The Red Right Hand
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DECK THE HALLS
There Glows The Neighbourhood

Director
John Whitesell
Starring
Danny DeVito
Matthew Broderick
Kristin Davis

Having returned from a screening of Deck The Halls, I sat down to write my review; first organising links to-and-from IMDB. I was greeted with a small 'user comment' at the bottom of the screen that was so delightful, I felt it must be included in my review:

"I'm so sick of those people who MUST feel the need to critique every movie like they're a movie critic for the Los Angeles Times...Most modern day Christmas movies, are silly, predictable, and not going to win any Oscars, big deal! You know what, take your kids, listen to them laugh, share some popcorn, and enjoy what this movie DOES have, not looking for the obvious predictable plot, or faults it possesses!"

Now that my laughter has subsided and I have had a chance to wipe away the tears, allow me (on behalf of all critics) to reply. I feel the need to critique because I'm a critic. The internet and magazines have given me a voice because people seem to either agree with my opinions, or at least enjoy them. Still, they are just that; my opinions. Most modern Christmas movies are silly and predictable, I agree, but youíre saying that as if it's a good thing; just because a movie is entertaining, original or challenging doesn't mean it's upsetting the natural order of things. As for the Oscars, I always get that: "You only review films that will win Oscars. You only care about things that have won Oscars. You don't like films that the public like. Surely if everyone buys a ticket, it must be good." If a film isn't good, it isn't good, simple as that. I'm not saying some won't enjoy it; I love certain titles that people would despise. I don't care. With regards to the ticket sales, it's not saying the film is good, it says the marketing was good. They sold you a product and you bought it; there's a difference between what the public invest in and what's good for them. As for taking my kids, I don't have any, but there were kids at the screening and I'll tell you that they weren't laughing. The most successful line was towards the end of the feature when an annoying Alia Shawkat said, "Come back here, you little fart!" to her brother. Ah, that's better. Nothing like lashing out at the public when they speak too loudly about things they don't know. It's not the fact that this lady or her children enjoyed the film - I'm not that mean - it's the fact that she ended her little rant with, "Lighten up and enjoy the movie, it's not that bad!" Guess what? It really is.

I'm not a Scrooge around this time of year. The only thing that embitters me about Christmas is the general public's attitude towards shopping and getting overly stressed. That, of course, and the unnecessary amounts of absurdity that make their way onto cinema screens. This year's offerings are pretty bland: The Holiday, Unaccompanied Minors [Grounded in the UK], The Nativity Story, Black Christmas and the disgustingly painful, The Santa Clause 3. Along with that last title, Deck The Halls has got to be right up there with the worst. The jokes are recycled and simply not funny, the haphazard events are unwatchable and the whole premise of the humour dubs our characters absolute jerks - so you don't want either to succeed. And if you thought the sappy, sentimental side of the season would save this flick, you would be wrong too. The dramatic elements are poorly scripted and so badly done that they verge on vomit inducing. From start to finish, I sank into my seat, hoping that no one realised I was there alone and praying that they didn't think I was enjoying a second of it; just watching it was embarrassing, God knows how those that took part in it feel!

The initial plot is fairly ridiculous and would normally warrant little more than a subplot in a larger Christmas movie. The town Christmas freak, an optician named, Dr. Steve Finch [Broderick] runs into a little competition when his new neighbour, Buddy Hall [DeVito] decides to make his mark on the town. During the process of moving in, Buddy's hot twin daughters show him a map of the world. When he asks if it's possible to see their house, he's told that you can see the neighbour's but not his - I don't know why, they seem about the same size. Frustrated with his job and plain normality, Buddy becomes obsessed with the idea of getting his house seen from space. The only way he can think of doing this is by covering his house in twinkling little lights; I would have thought big World War II spotlights would have been more cost effective, but there we go. Annoyed by the bright lights and constant noise emanating across the road, Finch decides to wage war on Buddy. Why? Because that's what Americans do when something pisses them off, they confront it, then set about to bring misery to their opponent. Right? I mean, that's what this movie implies. What follows is about 95 minutes of stupidity ranging from a runaway sleigh, a snowball in a fuse box and pretending to give someone a car, then later finding out it wasn't a gift and they have to pay for it! Ho ho! Hilarious! Truly, these are the japes that will go down in history as the greatest practical jokes ever played for the cause of BLOODY CHRISTMAS LIGHTS! Who cares? Honestly?

Broderick gives an appallingly stiff performance, as if he's walking around with a Yule log lodged firmly in-between his cheeks; DeVito simply could not generate a single laugh, smirk or smile from anyone in the audience; Kristin Davis & Kristin Chenoweth (playing the supportive wives who share a common bond) barely produced anything memorable, it's a wonder I even managed to remember they were in the film; which leaves the kids, who were obnoxious stereotypes. One of the biggest cringe moments was the ending. At this point, everyone at the screening had had enough and was almost bawling at how much bilge they were being made to endure. Then it arrived. The film's crowning moment. Buddy & Finch have teamed up to regain the love of their family members and the town. MTV have shown up with a camera crew and the lights that everyone has worked so hard on, aren't working. Suddenly, the twins pull out their mobile phones and candles. Everyone's looking around - no one knew what for, no one cared. Then Kristin Chenoweth starts to sing. I heard a guy in the audience mutter, "Do you have a rope? Thereís a beam up there thatís tempting me." It was awful! They were singing O, Holy Night. For those of you that don't know, it's a Christmas Carol about the birth of Jesus Christ and all that will come in his reign - classic carol, right? A carol that has now doubled as the most inappropriate song in a film, ever. There's not a single reference to the meaning of Christmas or church or anything, it's just a war of bloody lights! Why would you sing that song at the end, other than to stir something in your audience? Dire! Wait, this was directed by John Whitesell? They're still letting him make films!? That explains everything: Whitesell is guilty for also making Big Momma's House 2 and Malibu's Most Wanted.

Release Date:
6th December 2006

The Scene To Look Out For:
When Buddy's story gets out, the designers of a satellite take interest and set up a camera, to wait and see if/when Buddy's house will emerge from darkness. For some reason they decided to make the main intellectual British and cast Kal Penn. Why? I don't know either. The reason this is in scene is because it plays on beautiful, beautiful ignorance. When the MTV reporter asks if their Christmas is being ruined by being at work, he simply replies, "Oh, no it's fine actually. Jake's mum brought 'round some biscuits. So it's been great." Ah, nothing says the English like a plate of biscuits rather than being home on Christmas Eve. Stupid.

Notable Characters:
Like most of the characters from Lost, Jorge Garcia is also on the lookout for random little roles in films. The one he landed here is moronic - matching the entirety of the film - but for some reason, I enjoyed it. I dunno.

Highlighted Quote:
"Welcome to the annual Winterfest Speed Skating Contest. A match of daring as athletes, gladiators if you will, face off in an epic battle. Ok, so it's not epic, but it's really fast... and really cool"

In A Few Words:
"I just couldn't shake the image of the Lion King fighting The Penguin, which is probably good because it got me through the whole ordeal"

Total Score:
2/10


Matthew Stogdon