Compared to the honest, hard labor performed by tens of millions of Americans every day, a film critic job is like a winning lottery ticket. But there IS work involved, and it can be painful -- and the next time someone tells me I have the best job in the world, I'm going to grab them by the ear, fourth-grade-teacher-in-1966-style, and drag them to see Deck the Halls.
You cannot believe how excruciatingly awful this movie is. It is bad in a way that will cause unfortunate viewers to huddle in the lobby afterward, hugging in small groups, consoling one another with the knowledge that it's over, it's over -- thank God, it's over.
One can only pity Sarah Jessica Parker and Rhea Perlman, for their husbands (Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito, respectively, though wouldn't it be fun if they swapped for a year?) are wonderfully talented and intelligent comic actors who somehow found themselves co-starring in this execrable comedy. What. Were. They. Thinking.
If someone tried to sell Deck the Halls as a sitcom or a TV movie, I'd like to think it would be rejected on sight. How it got to be a feature film starring Broderick and DeVito is a mystery for the ages. This is a flat, tired, pale imitation of Neighbors and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, scoring fewer laughs than your uncle singing "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" after too many eggnogs.
Wearing khakis and sporting a haircut that would be unhip for a 6-year-old, Broderick is all pinched expressions and high-pitched vocal mannerisms as the uptight Steve Finch, an optometrist in small-town Massachusetts who runs the holiday festivities at home and in the village with military precision. He's one of those guys who has a giant wooden Christmas calendar, with each day matched to a supposedly wacky but unfunny tradition.
Kristin Davis from Sex in the City plays Steve's wife. She's like every other wife in every other movie like this, loyally supporting her husband until she reaches the breaking point and has to explain to him that he's losing sight of what's really important -- the family.
DeVito plays Buddy, the new neighbor across the street. Kristin Chenoweth is Buddy's chirpy, cheery, slightly zany wife.
The alleged comedy in Deck the Halls springs from a single plot point: Buddy wants to make his mark on the world by festooning his house with so many lights that it will be visible from space. Steve is appalled by the ostentatiously tacky display, and he does everything in his power to undermine Buddy's plan.
Nearly all the gags and all the supposedly sentimental payoffs in Deck the Halls are telegraphed with as much subtlety as the lights on Buddy's house. Even in a slapstick cartoon, you have to maintain some degree of credibility -- but these characters consistently perform deeds that couldn't possibly be executed in the time frame depicted on screen. Deck the Halls isn't merely unfunny; it's nearly unwatchable.