Daily Press (Sunday)

Actors hope film brings families together at Christmas future, too

- By Gary Gerard Hamilton

Eddie Murphy has fond childhood memories of gathering with his family in New York City’s Brooklyn borough and being wrapped in the wonder of the season as they watched classic holiday movies. Now, his Christmas wish is his new film, “Candy Cane Lane,” will create similar memories for others.

“That was in the front of my mind when we chose this script … we want to do something that’s going to be around forever,” Murphy said. “When I was growing up, we used to watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ and ‘Rudolph’s Shiny New Year’ … I think we made a movie like that, that people will watch over and over again.”

The Amazon Prime Video release, now streaming, follows Chris Carver (Murphy), who’s obsessed with winning his neighborho­od’s annual Christmas decorating contest. Stumbling upon a mysterious store, he unwittingl­y strikes a deal with a good intentione­d but slightly mischievou­s elf named Pepper (Jillian Bell) who brings the 12 days of Christmas to life. That turns into a holiday headache for the town and puts Carver at risk of being transforme­d into a miniature ornament.

“There is the element of magic in the movie, that imaginatio­n that children have and all the fantasy of it,” said Tracee Ellis Ross, who plays Murphy’s wife. “I’m excited to watch kids watch the movie.”

Ross and Murphy are so dynamic on screen, it’s hard to believe the two actors never worked together before — let alone had never met. Ross’ Carol is the ultimate spousal teammate, providing levity to her husband’s extreme Christmas competitiv­eness.

“She’s a comedian and a great actress, and all that came together. And she improvises … you don’t even expect to click with an actor,” said Murphy.

The film also stars Thaddeus J. Mixson, Ken Marino and David Alan Grier, along with an ensemble that includes Nick Offerman, Robin Thede and Chris Redd whose figurine characters are past victims of Pepper’s antics.

The film was written by Kelley Younger, whose family grew up on Candy Cane Lane in El Segundo, California — a neighborho­od known for competitiv­e holiday decorating. While there are plenty of feel-good moments in the story, the movie is also packed with action scenes.

“I wanted a movie that had everything I like in it,” said director Reginald Hudlin. “I love Christmas movies. I love Christmas music. I love the colors. But I also love action movies ... So, I said, why not put everything you like into one movie?” explained Hudlin. “Christmas movies are surprising­ly elastic.”

“Candy Cane Lane” is Murphy’s first holiday film and his first reunion with Hudlin since their 1992 classic “Boomerang.” The popular romantic comedy helped expand Murphy beyond comedy-first roles and action films, allowing him to flourish in new Hollywood territory as a debonair ladies man.

Prior to the pandemic, Murphy planned a return to his stand-up comedy roots, but as the health crisis upended much of the world, Murphy pivoted to making movies again. He recently wrapped shooting “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel Foley,” the fourth installmen­t of his blockbuste­r franchise nearly 30 years after the last chapter.

What Murphy and Ross are aiming to do with their current film is give friends and loved ones yet another reason to spend time together during not just this holiday season, but future ones as well.

“That is the hope, that we’ve made a timeless classic,” said Ross.

Murphy, a father of 10 and a grandfathe­r, echoes Ross’ sentiments. “Christmas movies have a built-in audience — your family’s all together, and they want to look at something that they can all watch together … if you do a good job, you watch them forever.”

 ?? CHRIS PIZZELLO/AP ?? Eddie Murphy, from left, Tracee Ellis Ross and Reginald Hudlin of “Candy Cane Lane” are seen Nov. 29.
CHRIS PIZZELLO/AP Eddie Murphy, from left, Tracee Ellis Ross and Reginald Hudlin of “Candy Cane Lane” are seen Nov. 29.

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