You know the Christmas season is coming when the theatres start to line up its Christmas themed movies. You have comedies like Deck the Halls, one for the romantics in The Holiday, and of course, going back to basics with the retelling of the birth of Jesus Christ in The Nativity Story.
The very first Matthew Broderick movie I've watched is Wargames, when I was a kid. And I thought he would have had quite a stellar career with his boyish good looks. Well, it's been almost 20 years, and that dude still retains his baby face, though now given age he's taken on roles of the family guy, and as Steve Finch, he's known as the Christmas guy around town, for his role in the committee for spreading the Christmas cheer. Until of course, his new neighbour, the Halls, move in, and innocently starts a rivalry with Buddy Hall (Danny DeVito), which in certain instances, look as petty as those squabbling neighours in the Joo Chiat area.
And family comedies like Deck the Halls are as predictable as they come by, with the setup of the dysfunctional characters. In the Finches, you have the straight laced Steve, the model mom Kelly (Kristin Davis), the depressed son Carter (Dylan Blue) and the coming of age daughter Madison (Alia Shawkat). At the other corner, you have the Buddy the father, with a penchant for giving up the things that he does, the ditzy mom Tia (Kristin Chenoweth, reprising a role so similar to her RV one as yet another blonde yodeling mom), and two, totally hot teenage twin daughters in Ashley (Sabrina Aldridge) and Emily (Kelly Aldridge), which are unfortunately, flower vase roles.
The feud starts when Ashley and Emily suggest to Buddy that their new home cannot be viewed from MyEarth (a fictional Google Earth clone), and to Buddy, one way to do that is to light up his home so that it could be seen from outer space. That's the primary premise, and naturally, by doing that, you disturb the neighbours, the Finches. So begins the one-up-manship between the two guys, egos bursting and all, as they outwit and try to outlast each other, much to the disapproval of their wives and kids.
It does make you think though, that in this spirit of giving and forgiving, that these two men are actually doing the direct opposites in upholding their Christmas values. Steve wants his (boring) family traditions to continue, and he does so in a very boorish manner, with his frequent complaining, whining, and sabotaging. Buddy on the other hand, steals. It portrays typical hypocritical behaviour that in your laughter, you're forced to think enough about whether you actually fall under the same category in this season of goodwill toward all men and women.
The flaws in the movie are obvious, such as the poor editing which dazzled itself during the Winterfest scenes. I suspect that a lot of footage containing various set action pieces were shot, and some discarded for time and quality, while the Who's Your Daddy joke just couldn't not to be included. Given its budget, cheap CG shots also distracted and took the mickey out of the fun factor.
Given that it's a Christmas movie, it definitely must have the feel good factor, which accounts for its implausible ending that cannot happen given time constraints, unless of course, you deem it a miracle. It's feel good, though some in the audience were manipulated enough to shed some tears at the end. And what of the message? It's obviously Love Thy Neighbours, and to relook into man made traditions that seem to stifle rather than make closer the valued family ties.
But as goodwill extended to this movie, although it'll never be a classic, will be the impressive light show sequence, as lights are made to dance in tune to the yuletide songs. One wonders who much time, effort and money went to create that show, which is this movie's pièce de résistance. And I appreciate that little clip from Meet Me in St Louis starring Judy Garland - watch that if you can.