"My stupidity astounds me!" chortles Danny DeVito in Deck the Halls, a line that pretty much sums up this tale of warring neighbours with very different ideas about celebrating Christmas. For Matthew Broderick, it means imposing a rigid schedule of caroling, tree-cutting and sweater-wearing on his long-suffering family. For DeVito, it means decorating his house with so many lights it can be seen from space. Predictable antics ensue in an odd-couple farce that makes Santa Clause 3 look like It's A Wonderful Life.
Improbably, that festive classic just happens to be playing at the local movie house in the small Massachusetts town where optician Steve Finch (Broderick) resides with his wife and two children. Given the petty rivalry that develops between this meddling stuffed-shirt and the obnoxious car salesman who moves in next door (DeVito), Christmas With The Kranks would perhaps seem more appropriate. Indeed, it's hard to reconcile the wholesome charm of Capra's Yuletide favourite with the mean-spirited tone of John Whitesell's film, typified at the halfway mark by a tasteless incest gag that finds Danny and Matthew ogling lecherously at their own daughters.
"A HALF-BAKED TURKEY"
Seasonal pratfalls involving runaway sleighs, defecating animals and speed-skating competitions only make this half-baked turkey harder to swallow, while Kristins Davis and Chenoweth are equally wasted as the two impatient wives caught in the middle. The latter, though, does at least get to speak the audience's mind, her exasperated comment that "this is just getting embarrassing!" suggesting even the scriptwriters knew they were backing a loser.