Deck the Halls is a Christmas comedy revolving around a neighborhood dispute in which one guy tries to light up his house so it can be seen from outer space.
I wouldn't dare tell you whether he succeeds, but I can say that you can clearly see where the film's sluggish jokes are heading, even from a couple of galaxies away.
Saddled with graceless timing and painfully awkward sentiment, Deck the Halls works only if you check your brain in at the door. Even then, it's just barely, and that's only if you can't find Jingle All the Way at the video store.
Matthew Broderick is Steve Finch, a thoroughly unlikable prig (in a role Chevy Chase could have made cluelessly amusing) who gets into a feud with his new neighbor, Buddy Hall (Danny DeVito), a car salesman.
Kristin Davis, of Sex and the City, plays Steve's wife, though she doesn't have much to do other than look cute and go, "Oh, honey ..."
Buddy has a bodacious wife (Kristin Chenoweth) and hot teenage twin daughters, but he wants to do something "monumental." Hence the light show, which involves thousands of bulbs and a sound system that would suit the Rolling Stones.
The plot basically involves Steve getting upset and trying antic revenge routines in which Buddy always seems to get the upper hand. In the film's most inspired scene, Steve ends up covered with reindeer and camel dung, and then said camel pukes on him.
Director John Whitesell has a made a couple of comedies, Malibu's Most Wanted and Big Momma's House 2, but he's spent most of his time in sitcoms. It shows. Deck the Halls sets up its jokes as painfully and slowly as the most routine sitcoms, but there's no laugh track to soften the blow.
You'll have to supply your own, and that might not be happening.
'DECK THE HALLS'
THE VERDICT: *
WHO'S IT FOR?: There are good dumb comedies. Then there's this.
CREDITS: Directed by John Whitesell; starring Matthew Broderick, Danny DeVito, Kristin Davis and Kristin Chenoweth
RUNNING TIME: 1 hour, 35 minutes
FAMILY GUIDE: PG. Some crude and suggestive humor, a little bad language