Eddie Murphy Lights Up ‘Candy Cane Lane’ With Standard Christmas Movie Cheer
“Candy Cane Lane” is the movie equivalent of those pumpkin spice drinks coffee shops offer as seasonal menu options. You enjoy it for what it is in the moment, but you’re not getting much else other than a momentary sugar kick. It’s the same with a piece of holiday fluff like this, made with the sole intent of banking off the Christmas mood. And like a big flashy holiday decoration, the movie boasts appeal through the presence of Eddie Murphy. The actor has been a comedy standard for over 40 years, yet he has never delivered a Christmas flick. Now he’s done one, complete with an absurd premise, heartwarming corny lines and a cameo from Santa Claus.
Murphy plays Chris Carver, head of a pristine atomic family in El Segundo, California. Daughter Joy (Genneya Walton) is gearing up to attend Notre Dame (despite dad preferring she go to USC, his alma mater). Son Nick (Thaddeus J. Mixson) wants to pursue music. Chris’s wife Carol (Tracee Ellis Ross) is getting promoted at work. What could go wrong? Well, Chris gets fired from the advertising agency where he labored away. Aside from the usual self-reflecting on life such an event tends to inspire, Chris is now driven to go hard on the neighborhood’s Candy Cane Lane, when residents try to out-do each other in holiday decorations. The fire is lit when a local TV station offers a big prize for the best-decked house. Determined to beat annoying neighbor Bruce (Ken Marino), Chris stumbles upon a pop up Christmas shop underneath a freeway run by Pepper (Jillian Bell). She sells him a stunning Zoetrope tree with hallucinatory designs chirping “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” But on the designated night of the contest, Pepper’s true, menacing intentions are revealed.
No, “Candy Cane Lane” doesn’t turn into “Krampus” or “Violent Night.” It’s a thoroughly PG family movie where Pepper’s scheme amounts to Chris needing to find the “five golden rings” from the classic holiday song. The worst that can happen is that you get pecked by one of the geese from the big tree or temporarily turned into a walking, talking ceramic ornament. Director Reginald Hudlin does some pleasant by-the-book directing, giving everything that nice holiday movie glow. Writer Kelly Younger finds a cheery way to spin a yarn out of what is actually a real event. There is an actual Candy Cane Lane at El Segundo, so the community can probably expect more car tourists this year. As with many Christmas movies, the production design truly sells the premise. The Candy Cane Lane homes are eye-popping light shows and Pepper’s mysterious shop is a wonderland of decorations and toys.
Eddie Murphy brings some of the same ebullience from his lighter entertainments like “The Haunted Mansion” and seems to be having a great time. The same goes for the rest of the cast. They and the gags are much more engaging than the schlocky plot. Timothy Simons and Danielle Pinnock are hilariously paired as the two newscasters covering Candy Cane Lane. D.C. Young Fly steals a lot of screen time as an influencer who lands a gig reporting on the festivities. Jillian Bell also seems to be basking in letting loose as Pepper, who turns out to be an elf gone rogue. David Alan Grier drops in as Santa Claus, with the appropriately deep voice and attire more stylish than the norm. Murphy still dominates with his ability to be so welcoming and then hysterical.
No one will be streaming this movie on Amazon expecting anything bolder than what it sets out to be. “Candy Cane Lane” delivers what it sells. It’s a more traditional offering than what other streamers have been attempting, such as Netflix’s action-heavy “The Christmas Chronicles.” Of course this one still has enough chases, collapsing Christmas ornaments and spells. Pepper even keeps a group of ceramic villagers who were once real people, but were cursed when they failed to find the five golden rings. That’s about as dark as it gets. Everything is resolved quite nicely either way, like a well-wrapped bow on the gift box. It’s a decent enough escape if you’re in the holiday mood, or at worst a background soundtrack while you sip eggnog and bake Christmas cookies.
“Candy Cane Lane” begins streaming Dec. 1 on Amazon Prime Video.