SHOCK­ING FILLER

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - Don­ald Clarke

DECK THE HALLS ★ Di­rected by John White­sell. Star­ring Danny DeVito, Matthew Brod­er­ick, Kristin Davis, Kristin Chenoweth, Alia Shawkat PG cert, gen re­lease, 95 min IT’S THAT mag­i­cal time of the year again. It’s that glo­ri­ous sea­son when Hol­ly­wood demon­strates that no vat of sewage is so mal­odor­ous that it can’t be made saleable with the ad­di­tion of a piece of tin­sel and a Santa hat.

If Deck the Halls were a rein­deer, you’d lead it to a se­cluded glacier and shoot it in the head. If Deck the Halls were a Christ­mas tree, you’d spray it with Agent Orange and bury the re­mains far from hu­man habi­ta­tion. If Deck the Halls were a turkey you’d . . . Oh, hang on! Like last week’s even more hideous The Santa Clause 3, John White­sell’s knock­about com­edy hyp­o­crit­i­cally satirises the com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion of Christ­mas even as the film it­self seeks to ben­e­fit from the near in­dis­crim­i­nate profli­gacy of con­sumers dur­ing the sea­son.

Buddy Hall (loud, coarse Danny DeVito) moves in across the street from Steve Finch (up­tight, anal Matthew Brod­er­ick) and sets about dec­o­rat­ing his house with enough lights to, quite lit­er­ally, make the build­ing vis­i­ble from outer space. Deck the Halls? Get it? To this point, Steve has re­garded him­self as the king of Christ­mas and, tak­ing great um­brage at this at­tempt to steal his crown, he sets out to sabotage his tiny neigh­bour’s schemes.

The prospect of DeVito and Brod­er­ick, two fine co­me­di­ans, bat­ter­ing one an­other over the head with candy canes is not an en­tirely un­ap­peal­ing one. But the script never seems cer­tain how nasty ei­ther char­ac­ter is to be. One mo­ment DeVito is try­ing to frame his ri­val for theft. The next, fol­low­ing a lachry­mose ad­mis­sion of per­sonal in­se­cu­rity, he is mak­ing friends with his sup­posed ad­ver­sary.

The project has the messy, equiv­o­cal tex­ture of Christ­mas pud­ding made on a tight dead­line to no spe­cific recipe. At any other time of year it would have been scraped into the dust­bin or served to the un­for­tu­nate dog. ★★★★★ Ab­so­lutely un­miss­able ★★★★ A cut above the rest ★★★ Worth a look ★★ Only if you must

★ Avoid at all costs

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