Reviewed by: Lori Souder
REVIEWS of other Christmas movies
|Featuring:||Danny DeVito, Matthew Broderick, Kristin Chenoweth, Kristin Davis, Alia Shawkat|
|Director:||John P. Whitesell|
|Producer:||Michael Costigan, Jeremiah Samuels|
|Distributor:||20th Century Fox|
“There glows the neighborhood”
At the opening of the movie we are introduced to an eye doctor (Matthew Broderick) who is happy with his place in his quaint little Massachusetts town. Steve Finch has a nice home in a attractive neighborhood, a pretty wife (Kristin Davis), and two older children. He is “Mr. Christmas” in his town, and he has a calendar made of wood that is followed religiously every year starting on the first day of December. Each calendar day has a painted symbol on each side of the inset block that is turned over when the day arrives. The Finch family is reluctant to begin the Christmas treadmill, but it means so much to Steve that they try to put up with it.
Meanwhile, their next door neighbor’s house finally finds a buyer. Buddy Hall (Danny DeVito) moves in noisily in the middle of the night. It is just the beginning of many sleepless nights for the Finch family. The Halls try to be friendly, but end up making a bad first impression on their neighbors. Things go downhill quickly between Steve Finch and Buddy Hall, but their wives and children bond.
Soon the real trouble starts. Buddy Hall becomes obsessed with having his light-covered house seen from satellites in space, and Steve Finch wants to remain the local authority on Christmas, and also wants to get a night’s sleep without beacons beaming into his bedroom. Dirty tricks between the two men escalate to become a blood feud.
This movie lacks some of the things that make a comedy work. There were no subplots or goofy side-characters. No running jokes. No development of the children’s personalities or Danny DeVito’s character. I don’t know what would be of interest to children in this movie, other than the bright lights on the over-decorated house and the animals in the living nativity scene.
In the first few minutes of the film, there were references to a Meth lab, cross dressing, a peeping tom, and there is some major cleavage spillage (no nudity). There are also a couple of other references/innuendos to sex and sexual organs that I would rather not mention. The Lord’s name is taken in vain throughout the movie. The name of Jesus only comes up once in the movie before the finale, and it is taken in vain as well. There is one short scene in a church, where Holy Water was used to try to cancel out some sins of lust.
I kept waiting for the movie to feel fun or for the comedy to “kick in,” but it never happened for me. There are some really funny moments, but the vast majority had already been revealed in the movie trailers. The movie plods on and on, seemingly going nowhere, and it just felt to me like a series of train wrecks. I think the movie had a lot of potential to be cute and hilarious, but it missed the mark.
The movie kept repeating over and over, near the end, that the true meaning of Christmas is about being with your family. But that is not the true meaning of Christmas, at all. It is that God lovingly sacrificed his only begotten son for us, his undeserving but beloved human creations.
I really wanted to like this movie, the trailers were very wild and comical, and the movie seemed full of possibilities. But the script just was not up to the quality of the fine actors. Danny DeVito adds his usual charisma, and Broderick his believable “everyman” quality, but even they could not pull much meaning out of a Christmas story with no heart. Kristin Chenoweth who plays Tia Hall is charming and funny, but her over-ample cleavage was really the only thing that the director (John Whitesell) wants us to notice about her.
The editing is choppy; sometimes the pace is hectic, and other times slow and boring. Some of the jokes seem to have the punchlines taken out, one included skittish mystery horses, and another one about sailors going off to war. I suspect that the movie was re-cut and the worst jokes left out to make it seem more family-friendly. Also, part of the ending seemed totally out of place. The ending was all holiday lights, noise, holiday lights, noise, a quiet and a deeply meaningful Christian Christmas Hymn, and then more holiday lights and noise, and Ta Da… the end.
Those quiet reverent moments seemed totally out of context with the entire movie. They seem added in after the fact, just to justify that the movie has anything meaningful to say about Christmas at all.
The main theme of the movie is about getting what you want. Even at the part, when the two warring men, Hall and Finch, are down for the count, they just figured out how to get back what they want, not regretting who they have hurt or what they had done to each other and their Christmas memories. So they conspire to attain their goals together, but not because of any genuine remorse or humbleness. It was sad to see.
The movie should have been rated PG-13 for the references to adult issues, drugs, etc. I just don’t think many children would enjoy it, as the young people really had little to do with the plot. They were just props for some sexual humor and acted mostly as place-fillers. Finch’s teenage girl was, in one scene, an object of lust for the two adult men, one her father, and in another short scene seemed to be dating a group of men going off to war …it was not fully explained, and her parents had previously said that she was too young to date! I was very confused by this, and I don’t think the messages are good ones. In fact, there are not any good messages in the movie.
The movie was very disappointing, but if you have not seen the trailers over and over again, you probably would enjoy it after some offensive references are cut for television broadcast. But don’t expect a “feel good” Christmas movie. It just is not that kind of film.
Violence: Mild / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: Minor
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