I’ve yet to be charmed by any new movie this Christmas season, and I thought Candy Cane Lane might just be that movie to break my bad Christmas movie streak. With a cast that includes the likes of Eddie Murphy, Tracee Ellis Ross, Jillian Bell and Nick Offerman, I expected some good ole amiable holiday cheer despite the formulaic, probably by the numbers script. Unfortunately, the movie is just really dull, and never really justifies the situation Murphy’s character Chris finds himself in.
Chris always goes all out with Christmas decorations when the holidays roll on by, but has never won the neighbourhood’s annual decoration contest despite his dedication. After he gets laid off at work, and discovers that there’s a hundred thousand dollar prize for the winning house, he goes all out to make sure he comes out on top. He finds the centre piece of his dreams in a weird little pop-up shop, a Christmas tree boasting ornaments of the 12 days of Christmas. Despite the dodgy behaviour of the shop person Pepper (Bell), Chris signs on the dotted line and buys the tree, and only realises the conditions attached to his purchase the following day.
Turns out, Pepper is a disgruntled elf that takes her job a bit too seriously, concocting bizzarro tasks that nobody can actually overcome. The tasks are also devoid of meaning. For example, Chris’ task is to find the golden rings by 8pm on Christmas eve, but how does this help him prove his worthiness in any way? Also, Pepper tries to assert that Chris wishing to win the contest is proof of his greed, but the man just lost his job – of course he’s going to pump all his efforts into an endeavour that might reap some returns. I guess we can just argue that this elf is off her rocker, but that kind of premise seems more suitable for a Christmas thriller of sorts rather than a supposed “family is the meaning of Christmas” type of movie.
Murphy and Ross are trying their best to make something with Candy Cane Lane, but all they can do is flail about in a screenplay that feels like it was written on the fly and nobody cared enough to work out the kinks. Chris and Carol (Ross)’s children are also poorly developed. They have their own individual passions, but nothing really much beyond that. The family also don’t come across as a real family in their scenes together. Strangely enough, it’s Nick Offerman’s Pip that becomes the heart of the story. He plays a tiny figurine that was once a real person, but got caught in the same situation Chris is in, and now lives a trapped life under Pepper’s control.
There’s such an earnest quality to Pip’s characterisation, as well as his determination to help Chris prevent what he couldn’t do for himself. His scene with Chris’ daughter Holly (Madison Thomas) exudes a real sense of connection and friendship.
I did enjoy Pentatonix breaking into song, but do I need to slog through an entire movie just for maybe 5 minutes worth of singing? I advise you to do better, more rewarding things with your time.
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With a bizarro plot, and characters that are poorly developed, Candy Cane Lane is not quite a holiday treat. More like lukewarm eggnog.
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