When it was announced that Candy Cane Lane would be Eddie Murphy’s first holiday movie ever, I couldn’t believe it. Out of all the family comedies he did in the late ‘90s to early 2010s, he must’ve done a Christmas movie right? Well, I was wrong. Instead, the Prime Video film sees the comedic star reteam with Boomerang director Reginald Hudlin and harken back to some of the kid-friendly films Murphy might rather forget.
Candy Cane Lane centers on Chris Carver, a hard-working family man pushing himself, his kids, and even his Christmas-decorated yard to the limit. His wife Carol (Tracee Ellis Ross), is working on a promotion at the factory while he himself is laid off as a sales exec. The local Christmas decorating contest is the one thing holding him together as he tries to provide his children with a happy holiday. When it gets announced that a local TV station is offering a cash prize to the winner, Chris’ holiday spirits are lifted.
Caught up in the competition, he and his youngest child, Holly (Madison Thomas) come across a spectacular Christmas shop under an overpass. Run by the eccentric and batty Pepper (a very committed Jillian Bell), he buys a tree decoration modeled after the “Twelve Days of Christmas” and signs the receipt. He will soon find out that that signature essentially binds him to complete an impossible task after making his Christmas wish: finding the gold rings kept by the reanimated characters of the famous Christmas song. Otherwise, he will end up like Pepper’s past victims and turn into an old-timey Christmas figurine (Robin Thede, Chris Redd, and Nick Offerman doing a very weak English accent).
Candy Cane Lane’s plot is very convoluted. It drags on and twists to unneeded lengths toward the film’s end. It doesn’t seem aware of its stakes and its goalpost is always moving. There are a few creative shots Hudlin throws in there to smarten up this messy film but his direction goes off the rails by the end. There’s also some dialogue-syncing issues that detract from the final product.
Eddie Murphy and Tracee Ellis Ross have great energy and seem to be excited to be in this movie. Most of the jokes they deliver actually hit despite varying levels of corniness. Murphy’s recent filmography in Dolemite Is My Name, You People, and Coming 2 America indicated an uptick in the quality of the projects he picked. While that can’t be said for Candy Cane Lane, he at least seems to have a good time reuniting with Hudling and Boomerang costar David Alan Grier (who plays the most smartly-dressed Santa I’ve ever seen).
Candy Cane Lane is on Amazon Prime Video Dec. 1. Watch the trailer below.