Candy Cane Lane Review | Cool Yule

by Andrew Parker

A cliched, but still enjoyable holiday romp for the entire family, Candy Cane Lane is one of those Christmas movies that feels familiar and likeable at the same time. Owing heavily to the talents of leading man Eddie Murphy and veteran director Reginald Hudlin – two people who could do this type of easygoing family comedy in their sleep – Candy Cane Lane covers a lot of its narrative tiredness with healthy doses of mirth and goodwill; the very things the characters in this movie have to embrace to save their holiday season from a high concept plot.

Murphy stars as Chris Carver, a suburban dad and avid woodworker under a great deal of stress this holiday season. Chris just got downsized at his sales job, and he’s afraid to tell his wife (Tracee Ellis Ross) because she’s currently over the moon about her own potential promotion. It’s also likely going to be his family’s last holiday together once his eldest kids head off to college. His homemade lawn decorations never place highly in the annual neighbourhood decorating contest, but this year’s competition comes with a potentially lucrative prize that could pull Chris’ family out of a potential funk. With the help of his youngest daughter, Holly (Madison Thomas), Chris finds an unusual Christmas shop located under a highway overpass, run by an eccentric and potentially evil elf named Pepper (Jillian Bell). Pepper agrees to sell her finest lawn decoration – an enormous visual representation of the 12 Days of Christmas – but Chris neglects to read the fine print, and soon a Jumanji-styled holiday disaster is unleashed across the neighbourhood.

The plot, dynamics, situations, characters, and overall vibe of Candy Cane Lane are all arbitrary and stock, but this also isn’t the type of film that people turn to for deep insights into the human condition. People watch stuff like this for the sort of whizzbang visual effects that go hand in hand with the magical elements of the season and to watch people learn lessons about what really matters in life. And sometimes that’s all you really need. Candy Cane Lane, scripted by frequent Muppet collaborator Kelly Younger, never overthinks things, but also never forgets to be amusing, heartfelt, and whimsical.

Hudlin (House Party, Boomerang) keeps the action moving at a good clip, even if Candy Cane Lane runs a little longer than advisable for a film revolving around an arbitrary “find all the clues or be cursed forever” plotline should drag on. The visual effects – especially those used to depict a handful of unfortunate souls who’ve been turned into shiny ornaments by the villain – are well done and help to sell the grandeur of the concept. Murphy is a good sport as always, Bell gives a gleefully moustache twirling performance as the villain, and every actor gets at least one scene where they have a proper chance to shine. 

It’s all been done before, and the whole “learning the true meaning of Christmas” plot is a low bar to clear, but it’s hard to knock a film that accomplishes exactly what it says it’s going to do. That makes Candy Cane Lane, like a lot of holiday fare, infinitely more forgivable. It gives viewers warm and cozy feelings, some decent laughs, and will provide ample distraction from the more stressful things viewers probably feel around this time of year. It’s ideal viewing for those long nights leading into the holidays.

Candy Cane Lane is now streaming on Prime Video.

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