Making the Grades
Christmas traditions are important to many people, but to Steve Finch (Matthew Broderick) they are the holiday season. The optometrist blames his obsession on his childhood full of frequent relocations as the family followed his military father. Now, as a grown man, he wants nothing short of a "Courier and Ives" experience each December to share with his wife Kelly (Kristin Davis), teen daughter Madison (Alia Shawkat) and son Carter (Dylan Blue).
Unfortunately, his perfect, snow-dusted, white picket fence neighborhood is about to change. Buddy Hall (Danny DeVito) and his family are moving in across the street, and the biggest item they are bringing with them is Buddy's over-the-top personality.
A salesman extraordinaire, Buddy can convince anyone to buy anything -- however he is easily pulled off track and has a hard time sticking with a job. The Halls have barely settled in when the latest distraction comes along in the form of an Internet website called My Earth (think Google Earth) that shows pictures of the planet from space. When Buddy's twin teen daughters Ashley and Emily (Kelly and Sabrina Aldridge) point out the neighbor's house and explain they can't see their own, the determined Dad decides to upgrade his image... with as many Christmas lights as it will take to do the job.
And so the conflict begins, with one neighbor wanting to turn the street into a veritable Christmas carnival, while the other only wants some peace while quietly sipping hot cocoa and watching snowflakes drift to the ground. As the lights get brighter and the noise becomes louder, the capacity of both men to remain polite becomes stretched, and the spirit of the season soon vanishes.
Written at the maturity level of a ten-year-old, Deck the Halls walks the well-worn path of adults acting like children and children acting like, well... hookers. The Hall twins dress as if they are headed to a seedy street corner, while the Finch's son, who appears to be about 12, takes the opportunity to ogle the new scenery. The girls quickly convert conservative Madison to their clothing choices -- although a little of the bookish brunette does rubs off on the stereotyped bimbo blondes when she convinces them to try reading a book.
Other disappointments are a number of somewhat veiled sexual innuendos, the portrayal of a cross-dressing sheriff who wears pink thong panties and a scene in which the two fathers lust over three female dancing Santas -- only to discover they have been drooling over their daughters. Nor does the irreverent act of dousing their eyeballs with baptismal water at the local church help to wash these script sins away.
Sadly, this film is just one more in a growing trend of Christmas movies depicting dysfunctional families and circus like antics. While many of these recent titles (including this one) try to wrap things up with a "warm fuzzy" moment at the end, it is small reward for having had to sift through 90 minutes of the proceeding packaging. Considering the classic cinematic offerings of yesteryear, parents may want to check twice before adding this holiday turkey to their list of celebration ideas.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Deck the Halls.
Can Christmas traditions sometimes become too demanding? Do you think people are expecting more or less from the holiday season? Why might we be disappointed with the outcome?