'Candy Cane Lane' has an obvious Christmas celebration written into it but it’s not the entertaining, joyous engagement we all were expecting.
Eddi Murphy in Candy Cane Lane
Candy Cane Lane
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Tracee Ellis Ross, Jillian Bell, Genneya Walton, Thaddeus J. Mixson, Madison Thomas, Nick Offerman, Chris Redd, Robin Thede, David Alan Grier, Ken Marino, Anjela Johnson Reyes
Director: Reginald Hudlin
Runtime: 108 mins
From Reggie Hammond in ‘48 Hrs’ to Chris Carver in ‘Candy Cane Lane,’ Eddie Murphy has come a long way - but it’s not all to the good. Of late, his career hasn’t been hitting the right notes and his most recent outing, an all-out Christmas season effort, may not be all bad but it certainly doesn’t ring any bells. At 62 years, he looks decades younger but the zingy comic timing and fast-talking effervescence isn’t working any magic anymore.
'Candy Cane Lane', one of a three-picture deal that Murphy has signed with Amazon, marks a reunion for Murphy and director Reginald Hudlin, whose 'Boomerang' (1992) brought Murphy out of one of the frequent dumps he has been in over the years. 'Candy Cane Lane' has an obvious Christmas celebration written into it but it’s not the entertaining, joyous engagement we all were expecting.
Screenwriter Kelly Younger borrows this story from real life. The Candy Cane Lane neighbourhood of El Segundo, California, just south of Los Angeles International Airport, is renowned for its homeowners going crazy with Christmas decorations every yuletide season. The $100,000 prize to be won makes for a strong incentive for all homeowners to go super competitive in their efforts to outshine their neighbours and friends. Murphy as Chris Carver, a plastics company sales employee who has just been laid off, is determined to win the contest for best and biggest decorations. In their efforts to scale up their chances, Chris and his youngest daughter (Madison Thomas) take the help of North Pole outcast elf Pepper (Jillian Bell) who runs a pop-up decorations store, but they don’t realise that she is not imbued with the Christmas spirit and is out to miniaturise everyone interested in spreading the joy of Christmas.
The narrative doesn’t have enough running gags to keep the audience interested. The verbal outpourings are usually interrupted by carolers singing “fa-la-la” so many times that it begins to get on your nerves. Sporadic laughs do not a happy comedy make. The narrative begins to get tedious and exasperating as the complications increase and the family under fire are expected to get hold of 5 golden rings amidst the onslaught of Pepper’s hostile digital swans and geese. The 11th-hour arrival of a Black Santa Claus only makes things more difficult for the family.
The good thing here is that the film features a racially diverse cast of characters but the inclusiveness is rather superficial. Then there’s a group of five carolers, played by the real-life singing group Pentatonix which includes Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi, Kirstin Maldonado, Matt Sallee, and Kevin Olusola, as part of the many tiny figurines downsized by Pepper. The attempt to make “The Twelve Days of Christmas” the construct for the challenge, the family faces, boomerangs though. The screenplay is more intent on checking off the boxes expected from a seasonal Christmas production. Younger’s debut as a feature screenplay writer is rather shaky with his overreliance on bad jokes, uninteresting scenarios, annoying character pop-ups, and a story that just doesn’t make much sense. The visual effects, showing off shiny Christmas embellishments, may look good for a while but it doesn’t last long. Eddie Murphy’s attempt at family-oriented sketch comedy is rather disenchanting. He could certainly do much better with the kind of talent he has been blessed with. This comedy fantasy doesn’t have what it takes to hold your attention. The festive backdrop is its only selling point and that’s not enough, surely?