movie review

"Deck the Halls," rated (PG). Rating:i 1/2 . Over the last few months, as my partner and friend, Roger Ebert, continues to recover from surgery, a number of guest critics have filled in on "Ebert & Roeper.'' From Kevin Smith to Aisha Tyler to...

"Deck the Halls," rated (PG). Rating:iยฝ.

Over the last few months, as my partner and friend, Roger Ebert, continues to recover from surgery, a number of guest critics have filled in on "Ebert & Roeper.''

From Kevin Smith to Aisha Tyler to Fred Willard to film critics A.O. Scott of The New York Times and Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune, virtually every guest co-host has remarked that as much fun as it is to do the show, there's a lot more work involved than people might believe.

Then there was the great Harold Ramis. After I finished taping a show with Ramis, he turned to me and said, "You call this work?''

Well, sort of. Compared to the honest, hard labor performed by tens of millions of Americans every day, a film critic job is like a winning lottery ticket. But there IS work involved, and it can be painful -- and the next time someone tells me I have the best job in the world, I'm going to grab them by the ear, fourth-grade-teacher-in-1966-style, and drag them to see "Deck the Halls.''



You cannot believe how excruciatingly awful this movie is. It is bad in a way that will cause unfortunate viewers to huddle in the lobby afterward, hugging in small groups, consoling one another with the knowledge that it's over, it's over -- thank God, it's over.

One can only pity Sarah Jessica Parker and Rhea Perlman, for their husbands (Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito, respectively, though wouldn't it be fun if they swapped for a year?) are wonderfully talented and intelligent comic actors who somehow found themselves co-starring in this execrable comedy. What. Were. They. Thinking.

Broderick is all pinched expressions and high-pitched vocal mannerisms as the uptight Steve Finch, an optometrist in small-town Massachusetts who runs the holiday festivities at home and in the village with military precision.

Kristin Davis from "Sex in the City'' plays Steve's wife. She's like every other wife in every other movie like this, loyally supporting her husband until she reaches the breaking point and has to explain to him that he's losing sight of what's really important -- the family.

DeVito plays Buddy, the new neighbor across the street. Kristin Chenoweth, she of the cartoon-character voice and the balloon breasts that seem to heave even when she's standing perfectly still, is Buddy's chirpy, cheery, slightly zany wife.

Buddy has twin teenage daughters who apparently consider Paris Hilton to be a role model. Their own mother cracks jokes about their lack of brainpower, scanty attire and slutty behavior. Steve's teenage daughter is sullen and shy, and his younger son is going through a midlife crisis at the age of 10.

the alleged humor


The alleged comedy in "Deck the Halls'' springs from a single plot point: Buddy wants to make his mark on the world by festooning his house with so many lights that it will be visible from space. Steve is appalled by the ostentatiously tacky display, and he does everything in his power to undermine Buddy's plan.

Christmas trees are set on fire. A madcap sleigh ride ends up with Steve in the lake.

Nearly all the gags and all the supposedly sentimental payoffs in "Deck the Halls'' are telegraphed with as much subtlety as the lights on Buddy's house. Even in a slapstick cartoon, you have to maintain some degree of credibility -- but these characters consistently perform deeds that couldn't possibly be executed in the time frame depicted on screen. "Deck the Halls'' isn't merely unfunny; it's nearly unwatchable.

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