DECK THE HALLS — * — Matthew Broderick, Danny DeVito; rated PG (vulgarity, profanity); Carmike 12 and Ritz 15 Theaters; Century Theatres 16 (Sandy); Century Theatres 16 (South Salt Lake); Cinemark 24 at Jordan Landing; Megaplex 12 at the Gateway; Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons; Megaplex 20 at the District.
Does anybody in Hollywood celebrate Christmas any more? You've got to wonder, with the woeful Christmas fare they've hurled at us the past few years.
"Deck the Halls" is another "Surviving Christmas" (not as hateful), another "Christmas With the Kranks" (without the attempted wit and message), and yet more treacle in the celebration-gone-amok "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" genre.
A leaden slice of fruitcake, with about as much nutritional value, it's not worth working up a good hate over. But the worst thing about it? It's going to give the wrong people the wrong ideas.
An over-organized optometrist (Matthew Broderick) organizes his annual "Christmas traditions" for his family of four in his idealized, postcard-pretty town, Cloverdale, Mass. There's just enough snow, just enough decorations on the town trees, just enough time for Steve Finch to play the Christmas Carnival.
And then, a burned-out car salesman (Danny DeVito) and his trashy brood (Broadway's Kristin Chenoweth is making this a specialty, after "RV") move in across the street. Buddy Hall's life hasn't given him much that he's satisfied with. But when his future Hooters-girls daughters show him an Internet satellite image of his neighborhood, it's the last straw. Their house is invisible. He resolves to decorate the daylights out of it until it's visible "from outer space."
This is where the "wrong people/wrong idea" notion comes in. So no, don't try this at home. Or the home next to my home. Please.
As the lights pile on and the sort of people impressed by excessive Christmas displays make their way into the neighborhood, a feud escalates between the two men, leading to destruction and strife.
Only not really. This is a mean-spirited Christmas comedy without the guts to be mean. Broderick and DeVito, on-the-nose casting decisions, don't dial it up enough to make this into a battle royale. DeVito, in particular, rubs the edge off Buddy and plays him as a guy with no personality, weak motivations and little about him, hateful or otherwise, to make us care what he does. Ditto Broderick, who can really act put upon, when he puts his mind to it.
The promise of Chenoweth singing a Christmas carol in the finale shouldn't be enough to drag your family away from one turkey in order to sit before another. These Halls fall down, and never get up off the deck.
"Deck the Halls" is rated PG for some crude and suggestive humor, and language. Running time: 95 minutes.