'Deck the Halls': A Holiday Flick Only Scrooge Could Love
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Ahh, the holidays! Why, it warms my heart to think of all that money to be made from you fools. You'll give it up to anybody who puts on a Santa hat or throws some treacly Xmas Muzak on the Muzak blaster. All those red and green lights must put you in some sort of vapor lock, leading you to line up and offer your hard-earned cash to hucksters. It's a wonderful life!
Here's the one that's going to drain your pockets this holiday, suckers. It's called "Deck the Halls." Ho, ho and ho for the shekels it'll suck out of your wallets while it preaches hypocritical gibberish and sends you home depressed and wondering why they picked on you. The answer is: If He didn't want you sheared, He wouldn't have made you sheep!
From Hollywood, Calif., the most brutally competitive city on Earth, this movie preaches the message: Competition is bad. Can't we all just get along? And, just for good measure, it throws in a little class warfare. God, I love the smell of napalm in the morning.
Anyway, it's about two suburbanites who, pathologically over-connected to Christmas, become locked in an almost to-the-death battle over who will celebrate joy with the most joyless, industrial-strength, mega-wattage methodology. One, a wimpy WASP, has long been the Xmas czar of his annoyingly picturesque town, and feels he is entitled to govern Christmas. The new neighbor across the street, a lower-class usurper without the moderating mechanism of High Anglican repression, seeks to take over the holiday and turn his house -- also located in one of those dreary mock-"Leave It to Beaver" enclaves where the solitary white candle in the window is the only approved and tasteful method of expression -- into an Armageddon of blazing lights, a Roy G. Biv kaleidoscope of hues visible to the cool Martian intelligence who study us from afar as they prepare their invasion. (When are those boys going to get here and end our misery? I hope by next Christmas!)
Cast? You're thinking it has to be Tim Allen. It should have been Tim Allen, yes, but Allen was busy crashing and burning in his own cheesy holiday spew, "The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause." Too bad Chevy Chase got old, Judge Reinhold got small and Chris Farley is no longer with us. Poor Matthew Broderick is dragooned into the wispy wishy-washy WASPy part, mincing and whining in the various pairs of plaid pants he is forced to wear. As for that seething unlanced boil of proletarian fury, where is Mickey Rourke when you need him? Well, the Rourkester got too weird for middle-class mush like this, so Danny DeVito, once a promising director and before that a delightful character actor, came aboard.
There are some innocents -- perhaps I should not name them in the spirit of protecting the vulnerable, but duty compels at least a quick scan through a cast that includes Kristin (Get a new agent, honey!) Chenoweth and Kristin Davis. Chenoweth seems particularly wasted; a big Broadway star with one of those atom-powered voices (she's tiny and beautiful and sounds like Ethel Merman on steroids), she has yet to get a film role that will sell her fabulous talents to the masses. This sure ain't it. As for Davis, she seems to be the new Elizabeth Perkins. Poor Davis (best known as Charlotte on "Sex and the City") spends most of the movie in pajamas, as cute and cuddly and de-sexualized as imaginable. Memo to actresses: If you want a big career, don't let them film you in pajamas.
So anyway, "Dreck the Halls" . . . " Deck the Halls" watches as the two men go all territorial on the Christmas zeitgeist, with the vicious little rodent Broderick calling in the cops, while the bloated if tiny psychopath DeVito keeps upping the wattage. Whenever the director, John Whitesell, doesn't know what to do, he throws in some absurdist action sequence, such as a runaway sleigh pulled by 145-year-old horses that yank Broderick through downtown where he wrecks all the Christmas finery without hurting anyone.
Now, if the movie had any guts at all, it would end up with Broderick and DeVito dead on the front lawn, one having pushed a bayonet into the guts of the other one just as the second brought the baseball bat down on the first one's skull. Okay? That's the internal logic of the picture. Do you think they go there? Or do you think they both see the Error in Their Ways and darn it all, become friends in the end to the tune of cash registers doing a ka-ching ode to joy?
I literally didn't count a single laugh in the whole aimless schlep, except for the hustlers who made it, on their way to the bank.
Deck the Halls (100 minutes, at area theaters) is rated PG for crude and suggestive humor, mild profanity and stylized destruction.