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Deck the Halls
I don't know what it is about Christmas that inspires so many drop-dead atrocious comedies, but there's little denying the phenomena: For every family favorite like A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, and Elf -- there at least three amazing pieces of crap that hope to steal your money by delivering something "broadly awful -- but seasonal." Anyone who suffered through the yuletide double-feature of torture known as Surviving Christmas and Christmas with the Kranks knows precisely what I'm talking about. But guess what? The patently unwatchable Deck the Halls makes those flicks look like It's a Wonderful Life and (the original) Miracle on 34th Street by comparison. (Well, not really, but I'm exaggerating to make a point: Do NOT rent, purchase, or spend less than 3.7 seconds contemplating the DVD cover of Deck the Halls.) But it's even worse than Jingle All the Way, and I didn't think such a thing was possible.
The plot is this: Buddy Hall (Danny DeVito) has just moved his family to a small New England town, and his house is located across the street from a tight-assed optometrist (Matthew Broderick) who has an unhealthy fixation on Christmas. Hall proceeds to make life truly miserable for the stunningly unlikable Steve Finch, and eventually the shiftless newcomer decides (for no good reason) that he wants his house to be seen from outer space. So he buys ten million Christmas lights and...
You know what? Nobody cares. The plot is as moronic as the final product is unwatchable. Forget the fact that there's not one (not one!) solid laugh in the movie, and that not one person in the flick behaves like a normal human being would. Also overlook the fact that Broderick and DeVito are shamelessly slumming through a production that never should have made it out of the "pitch" stage, and what you're left with is one simple assertion: Deck the Halls is one of the sloppiest major motion pictures I've ever seen.
Witless screenplays and humorless comedies are (unfortunately) nothing new, but it's amazing how shoddy and amateurish this movie is. The editing, the lighting, the obvious reshoots and the incongruously syrupy coda ... the thing feels like it's the first Hollywood film made entirely by first-timers. But that's not nearly the case.
First-time screenwriters Matt Corman and Chris Ord were probably responsible for SOME sort of Christmas comedy, but once Fox got a hold of the script and handed it over to Don Rhymer and John Whitesell ... hoo boy. Garbage of a monumental degree was truly born. To those who don't have a master's degree in crap cinema, I'll remind you that John Whitesell directed Calendar Girl, See Spot Run, and Malibu's Most Wanted. Mr. Rhymer is a credited screenwriter on titles like Carpool, Big Momma's House, The Santa Clause 2, Agent Cody Banks 2, and The Honeymooners.
And just when you thought things couldn't get any more horrible, Rhymer and Whitesell teamed up last year for Big Momma's House 2 and Deck the Halls. Rarely have a director and a screenwriter been more perfectly matched.
Deck the Halls rattles through a series of painfully unfunny set pieces: Car damage, runaway sleigh, theft, vandalism, fathers leering at their own daughters -- basic Christmas comedy, really. But once all the frantic eye-rolling and mindless stupidity has subsided, Deck the Halls doles out an ending so insipid and schmaltzy I doubt it would make the final cut of a Lifetime Channel movie called The Amazing Christmas Schmaltz-Ball.
Those tempted to give it a rental out of admiration for Broderick and/or DeVito should think twice. If, like me, you're a fan of both performers, you simply don't want to see the material they're given here. This is a worthless, shameless, witless, soulless little husk of a movie.
Video: If I'm going only by the picture quality on the "screener version" that Fox sent in, then the DVD gets a failing grade. I'm sure the "retail" version will look much prettier, so I'm going to have to give an INCOMPLETE in this section. (The DVD will offer both widescreen and full-frame formats on the same disc, as far as I can tell.)
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 in English, Spanish or French. Audio presentation is good enough to make me wish the disc had been inaudible. Subtitles: English & Spanish.
John Whitesell and Danny DeVito contribute an audio commentary that I can't imagine anyone but Rhea Perlman would care to hear. The filmmakers mumble through the movie offering a few chuckles and trivial bits of information. Nothing in the way of an apology, unfortunately.
Up next are a bunch of self-explanatory featurettes: "Construction of the Homes" (4:01) covers ... the construction of the characters' homes. "Lighting Design" (3:12) focuses on the ... Christmas lights. And "Winterizing / Shooting a Christmas Movie in July" (4:02) explains why all that amazingly fake-looking snow is all over the place.
We also get four minutes of interviews from young actor Dylan Blue, a trio of awful deleted scenes, and almost seven minutes of outtakes.
Also included are some trailers for Miracle on 34th Street, Firehouse Dog, and Home Alone.
When Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito team up for a comedy that can't even deliver one well-oiled joke, that's a big problem. But Deck the Halls isn't just unfunny; it could almost be considered a form of punishment.