|Candy Cane Lane
|01 december 2023
Directed by Reginald Hudlin and written by Kelly Younger, Candy Cane Lane aspires to be a whimsical addition to the Christmas movie genre, but sadly falls short of its festive ambitions. Set against the backdrop of a Christmas decorating contest in El Segundo, California, the film attempts to blend whimsy, comedy and family dynamics, but its narrative weaknesses and a few tonal inconsistencies make it a less-than-stellar entry in the seasonal cinematic landscape.
The film centers on Chris Carver, played by the charismatic Eddie Murphy, a family man determined to win the local Candy Cane Lane Christmas decorating contest. A seemingly harmless deal with a corrupt elf named Pepper, played by Jillian Bell, sets off a chain of events inspired by the classic carol The Twelve Days of Christmas. While the initial concept is promising, the film struggles to maintain a clear, captivating plot.
One commendable aspect of the film is its attempt at cultural representation through a racially diverse cast, with characters of African-American and white descent, representing both working- and middle-class communities. However, this positive element is overshadowed by the film's disjointed narrative, which leaves the potential for meaningful exploration of cultural dynamics largely untapped.
The settings of El Segundo and the surrounding Los Angeles area provide a visually appealing backdrop, but the over-reliance on visual effects sometimes feels disconnected from the heart of the story. While the bright, festive aesthetic attempts to create an immersive visual experience, it often fails, failing to compensate for the film's underlying problems.
The entire cast, including the talented Tracee Ellis Ross and Jillian Bell, struggles to raise the film's level. Eddie Murphy's portrayal of Chris Carver seems banal, and Jillian Bell's attempt to play the corrupt elf Pepper lacks the depth needed for a convincing antagonist. Secondary characters, such as the talking action figures and Prism Cable presenters, add little substance to the overall narrative, contributing to the film's lack of cohesion.
The film's plot takes unexpected detours, introducing talking figurines and a whole host of Christmas-themed objects in a seemingly random and chaotic fashion. These elements contribute to a sense of narrative clutter, which detracts from the film's potential to offer a focused and captivating story.
Despite its attempts at humor, the film's comedic elements often fall flat, with underdeveloped jokes and awkwardly staged scenes. The inclusion of a blooper reel during the end credits, though a common practice in comedies, is a stark reminder that the fun the actors have during production may not translate into an equally enjoyable experience for the audience.
Candy Cane Lane struggles to find a coherent identity as a Christmas film. While an admirable attempt at cultural representation, its narrative errors, lackluster humor and underused actors result in a forgettable cinematic experience. While Eddie Murphy fans may find moments of enjoyment, the film as a whole fails to stand out in the competitive landscape of Christmas-themed films.
Candy Cane Lane
Directed by Reginald Hudlin
Produced by Eddie Murphy, Charisse M. Hewitt, Karen Lunder, Brian Grazer
Written by Kelly Younger
With Eddie Murphy, Tracee Ellis Ross, Robin Thede, Nick Offerman, Jillian Bell, Chris Redd
Music: Marcus Miller
Director of photography: Newton Thomas Sigel
Editing: Kenny G. Krauss, Jim May
Production companies: Amazon MGM Studios, Eddie Murphy Productions, Imagine Entertainment
Distributed by Prime Video
Release date: December 1, 2023
Running time: 117 minutes
Seen November 26, 2023 at Pathé Les Fauvettes, Room 1