Eddie Murphy’s family friendly films should be a sub-genre in itself. Not only are they thematically similar, but also sometimes offer some payoff that viewers can part with. However, his best movies are those when he’s allowed to be raunchy and off the wall, like DOLEMITE IS MY NAME (2019). But when he has to tone it down, there’s just something missing. Just why Murphy starred and produced CANDY CANE LANE is probably because he had to fulfil a quota instead of getting back to TRADING PLACES (1983). His early catalogue of films hold a special place in my heart.
As for the the holiday themed works, both involve a character trying to make the best of the holidays. In this latest, he plays Chris Carver, a father figure obsessed with Christmas (his entire family is named after certain aspects of the holiday) and he wants to beat his neighbour in the annual house lighting contest/parade. When he finds a hole in the wall operation and agrees to a Faustian style pact with Pepper, an elf (Jillian Bell), things go from it’ll be okay to chaotic!
The subplots concerning him not accepting how his kids are ready to leave home and follow their own interests doesn’t sit well with him. To mix that up with the other tale at least defines the conflict that needs to be resolved by this movie’s end. Had that this familial part of the story been made more important, the film would certainly rank higher on the must-watch list.
But when fans of Murphy’s works are wanting to see if he’s still got it, that’s because he’s not been as prolific recently. Much of the humour comes from the animated Christmas decorations. Here, we meet Pip (Nick Offerman), Lamplighter Gary (Chris Redd), and Cordella (Robin Thede); these little walking, talking statues steal the show with their routines. Despite their best attempts to warn Chris from accepting the trickster’s terms, he ignores them.
And when the animals, objects, and people from the song, “Twelve Days of Christmas” come to life because of Carver overpowering the Christmas tree, they need to be found, captured and put back! If Chris can’t finish finding them all in time, he’ll turn into a little statue! There’s some joy while watching them run around town trying to locate them, I’m wondering why he didn’t pull a DOCTOR DOLITTLE on them! It’d be a wonderful meta moment for fans to laugh at, but alas nobody thought about doing it.
But as for why his family doesn’t get entirely involved is because of the distance that’s forming between father and his children. Eventually, things turn around and they come together–there’s some joy in seeing how that happens. In the message that I think that defines this film is that just how often kin are kept together shouldn’t be locked to traditional beliefs, and thankfully that message is made clearer at the end. We just have to sit through a lot of nonsense before finally finding the writing on the wall that says it’s all good, and life can go on.
CANDY CANE LANE is now streaming on Amazon Prime in North America.