Deck the Halls

Opens at Meridian and other theaters, Wed., Nov. 22. Rated PG. 95 minutes.

What is it about the holiday season that brings lazy filmmakers to pitch meetings with Frank Capra knockoffs clutched in their sweaty paws? 'Tis Noel in Massachusetts: Fake snow glistens hokily on every patch of, er, Vancouver ground while wholesome suburbanites Steve and Kelly Finch (Matthew Broderick and Kristin Davis) lie chastely strapped to their marital bed, planning for the nth time the world's most traditional family Christmas with their eye-rolling offspring. Enter vulgarian: new neighbor Buddy Hall (Danny DeVito), a car salesman equipped with D-cupped wife (Kristin Chenoweth), twin blond bimbettes, and big dreams of Xmas lights so bright, they'll be seen from outer space. Male competitiveness surges hither and yon as tight-assed Steve and brassy Buddy try to outdo one another. Several hundred sight gags later, mounted with more enthusiasm than skill by director John Whitesell (Big Momma's House 2), Buddy's house is a hi-tech gingerbread nightmare, while Steve stews helplessly in the juice of his own hubris until both see the error of their adolescent ways. Though DeVito and Chenoweth bring a rough plebeian charm to the proceedings, it's nothing short of tragic to see the great Ferris Bueller relegated to grimacing straight man. ELLA TAYLOR

 
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