Among the annual flurry of Christmas comedies, Reginald Hudlin’s Candy Cane Lane (2023) on Amazon Prime Video is a decent mindless entertainment. Starring Eddie Murphy, the film is mildly funny as well as exasperating cliched. But considering the indistinguishable slog fests and cash-ins that make up the festive season movie catalog nowadays, Candy Cane Lane might make us say, “You could do a lot worse.”  In this second of the three-film deal Murphy has signed with Amazon (the first one was the mediocre Coming 2 America), the actor plays a middle-aged, middle-class father. He unwittingly seals a deal with an evil elf, bringing dire consequences to his family.

Candy Cane Lane opens in the sunny, pristine neighborhood of El Segundo. Chris Carver (Murphy) is gleefully preparing his front yard for the annual competition for the best-decorated house. The impressive hand-carved decor is a testament to his hard work, although his annoying neighbor regularly wins the competition with his colorful inflatable yard decorations. It’s a bit of an emotionally challenging period for Chris as he faces the fact that his children have grown up and might soon move out. Naturally, the emotional turmoil makes him get a bit intrusive in his children’s decisions. Chris wants his daughter, Joy (Genneya Walton), to go to USC so that she can be home for dinner. However, she wants to fly the coop and opts for Notre Dame.

Chris’ son, Nick (Thaddeus J. Mixson), loves music and is a gifted Tuba player but sucks at math. Music, of course, isn’t gonna get you a job, according to the dad. Chris’ understanding wife, Carol (Tracee Ellis Ross), restrains him whenever necessary, and she looks forward to getting a promotion at the packaging factory. Thankfully, the so-called ‘Christmas Spirit’ within Chris is alive due to his little daughter, Holly (Madison Thomas). However, the news of being made redundant haunts the family man. But Chris soon comes across an opportunity that he feels might change the fate of his family. The neighborhood’s annual competition has gotten bigger, as the award for the year is advertised as $100,000.

Candy Cane Lane (2023)
A still from ‘Candy Cane Lane’ (2023)

To conquer the contest, Chris and Holly are in search of extravagant decorations. They stumble upon a mysterious yet alluring pop-up store run by a strange woman named Pepper (Jillian Bell). A giant and most beautiful tree that’s based on ‘12 Days of Christmas’ catches their attention, and Chris signs a ludicrously long contract before buying the object. On the first day of exhibiting the yard decorations, papa Chris excels, and it’s all a huge success. Alas, he wakes up the next day to find the characters in the tree missing. Chris also learns that a pact binds him to Pepper, who is actually an evil, bitter elf cast out by Santa. She has the habit of tricking people, turning them into cute porcelain figurines. Now, it’s all about Chris working with his family to avoid the curse.

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The script, written by Kelly Younger, is one of the weakest elements of Candy Cane Lane. Though we know the outcome of such a fantastical premise, we expect some energy and thrills that make the silliness very engaging. However, the narrative lacks any tension, and some of the conflicts are set up in the most ungraceful manner possible. It’s comprehensible that the film is aiming to be a light-hearted family fare, but the shift to the supernatural territory merely produces lifeless set pieces. Running for two hours, the narrative could have been at least fifteen minutes short, making the magical aspect concise and more impactful.

Director Reginald Hudlin has reunited with Eddie Murphy after Boomerang (1992). Moreover, the filmmaker has made some decent dramas and documentaries recently, Marshall (2017), Safety (2020), and The Black Godfather (2019). He tries to incorporate some zeal and rein in the chaotic tonal shifts. Yet, we can’t stop losing interest in the Carvers’ quest by the time it reaches the end. Candy Cane Lane definitely has an intriguing and bizarre premise for a standard holiday fare. But the heavy lifting is primarily left to the A-list cast. And they have really done a brilliant job, particularly Murphy and the extraordinary Ellis Ross.


Also, Read: A Christmas Story Christmas [2022] Review – An Okayish Sequel to the Beloved Holiday Classic


It’s been more than four decades since Eddie Murphy had his breakthrough roles in 48 Hrs and Trading Places. Over the years, the iconic comedy actor has made more than his share of mediocre and trashy flicks. Nevertheless, there were a few fascinating comebacks, too, like Dolemite Is My Name. In Candy Cane Lane, Murphy’s presence is truly a blessing, as he delightfully engages with his character’s idiosyncrasies and warm-heartedness. His usual histrionics are held back, and his scenes with Ellis Ross are pleasing to watch. Apart from the cast, the other appreciable element of the film is the robust visual effects, involving some figurine frenzy (Nick Offerman’s figurine character aces the stereotypical British accent).

Overall, Candy Cane Lane (120 minutes) is a familiar and forgettable Christmas fare, but it’s entertaining enough to give it a watch.

★★½

Candy Cane Lane (2023) Trailer

Candy Cane Lane (2023) Movie External Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Letterboxd
Candy Cane Lane (2023) Movie Cast: Eddie Murphy, Tracee Ellis Ross, Nick Offerman, Jillian Bell, Genneya Walton, and Thaddeus J. Mixson

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