Filled with forced yuletide cheer and mixed messages about the true meaning of Christmas, this loud and obnoxious holiday comedy boasts a fine cast and little else. Optometrist Steve Finch (Matthew Broderick) is known around his perfectly Rockwellian, exclusively Christian small town of Cloverdale, Massachusetts, as the "Christmas Guy," and it's a job he...read more
Filled with forced yuletide cheer and mixed messages about the true meaning of Christmas, this loud and obnoxious holiday comedy boasts a fine cast and little else. Optometrist Steve Finch (Matthew Broderick) is known around his perfectly Rockwellian, exclusively Christian small town of Cloverdale, Massachusetts, as the "Christmas Guy," and it's a job he takes seriously: Steve not only oversees Cloverdale's annual Winterfest carnival, but he's also the town's go-to guy for questions regarding his favorite holiday. Around the Finch household, December 1 means the annual reappearance of Steve's quaint Christmas calendar and the commencement of a strictly regimented shopping-decoration-celebration schedule that ensures maximum holiday efficiency, but leaves no room for enjoying the season's small pleasures with wife Kelly (Kristin Davis), their anxiety-ridden 10-year-old son, Carter (Dylan Blue), and mopey, 15-year-old Madison (Arrested Development's Alia Shawkat). Steve's carefully laid Christmas plans go awry with the middle-of-the-night arrival of his new neighbors, the boorish, vaguely criminal Buddy Hall (Danny DeVito), his flashy wife, Tia (Kristin Chenoweth) and their beautiful blonde twins, Ashley and Emily (Sabrina and Kelly Aldridge). Buddy is the kind of salesman who can sell a car at sticker price to the owner of the dealership, but he's easily bored and dreams of one day doing something monumental. Kelly really likes their new neighbors, but Steve is wary, particularly after Buddy begins turning his house into a local tourist attraction by draping it with Christmas lights and parking a sled and two dodgy-looking horses dressed as reindeer on his front lawn. Steve resents Buddy's intrusion onto his holiday turf, but tensions really begin mounting when Ashley and Emily introduce Buddy to MyEarth, the online virtual globe. Unable to pick out his small house from MyEarth's satellite images, Buddy declares that he's finally discovered his monumental something: He'll cover his house with a Christmas display so bright it can be seen from space, even if it means triggering a game of holiday brinkmanship with Steve that ends with both men learning something about, you guessed it, the true meaning of the holiday season. Coscripted by Don Rhymer, who's made a career of rush-job sequels to hits like BIG MOMMA'S HOUSE, THE SANTA CLAUSE and CODY BANKS, and directed by MB2's John Whitesell, this is the kind of condescending crap that tries to have its sanctimony and eat it, too. Even as it preaches the simple joys of the holiday season — spending time with family members, and singing Christian songs with your Christian neighbors — it assumes we won't go home happy until we see Buddy Hall's house lit up like a supernova, a less than dazzling display it obligingly delivers.
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