. Where to begin with this one? I suppose I will start with the two lead actors. I will never make the argument that they are not fitting for this project. Matthew Broderick has played the “plain white bread” guy on numerous occasions. This part just reeks of the same passive, harmless guy act he put on in The Cable Guy, when he had to deal with an eccentric new buddy from hell, played with a whole new level of annoyance by Jim Carrey. Of course, he’s perfectly able to turn up his mean-spirited, competitive side when necessary, just as he did in Election. All he needs to do is blend those two performances together and he’ll be an ideal contrast to Danny DeVito, who is likely to be the lively center of the film. His character strikes me as the type of guy who overcompensates for the everyday problems he faces with outrageous ideas. It’s easy to see how he could be the source of aggravation to anyone, but DeVito’s high-energy delivery is likely to keep him somewhat likeable. That will prove to be vital in the film’s closing moments when the tables are turned and Danny has to look like the harmless, jovial fellow, while Steve is the one taking things a bit too far. As is typical of most Hollywood productions, both men are lucky to have wives far younger and more attractive then them. Kristin Davis and Kristin Chenoweth play Steve and Danny’s wives, respectively.

Article continues below

The screenplay was penned by two first-time writers and has since been retouched by Don Rhymer, whose last credit was this year’s Big Momma’s House 2, which was also directed by John Whitesell. Seeing that Rhymer’s resume includes The Honeymooners, The Santa Clause 2, and the first Big Momma’s House and Whitesell’s past works feature Malibu’s Most Wanted and See Spot Run, I think we are witnessing the early stages of a new and terrifying partnership. Just think of what the two will be able to accomplish when they collaborate. Having said that, both are simply capitalizing on the mainstream audience’s endless void for the same banal, moronic, instantly gratifying, but thoroughly weak humor. I don’t see any reason why Deck the Halls would not continue in the same tradition.

Everything about this production represents the bad side of the Hollywood moviemaking machine – the side that wants to pander to the audience with phony and insincere material. The story is supposed to be taking place in New England, yet it was filmed in Canada. All right, Canada seems like an ideal choice for the wintry setting, even though it is obvious that the shooting location was selected primarily for its relative cheapness. Oddly enough, the producers decided to film during the summer, when even in Canada fake snow is necessary to get the desired effect. Then there is the actual story itself. The official plot synopsis released to the press begins as follows: “A family comedy about one-upsmanship, jealousy, clashing neighbors, home decoration... and the true spirit of the holidays.” One-upsmanship, jealousy, and clashing neighbors are exactly the sort of things that family comedies should avoid being about. This one lures in with a dishonest storyline that will showcase the main characters at their worst for the majority of the picture (because that’s what people want to see), before trivializing and excusing their actions in one of those sappy endings that instantly transforms them into best friends (because that’s what people want to see). Everyone hopes to have the ability to be hurtful to another individual without having to face the consequences. Sorry, but that only happens in movies like this. I’m reminded of the appallingly bad Arnold Schwarzenegger holiday comedy, Jingle All the Way, which, throughout the majority of its duration, featured reprehensible behavior from the main characters toward each other. Nonetheless, all were spared from any real punishment in the final moments of the film, when it was decided that they had all learned their lesson.

In Conclusion: Principal photography ended very recently, which means that the filmmakers will have less than four months to go through the entire post-production process. That implies that this is nothing more than just a rushed effort to make a release date and let clever and timely advertising do the rest. People turn into suckers for this sort of material during the holiday season and Deck the Halls will be happy to oblige. I would expect to be infuriated by the film, yet I admit that if it were ever to air on television, I would probably sit through it, mumbling to myself and shaking my head, just as I did with Jingle All the Way. There’s something about this sort of simplistic behavior that one cannot turn away from, much like reality television.

Similar Titles: Jingle All the Way, Home Alone 2: Alone in New York, The Cable Guy, Envy
November 22nd, 2006 (wide)
November 6th, 2007 (DVD)

20th Century Fox

John Whitesell

Matthew Broderick, Danny DeVito, Kristin Chenoweth, Kristin Davis, Alia Shawkat, Lochlyn Munro, Fred Armisen, Sabrina Aldridge, Kelly Aldridge, Nicola Peltz

Total: 33 vote(s).

Comedy, Kids & Family

Click here to view site

Rated PG for some crude and suggestive humor, and for language

95 min






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