Candy Cane Lane Review

Candy Cane Lane
Chris Carver (Eddie Murphy) is determined to win his road’s annual competition for best Christmas decorations. So much so, in fact, that he makes a deal with an evil elf that will either guarantee success or damn him for eternity.

by James Dyer |
Published on
Release Date:

01 Dec 2023

Original Title:

Candy Cane Lane

There are certain things intrinsic to a good Christmas movie: jingling bells, roaring fires, last-minute personal growth and, just occasionally, Faustian pacts with malevolent sprites to earn a capitalist Christmas payday. Nothing says holiday cheer quite like selling your soul, and that’s precisely the set-up for this tinsel-wrapped comedy, which reunites Eddie Murphy with Boomerang director Reginald Hudlin.

Candy Cane Lane

Murphy stars as Chris ‘Happy Chris-mas’ Carver, a Yule-loving dad (he named his kids Nick, Holly and Joy) who lives on Candy Cane Lane, home of an annual competition for the most spectacular (read: eye-gougingly gaudy) Christmas lights. After being abruptly laid-off and subsequently falling out with both his son (who is failing maths but dreams of being a musician) and eldest daughter (who wants to break with tradition and attend college out of state), Carver comes to the realisation that the true meaning of Christmas is, in fact, the contest’s hundred-grand prize. Stumbling across an in-no-way-suspicious pop-up shop hidden beneath a dingy underpass, he manages to acquire a giant, show-stealing clockwork Christmas tree with enough megawatt lumens to blind passing aircraft (literally), and all it costs is a dodgy deal with a dark elf, formerly of Santa’s employ but sacked for torturing kids on the naughty list.

Murphy rolls out his trademark shtick as the maddeningly obtuse Carver, trying to keep his family safe while being hounded by Satan’s little helper, who has unleashed the 12 plagues of Christmas upon them. Drumming drummers, (crank) calling birds, ornery French hens (complete with berets), ninja-like leaping lords (a highlight), egg-strafing geese-a-laying, and demonic-eyed partridges all take swipes at the Carvers in an attempt to ensure they don’t make it to the 25th intact.

Sift through the nonsense and there’s a surprising amount to enjoy in this bonkers Noel nightmare.

With as many horror tropes as the film has (an evil immortal, an insidious curse, demonic tree ornaments coming to steal your soul), it’s hard not to wonder if this entirely chaotic Christmas comedy might not have gone another way. With a more sinister score, a dash of blood, and a particularly dark day in the edit suite, this could easily have been a properly gnarly, Krampus-style festive frightener. “This only happens in horror movies,” bemoans Nick at one point. “What do you think this is?” his mother shoots back.

Alas, while the film has its moments (a lactose-based assault from a deranged maid-a-milking is udder madness), Candy Cane Lane opts not to take the darker path and instead aims primarily for light, slightly hit-and-miss comedy as Carver tries to prevent himself from being imprisoned inside a Christmas ornament for all eternity. But while the performances are something of a mixed bag (Nick Offerman is all but unrecognisable as a Dickensian talking decoration) and the cornball moments grate, Kelly Younger’s anarchic screenplay sees gags flow at a prodigious rate, with a few genuinely inspired pop-culture riffs on everything from Oprah to Die Hard and the fecklessness of Gen Z.

Part It’s A Wonderful Life, part Drag Me To Hell, this unholy concoction of ideas is unlikely to become a seasonal staple, but sift through the nonsense and there’s a surprising amount to enjoy in this bonkers Noel nightmare. In what other film can you hear the phrase, “This chicken is trippin’,” and watch a psychotic elf kick Black Santa in the nuts?

A madcap medley of deranged ideas that somehow manage to coalesce into a messy but half-decent Crimbo comedy. Just spare a thought for the far more interesting horror film straining to break through.
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