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Film Review: CANDY CANE LANE (2023): Eddie Murphy Returns for a Mediocre and Shallow Christmas Comedy

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Eddie Murphy Candy Cane Lane

Candy Cane Lane Review

Candy Cane Lane (2023) Film Review, a movie directed by Reginald Hudlin, written by Kelly Younger and 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, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, Lombardo Boyar, Timothy Simons, Danielle Pinnock, D.C. Young Fly, Iman Benson and Belle Le Grand.

Candy Cane Lane is Reginald Hudlin’s new Christmas comedy which is streaming on Amazon Prime Video. It stars Eddie Murphy in one of the comic actor’s lesser performances. It opens interestingly enough with the story of a family man named Chris Carver who feels like Hudlin’s answer to Clark Griswold from the Christmas Vacation movie. Chris is competitive with his neighbors and wants to win a Christmas decoration competition in his suburban neighborhood. When Chris gets fired from his office job, there is a funny scene with a woman whose job is to escort RFP (Recently Fired Persons)’s out of the building. The plot soon reveals that there is a $100,000 prize for the best Christmas decorations in the neighborhood and Chris is all in to win the money.

Chris’s wife is Carol (the always terrific Tracee Ellis Ross) who is trying to get a promotion at her job and doesn’t immediately learn that Chris just got laid off. When Chris and his youngest daughter (Madison Thomas) go into a pop-up Christmas store, they meet a devilish type of conniving trickster named Pepper (Jillian Bell, always hilarious). When Pepper makes a deal with Chris and he signs on the dotted line, things spiral out of control as Chris thinks he will have the best decorations in town and win the money. Instead, Pepper’s deception has a riddle which leads to Chris and his family having to collect rings (five golden rings to be precise) in order to avoid being shrunk into little statues like those people who were tricked by Pepper before them. One such person who was manipulated in the past was the charismatic Pip (Nick Offerman). Let’s not mention the swans that pop up outside Chris and Carol’s home.

This is supposed to be a holiday-themed movie but it takes a lot of time to focus on the mundane aspects of Chris’s kids’ lives. Chris and Carol’s son, Nick (Thaddeus J. Mixson) wants to be a musical talent and struggles with mathematics while his athletic sister, Joy (Genneya Walton) wants to go to a different college than the one her parents want her to attend. This is all cute material but for a movie where Chris is under pressure to save himself and his family from becoming tiny statuettes, it feels unnecessary and forced. It’s almost as if it’s saying you can overcome everything even while facing difficult obstacles but there’s no sense of urgency in the main story line because of all the subplots.

David Alan Grier pops up as Santa Claus at one point late in the movie. This makes for some unfunny scenes that you’d be best to discover for yourself if you choose to see this movie. Danielle Pinnock has the unfortunate role of a television newscaster named Kit who clicks her tongue and makes corny jokes. Pinnock and her fellow newscaster, Emerson (Timothy Simons) have the worst dialogue in the movie especially when Emerson complains about having such a crappy job after his impressive education. Let’s not go there. These scenes feel improvised and should have been left on the cutting room floor.

Eddie Murphy is one of our most talented comic actors and let’s hope his upcoming return as Axel Foley can make up for Candy Cane Lane. You can’t fault Murphy for wanting to do a Christmas movie and in its better moments, it feels like a cross between Christmas Vacation and Home Alone with a dash of Scrooged mixed in for good measure. But, the movie fails to keep up the momentum of the story line by getting bogged down by personal family problems. As Carol goes for a promotion and Pepper’s antics get in her way, one wonders why Carol just doesn’t call out sick. Instead, she meets with high-rolling business people as all hell is breaking loose. Only in the movies.

Tracee Ellis Ross is really the best thing about Candy Cane Lane though she doesn’t have as big a role as Murphy does. Her character feels sincere and well-written even though her actions are sometimes unjustified. But, still, Ross can really do no wrong. Murphy’s moments of hilarity are undermined by the film’s idiotic plot which will probably only appeal to young kids or teenagers although I don’t think I would have even enjoyed this movie even as a teenager. Bell’s Pepper is annoying at many intervals but Bell has this appeal that outshines even the worst of material so therefore, emerges from the film unscathed for the most part.

Candy Cane Lane could have been fun if its script revolved around the picture’s events with a greater sense of urgency. This movie throws in everything but the kitchen sink and all the loose ends get resolved by the picture’s conclusion. Chris even gets his own business during the closing credits montages. He’d probably be unemployed again soon considering the nature of his new work which could open up the door to a sequel. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen. Only see Candy Cane Lane if you love Eddie Murphy even when he’s not at his best.

Rating: 5/10

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