We are currently experiencing an influx of low-quality Christmas content that all seems the same – poorly made, poorly written, relying on the Christmas spirit of the audience. However, there are moments that give us hope, such as the news of Eddie Murphy’s involvement in Amazon’s Candy Cane Lane. Murphy is not only a major reason why Trading Places is still a popular December movie, but he also brings a special spark to any film he is in, regardless of the time of year. While it has been some time since he has had a shining moment (with 2019’s Dolemite Is My Name being a great example of his talent), in a time where star power is diminishing, his presence is still a valuable gift.
Unfortunately, even though he is the protagonist, he is unable to save this disorienting and complex film. It is poorly crafted and becomes increasingly difficult to follow, which can be frustrating for both children and parents. The story begins in a simple and familiar setting, similar to the movies “Deck the Halls” (2006) and “Christmas Lights” (2004) from ITV. It’s the holiday season, and Chris, a family man, is participating in a yearly competition with his neighbors to see who can have the most impressive Christmas decorations. However, when Chris loses his job to his younger boss (played by Trevante Rhodes from “Moonlight” in a strange one-scene appearance), and it’s announced that the winner of the competition will receive a $100,000 prize, the stakes become much higher.
Chris stumbles upon a mysterious shop that sells extravagant decorations and is immediately drawn in. He ignores the warning signs from the strange assistant (Jillian Bell, who fails to impress) and creates a display featuring a grand tree adorned with characters from the 12 Days of Christmas. The display is a hit, but the next morning, all the characters are gone and Chris realizes he unknowingly signed a ridiculous contract. It turns out the assistant is actually an evil elf who preys on unsuspecting victims by making them agree to impossible deals that result in their transformation into china figurines. To save himself and his family, Chris must find five golden rings, or face the same fate.
The unfolding of events is chaotic and lacking grace, leading to confusion and exhaustion. It seems as though Kelly Younger’s script was hastily written without a clear understanding of the motives driving the characters. The rules of magic are vague and incomplete, with half-hearted attempts at teaching about the true meaning of Christmas and the importance of family. The tone awkwardly shifts between supernatural horror for children, slapstick comedy, and family drama. The humor intended for adults consistently falls flat, leaving no amount of A-list actors to salvage it. Even Murphy and the talented Tracee Ellis Ross, who deserves more leading roles in film, are left scrambling to keep up with the convoluted plot.
The cheerful atmosphere of California does not enhance the Christmas spirit, especially with the disappointing absence of quality lighting in the movie. The anticipated reunion between Murphy and his Boomerang director, Reginald Hudlin, turns into a somber reflection of their current status. While the unconventional storyline may make Candy Cane Lane unique among the many mediocre holiday films, it ultimately falls flat and lacks the festive charm. Both Murphy and Ross deserve more, as do we, and Christmas itself.
The product “Candy Cane Lane” will be released on Amazon starting on December 1st.