Deck the Halls is total shit!
Tra la la la la la la la la
I wish I could forget I ever watched it
Tra la la la la la la la la
This is simply crap unbridled
Tra la la la la la la la la la
Watching it made me suicidal
Tra la la la la la la la la

Got any kids who’ve been naughty? If so, then Deck the Halls is their present. It has become a time-honoured tradition for Hollywood studios to distribute below-par Christmas movies as the festive season approaches in an attempt to extract as much money as possible from the naïve movie-going public. Of all the abysmal Christmas movies in recent memory, Deck the Halls is definitely among the worst. It even fails to meet the low standards set by Jingle All the Way and Christmas with the Kranks. It’s unfunny, juvenile, remarkably tedious, painfully formulaic, hackneyed, and infused with messages regarding the holiday season that are shallow and pointless. It’s topped off with embarrassing mushiness, and a climax so terribly insipid it makes Christmas with the Kranks seem like It’s a Wonderful Life in comparison. The film will even make one want to renounce Christmas altogether. It’s simply the definitive Christmas present for any naughty child – far nastier than a lump of coal. Deck the screenwriters instead!

As for the story: Steve Finch (Broderick) is a successful optometrist living in a quaint Massachusetts town. As December sets in and Christmas draws closer, Steve finds his title of Mr. Christmas being challenged by his new neighbour Buddy (DeVito). At Christmastime Steve usually organises small town events, but nothing too ostentatious – he coordinates carolling expeditions, he’s in charge of the tree in town square, he owns a Christmas tree farm, and unofficially presides over the annual Winterfest carnival. Meanwhile, Buddy develops a goal of his own for Christmas that’s anything but ostentatious: cover his house with so many lights that it can be seen from space. This garish display offends Steve, and thus their December battle commences as they vie for the title of Mr. Christmas. One-upmanship and jealousy ensues as their 60-minute pissing contest takes shape.

Deck the Halls contains unrealistic characters living in a world entirely devoid of logic. Case in point: in a phoney display of apology, Buddy gives Steve a new car from the dealership he works for. Steve is utterly gob-smacked by the generosity, and out of guilt he repents for apparently misjudging Buddy. As it turns out, Buddy forged Steve’s signature on some legal documents, meaning Steve has officially PURCHASED the car and must now pay for it. This is about six different types of illegal, but does Steve ever go to the police to sort things out like a smart person? Nope. Instead, the men decide to settle matters by having an ice-skating race. No matter who wins the race, Buddy is still not charged with fraud, theft, or forgery – all of which could be proven, and all of which could put a man in prison for a long time. It’s offensive to the intelligence.

Deck the Halls is clearly intended to be a light-hearted family comedy, hence the PG rating. So why are the two protagonists such unredeemable bastards? In black comedies like Bad Santa, contemptible protagonists are acceptable due to tone and target audience. But in a family romp it’s confusing for the kids who’d come under the false impression that revenge is right. There’s an unforgiveable character cliché here too – Buddy is annoying, manipulative, greedy and contemptible, yet Steve is the only one capable of seeing that. Everyone else thinks Buddy is delightful, and Steve is grilled for disliking his neighbour. But the more Steve attempts to show everyone what a jerk Buddy is (and he IS a jerk; a lying, thieving, crass buffoon) the more it backfires, making him look bad and making everyone love Buddy all the more.

A typical scene depicts either Buddy or Steve (or both) attempting to handle some sort of situation before something foolish and predictable transpires. This formula being reused over and over again makes up Deck the Halls. Trees are burned, dads perversely leer at their teenage daughters without realising it, and a character gets covered in animal excrement. But it’s obvious that, despite so many disasters, there will be a reunion of sorts at the end of the film and amends will be made. Why? Because it’s Christmas! All is forgiven, right…? Fuck no! It’s impossible to forgive the filmmakers for wasting one’s time with recycled clichés and unfunny set-pieces. It spends over an hour establishing Buddy as a despicable wretch, and then the audience is expected to start liking him because Steve is dumb enough to be conned into forgiving the guy? In the real world, Buddy would be forced to reform; to admit his wrongdoing and plead for forgiveness. In this twisted wreckage of Hollywood excess, however, somehow STEVE is the one who needs to change his ways. Just when one thinks/hopes the superficiality is over, the population of the town pull out their cell phones to use as lights, because’s Buddy’s Christmas light display fails…

The fact that this stuff sticks out while watching Deck the Halls is an indicator of the quality of the humour. The lack of reality could be forgiven if only there were laughs to be had, but this film ain’t funny, nor is it fun or enjoyable. Matt Corman and Chris Ord were credited for the screenplay, and this is their first Hollywood credit. Boy, their inexperience is obvious. Every amateurish trick designed to entertain is employed, such as an expensive, prized family vase mentioned early into the film that one can pretty much guarantee will play a part somewhere in the third act to provide a giggle. Furthermore, characters appear to mysteriously recite one-liners when they’re alone. A prime example of this is a scene during which a young boy, upon seeing two hot girls undress through a window, exclaims “This is going to be the best Christmas ever!” despite the fact he’s all alone. Who are you talking to, you horny little brat? Yourself? The audience? The telegraph pole you’re perched on? The Lord?

Once the script was completed, Don Rhymer conducted rewrites and John Whitesell was hired as the director. Garbage of a monumental degree was destined to be born from this point forward. Whitesell had previously directed Calendar Girl, See Spot Run, and Malibu’s Most Wanted. Rhymer wrote movies like Carpool, The Santa Clause 2 and Agent Cody Banks 2. Rhymer and Whitesell had also collaborated previously for Big Momma’s House 2. These two are purveyors of hopeless crap – they’re some of the worst “talent” Hollywood has ever seen. Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito appear to give it their all as the protagonists here, but the actors merely play the umpteenth versions of their long-established screen personas. It’s a very tragic state of affairs indeed when someone of DeVito’s stature can’t get a laugh… Those tempted to give this film a shot as a mark of respect for Broderick and/or DeVito should think twice. If you’re a fan of one or both performers, you simply don’t want to see the material they’ve been allocated.

Deck the Halls doesn’t do an adequate job of capturing the spirit of the holiday season either. There are Christmas carols and a pallet of red and green, but this lifeless film has no heart. There are some great Christmas movies out there – Bad Santa and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, to name a couple. Deck the Halls, however, is not destined to be remembered among them. Why is it so hard to make a decent Christmas comedy? Not every movie has to be on the level of It’s a Wonderful Life. A Home Alone or a Love Actually would do fine. Nevertheless, year after year, we get unfunny and unpleasant cinematic abortions. Deck the Halls takes its place alongside Surviving Christmas and Christmas with the Kranks as one of the most unpleasant gifts of the Christmas season. They look fine when wrapped, but, once opened, one hastily wants to return them.