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