Sunday, December 10, 2023

Review: Prime Video's "CANDY CANE LANE" is an Unexpected Delight

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 52 of 2023 (No. 1941) by Leroy Douresseaux

Candy Cane Lane (2023)
Running time:  117 minutes (1 hour, 57 minutes)
MPA – PG for language throughout and some suggestive references
DIRECTOR: Reginald Hudlin
WRITER:  Kelly Younger
PRODUCERS:  Brian Grazer, Charisse M. Hewitt, Karen Lunder, and Eddie Murphy
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Newton Thomas Sigel (ASC)
EDITORS:  Kenny G. Krauss and Jim May
COMPOSER:  Marcus Miller


Starring:  Eddie Murphy, Tracee Ellis Ross, Jillian Bell, Genneya Walton, Thaddeus J. Mixson, Madison Thomas, Nick Offerman, Chris Redd, Robin Thede, David Alan Grier, Ken Marino, Timothy Simons, Danielle Pinnock, and D.C. Young Fly

  • I watched “Candy Cane Lane” on a lark, and I did not expect much from it.  Boy, am I surprised. It is so shockingly charming and endearing that this must be some kind of Christmas magic.
  • Eddie Murphy is quite good in family-oriented films, and even his fans who don't ordinarily like Murphy's family films will probably find something to like in “Candy Cane Lane”
  • The story is ridiculous at times, but “Candy Cane Lane” is the best Christmas movie I have seen in a long time.  I recommend it without reservation.

Candy Cane Lane is a 2023 comedy, fantasy, and Christmas film directed by Reginald Hudlin and starring Eddie Murphy.  The film is an Amazon “Prime Original” that began streaming December 1, 2023.  Candy Cane Lane focuses on a man who is so determined to win the neighborhood's annual Christmas decorating contest that he makes an unwise pact with a rogue elf.

Candy Cane Lane introduces Chris Carver (Eddie Murphy), a husband and father who crafts his own hand-carved Christmas decorations.  Every year, a local television station hosts the “Candy Cane Lane Spectacular,” a contest to judge the best decorated house.  Chris has never won, and he is jealous of his neighbor, Bruce (Ken Marino), who has won several times.

Shortly before Christmas, Chris' employer, the industrial plastics firm, Sydel Twain, lays him off.  When Chris learns that this year's Candy Cane Lane prize is $100,000, he becomes desperate to win the money for his family, although he wife, Carol Carver (Tracee Ellis Ross), has a very good job.  Chris is also oblivious to the lives of his two older children, Joy (Genneya Walton), a high school senior and track star, and Nick (Thaddeus J. Mixson), a tuba player and budding musician.

Looking for Christmas decorations and supplies, Chris and his youngest child, daughter Holly (Madison Thomas), stumble across “Kringle's,” a mysterious Christmas shop filled with all kinds of beautiful decorations, including model buildings, ceramic figures, and a strange Christmas tree.  Chris is so enchanted by all that he sees, believing that these decorations could help him win Candy Cane Lane.  He unwarily signs a deal with Kringle's eccentric shopkeeper, Pepper (Jillian Bell).  However, Pepper is more than she seems, and so is the receipt Chris signs.  Soon, he will need all the help he can get from his family and from a trio of diminutive new friends in order to keep himself out of Pepper's clutches.  And he also has some Christmas lessons to learn.

Audiences first came to know and love Eddie Murphy from his stand-up comedy career; his stint as a cast member of “Saturday Night Live” (1980-84); and his R-rated comedy films, such as 48 Hrs (1982), Trading Places (1983), and Beverly Hills Cop (1983).  Much to the chagrin of the those fans, Murphy's film career as an A-list star eventually led him to make innocuous family-friends films, especially Dr. Doolittle (1998), Shrek (2001), and Daddy Day Care (2003).

Those fans will not be pleased with Candy Cane Lane.  It is a family movie, an absurd fantasy film, and a Christmas movie full of holiday lessons to learn.  For me, Candy Cane Lane is one of the best absurd movies that I have ever seen.  Its concepts and ideas are as imaginative and as inventive as they are ridiculous and preposterous, yet I find the film endlessly lovable.  Every time I tried to dismiss it, I found myself drawn ever deeper into its delicious, addictive fluffiness.  Candy Cane Lane is a true feel-good movie.  It shouldn't work, yet it works to perfection.  Considering director Reginald Hudlin's past directorial efforts, I was (and still am) shocked that he could pull of this kind of Christmas movie, which is, for the most part, a warm cup of cocoa.  If anything, Candy Cane Lane suggests that screenwriter Kelly Younger is certainly inventive.

Nick Offerman, Chris Redd, and Robin Thede are a delight in their voice roles, and David Alan Grier is sly and smooth in his surprise role.  Jillian Bell is nearly perfect as Pepper, except for a few moments that are too over the top.  I think Madison Thomas needed more screen time as Holly Carver, and Timothy Simons and Danielle Pinnock are a winning pair as TV co-hosts, Emerson and Kit.

Eddie Murphy barely breaks a sweat as Chris Carver, and neither does Tracee Ellis Ross as Carol Carver.  Still, they work well together as a screen couple at the center of this delightful family fare.  Despite what some fans may think, Eddie Murphy has the magic touch when it comes to family films.  Murphy passes on the lessons that Chris has to learn with a knowing wink and a nudge, and I was willing to buy it all.  I think I'll be watching Candy Cane Lane again, if only because, for two hours, it made me believe in that Hollywood bullshit called “Christmas magic.”

7 of 10
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Sunday, December 10, 2023

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved.  Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.



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