a2 + b2 = c2
Π = c/d
See, sometimes a formula can be fantastic. Really, really useful. Not necessarily a bad thing at all. I’m pointing this out so that when I start talking about how formulaic I found Deck the Halls you’ll hopefully realise that doesn’t mean I’m going to dismiss it out of hand.
Movies can be very formulaic, and Christmas movies possibly more than any other type. It’s what you do with that formula that matters. I’m not talking about creating a film and just setting it at Christmas (Gremlins, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon) or films that play with the genre (Go, Rare Exports, Eyes Wide Shut) but ones where you pretty much know the story, but it’s done so well it doesn’t matter. Something like Love Actually, Scrooged or National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.
I mention National Lampoons last as this is kind of what Deck The Halls seems to want to be. Matthew Broderick is Steve ‘Mr Christmas’ Finch, who’s obsessive management is designed to create the perfect Christmas but really just frustrates his family. Danny DeVito is Buddy Hall (Remember the title? Cleve, huh?), a fast talking, wise mouthed… Look, he’s Danny DeVito but not being the bad guy for a change. So, surprisingly these two collide when Buddy, in his brash, carefree manor attempts to put so many lights on his house it can be seen from space. This is because he’s never accomplished anything. Or something. I don’t know. Ignoring just how criminally inane this basic premise is, let’s just keep going shall we?
What follows is one up-man ship as zany stunt leads to whacky happening leads to hilarious mishap leads to catastrophe. The two mean loose their wives (Kristin Chenoweth and Kristin Davis) due to their bickering but put aside their differences to win them back. Steve learns the value of Christmas, Buddy learns his family was his greatest accomplishment, and there is no real consequences from them burning down their houses or spending all their money on fairy lights.
Actually, I have no real issue with any of that, as I said formula can be good. (Though it takes me 15 minutes to untangle my tree lights every year even if I put them back carefully. The rate at which these guys can work is AMAZING!) However if you are going to do run out a plot we all already know, then your set pieces need to be TOP NOTCH. Ooops…
Some bits are ok, I did giggle when Steve woke up naked next to Buddy, who had stripped him down so they could share body heat. And when Chenoweth breaks into song at one unbelievable point, she is staggering, but the rest is just far to run of the mill to make this a holiday favourite for me. I just don’t think it’s all that funny.
Year of Release: 2006
Country of Origin: US
Studio: Regency Enterprises
Running Time: 93 min
Director: John Whitesell
Producers: Arnon Milchan, Michael Costigan, John Whitesell
Screenplay: Matt Corman, Chris Ord, Don Rhymer
Photography: Mark Irwin
Music: George S. Clinton
Cast: Danny DeVito, Matthew Broderick, Kristin Davis, Kristin Chenoweth, Mac Davis
Tomorrow it’s George C Scotts Christmas Carol. The day after that the 2000 version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. And then on Saturday Fred Clause.