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Case Number 12291

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Deck The Halls

Fox // 2006 // 93 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // October 30th, 2007

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All Rise...

The last thing that Judge Ryan Keefer wanted to deck after seeing this film was the halls, that much we know.

The Charge

There glows the neighborhood.

Opening Statement

A time honored tradition, the holiday season brings out all the holiday-themed releases, good, bad and ugly. Deck The Halls, written by first-time screenwriters (imagine that!) Matt Corman and Chris Ord, with some work done by Don Rhymer (Surf's Up), was released during the 2006 Holiday season and actually made over $30 million, which I would presume has resulted in some low-expectation setting executives at Fox pondering a sequel. But now that it's finally out on DVD, is it as bad as everyone says?

Facts of the Case

Steve Finch (Matthew Broderick, Ferris Bueller's Day Off) is a successful dentist in a small Massachusetts town. He's also known around town for being a rather big Christmas enthusiast. So he gets his wife Kelly (Kristin Davis, Sex and the City), daughter Madison (Alia Shawkat, Arrested Development) and son Carter (Dylan Blue, Just Like the Son) in on the act. Things take a bit of a turn when Buddy (Danny DeVito, Big Fish) and his wife Tia (Kristin Chenoweth, Running With Scissors) move in across the street. Buddy might be loud and slow witted sometimes, but he can also be persuasive, hence his job as a used car salesman. But he can never quite finish what he starts, and one day he has an epiphany; he wants enough Christmas lights on his house so that it's visible from space. But Steve finds this treading on his turf, so the two neighbors battle it out for…what's it called again?

The Evidence

After I watched Deck the Halls, I was stunned to find out that it was nominated for an award on IMDb. Then upon further review I noticed that it was the Razzie "Worst Of" awards, and took a sigh, that "all is right in the world" sigh. Seriously, the movie is so unfunny, what was really the point of making it?

You'd think that the people involved in this film would desire to do well, or make things better, but I think that those who would have had contributed some comic sense either ran from the script screaming, or they legitimately don't realize the poisonous bile they'd been cast in. Actually, the only one who seems to know is Shawkat, who is wasted in the role, and is only noticeable for blossoming Soleil Moon Frye style, if you catch my meaning. Everyone else is too clueless (Chenoweth and probably Davis), unaware (DeVito), or trying hard with what he has, without realizing it's not 1988 and he has no more charisma (Broderick).

As for the story? Well, you've got two first-time writers involved, what else do you really want to know? Every amateurish trick designed to entertain is employed. For instance, a prized family vase is mentioned early on in the film, so you can pretty much guarantee it will play a part in the third act somehow. That's as clever as it gets, because the scenes in the film are so many deliberate sequences where the payoff falls flat. A typical scene in the film puts either DeVito and Broderick in a scene, with something in front of them, and cue the part where they fall or do something foolish, which you can see happen a mile away. OK, so that's Deck the Halls. Over and over. For an hour and a half. Set against the background of Christmas. Trees get burned, fathers perversely leer at their daughters without realizing it, and yet after every bad joke, you know there's going to be a reunion of sorts for the characters at the end of the film. Why? It's Christmas! All is forgiven, right? Hell to the no, because I don't forgive the writers and actors for wasting my time with something that didn't make me laugh or warm the cuckolds of my heart.

For reviewing purposes, the court received a copy-protected disc for its deliberation, as the second side of the disc (which apparently houses the full frame version of the film) was missing. And quite frankly, it's probably better that way, because I only would have gotten crankier or started consulting the Geneva Convention if I had to be subjected to more of this nonsense. Regardless, the technical scores reflect this disc, and will be revisited pending receipt of a final copy. Supplements wise, a commentary with DeVito and director John Whitesell (Big Momma's House 2) is the main extra of note. The pair is pretty low key, with DeVito sounding like he had some post-View lemoncellos before recording this. They really show off their lack of enthusiasm in this track, that's for sure. Several featurettes on the production of the film, namely the location and production design follow, so along with the trailers, that's all on this disc.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Since I can't really find anything good to say about Deck the Halls, allow me to reach out for the people's opinion, namely a certain "Jeff Carter" from Perry, Georgia, who has this to say about the film:

"If you're a Christmas lights fanatic you'll love this movie."

And quite frankly, that pretty much says it all, doesn't it?

Closing Statement

I can honestly say that Deck the Halls did more to make me hate Christmas than any office "holiday party" or any crappy necktie gift could ever do. If Christmas gets cancelled in this (or any other) year, it will be because of this cinematic lump of sh, er, coal. If anyone out there rents or buys this thing, I will find you and I will hurt you, by the Power of Grayskull.

The Verdict

Guilty as charged. Bah fricken' humbug.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 65
Audio: 78
Extras: 19
Acting: 66
Story: 56
Judgment: 58

Perp Profile

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
• Christmas
• Comedy
• Family

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary by John Whitesell and Danny DeVito


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