Candy Cane lane

Candy Cane lane
Candy Cane lane
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Every year during the holiday season, residents of Southern California flock to East Acacia Avenue in El Segundo, which is lovingly referred to as Candy Cane Lane, to see how the locality has gone all out for Christmas since 1949. This definitely creates a suitable backdrop for a frenzied X-mas movie about neighborly rivalry. Nonetheless, “Candy Cane Lane,” a fresh Eddie Murphy’s Yuletide flick directed by Reginald Hudlin and written by Kelly Younger takes the Christmas miracle a notch higher than ever before; hence in some moments this film resembles more of Grimm’s Fairy Tales instead of jolly holiday tunes.

Chris Carver (Murphy) is fired at the industrial plastics factory where he used to work despite his wife Carol (Tracee Ellis Ross) being in line for promotion at her job. Joy their eldest daughter refuses USC which is also her parents’ alma mater while Nick her brother (Thaddeus J. Mixson) failed mathematics but with potential playing tuba. When it was announced that this year’s decoration contest carried a prize fund of $100,000 Chris thought it would be a good idea to enter. According to his youngest daughter Holly (Madison Thomas), who believes that his hand-carved ornaments alone will guarantee him victory in the competition, Chris doesn’t think so anymore.

One day Chris finds out about an enigmatic Kringle’s Christmas shop hidden beneath an overpass thus he goes shopping crazy buying dozens of lights and one unique giant wooden tree representing “The Twelve Days of Christmas” complete with gold partridge atop it. The store’s owner Pepper (the absolutely demented Jillian Bell) makes him sign his voluminous receipt and pretend she didn’t place some small details on the bottom part of it that were really important. Unbeknownst to him though, Pepper is disgraced elf seeking nothing other than vengeance after expulsion from Santa’s workshop; in essence, a yuletide Satan in a Chistmastime twist on “Paradise Lost.”

What is the fine print? Unless Chris has completed task given him by Pepper before eight o’clock of Christmas Eve, he will be transformed into a tiny ceramic toy for her shop’s idyllic village together with all other fools that have fallen prey to her such as Pip (Nick Offerman), Cordelia (Robin Thede), Gary (Chris Redd) but also a group of carolers made up by Pentatonix who perform like an acapella Greek chorus of unending joyous carols. The style employed to bring these characters to life reminds one of Rankin-Bass stop motion animations classics such as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, while the voice acting adds some amount of metatextual humor.

It takes its time to embrace this magical premise, instead it focuses more on developing each Carver family member and their elaborate side stories; however, when it eventually reaches full-fledged gonzo mode it becomes a wonderfully lunatic family film since “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.” There are seven swans swimming in their pool, six geese laying eggs from the air, yolk-bombing residents, three french hens dressed like Parisian stereotypes! Oh yes there are also dozens pipers piping and drummers drumming and some birds making crank calls.

In a very strange series of events, Nick has to fight against a milkmaid that could have been one of the film’s highlights but it is broken up into a montage with Joy and Chris at a track meet where they compete with some lords a-leaping. Hudlin’s movie is too long for its own good, and as such he tends to show scenes not worth watching for too long – there is an ongoing subplot between two cable news anchors (Timothy Simons, Danielle Pinnock) which never really comes together – as well as cut short the ones having more originality.

Murphy, who was also a producer on the film, is excellent throughout; he brings an anguished dignity to his early scenes, shares some lovely chemistry with Ross, and puts in his trademark impishness during the film’s daffier moments. While it doesn’t measure up to any of his best performances (Dolemite Is My Name anyone?), this is still a solidly enjoyable turn by someone who knows how to do this kind of movie well.

However, “Candy Cane Lane” despite its faults stands out as an overloaded family Christmas film like no other stocking ever made.

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