Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Whoever green-lit 'Deck the Halls' should be decked

Deck the Halls (2006)
Starring: Matthew Broderick, Danny DeVito, Kristen Davis, and Kristen Chenoweth
Director: John Whitesell
Rating: One of Ten Stars

"Deck the Halls" revolves around a pair of fathers feuding over who's going to have the best Christmas decorations in town... and the supposed hilariaty that ensues when the feud gets out of hand. I say "supposed" because this film is over-long, unfunny--even the slapstick is more groan-inducing than chuckle-inspiring--and populated by characters that are so badly written that, struggle as they may, the actors simply can't imbue them with life, let along the Christmas Spirit.

Oh... and you can add to the fact that most of what happes in the movie feels like it was cribbed from "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." So, if you want to see a whacky, somewhat uncouth Christmas comedy, why not stick with the film "Deck the Halls" was copied from?

(All that said, it's been pointed out to me that the movie did redeem itself ever-so-slightly at the end. But, as nice an ending as it is, with a little bit of good cheer creeping in, it is far too little to make up for the rest of the film.)

If anyone starts a class-action suit so the poor souls who saw this film on its opening day, please keep me in the loop. I want my money back AND something for my pain and suffering. Meanwhile, though, you out there who are reading this should take my warning and NOT see this movie. (Although recommending it to relatives you'd rather not have to spend the Holidays with would be a sure-fire way to get out of it. It'll be Guy Faulkes Day (or later) before they'll be wiling to speak to you again.)

Underrated holiday film

Jingle All the Way
Starring: Arnold Schwartzenegger, Phil Hartman, Sindbad, Rita Wilson, Robert Conrad, Jake Lloyd, and Jim Belushi
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Howard (Schwartzenegger) feels guilty for having neglected his son, Jamie(Lloyd), in favor of work. In an attempt to make it up to him, he vows to get any gift Jamie wants for Christmas... and Jamie asks for a Turbo Man action figure. On Christmas Eve, Howard goes in search of the toy, only to discover that it's the hottest gift of the season, and EVERY parent in town seems to be looking for one, and no stores have any in stock. What follows is a quest that makes Frodo's trip to Mordor look like a walk on the beach.

As a film mocking the obsession we have in American with making up for our shortcomings in our relationships by going overboard on gift-giving during Christmas, this film succeeds admirably. It also serves as a nice bit of commentary on the rampant commercialism during the Christmas season.

It's a little less successful as a comedy. I love the way the movie keeps escalating and the way the situaitons Howard finds himself in trying to get a Turbo Man doll get more and more absurd, but I find virtually every character in the film more annoying than amusing. The exception is Wilson, who is funny and sympathetic as Howard's wife who has to fend off advances from her sleazy neighbor (Hartman) while Howard searches to the toy.

The film's lead, Schwartzenegger, is passable in the part of the ever-increasingly crazed Howard, but he did a far better job in "Kindergarten Cop" and even "Twins" than he does here.

Still, the film offers some nice chuckles. It may not be the best of Christmas movies, but it's passable. (Oh, and make sure sure you watch all the way to the end of the final credits. There's a bit more of the film after them.)