What’s the holiday season without a film about the importance of family and finding the true spirit of Christmas? It’s either that trope or a city girl stuck in a small town where she finds love and the spirit of the holidays. The pickings are limited when it comes to messages in our Christmas films, however, there’s something magical each and every time you turn one on. So how is a film to set itself apart from the rest, when there are already so many Christmas movies to choose from? Well, Prime Video is hoping to do just that with Candy Cane Lane, which arrives on their streaming service tomorrow.
Directed by Reginald Hudlin (producer of Django Unchained and The Boondocks) and written by Kelly Younger (Muppets Haunted Mansion and Muppets Now), Candy Cane Lane stars Eddie Murphy as a man on a mission to win his streets Christmas contest, however, some wacky magic throws a wrench in that plan. Joining him on screen are Tracee Ellis Ross, Jillian Bell, Ken Marino, and Nick Offerman.
As one of the funnier Christmas films to choose from, Candy Cane Lane is a great movie to put on for you and your family to celebrate the holiday season! Continue reading for my full review.
[Warning: Spoilers from Prime Video’s Candy Cane Lane are below!]
Eddie Murphy’s Chris Carver needs a hobby for the holidays
Chris is having a rough holiday season when we begin Candy Cane Lane. As a successful businessman and family man, he becomes a bit lost when he’s laid off from his job. He’s always been so sure about himself and his abilities, but when you suffer a blow such as this right before Christmas, it hurts. His supportive wife Carol (Ross) ensures him that everything will work out, but also suggests that it’s time for Chris to spruce up his resumé and start the search for another job.
However, he has something else in mind, a distraction from the cruel reality of his situation; the annual Christmas competition that his block holds. This isn’t any competition though, this is a televised all-out extravaganza to find out who is the king of Candy Cane Lane, a status that his neighbor Bruce (Ken Marino) has held for years. But this year is different, as a 100 thousand prize is on the line, not just Chris’ reputation. So it’s time for him to step his game up from the hand-carven decorations he’s loving made for his yard. What is Chris to do?
The answer is simple and fits in perfectly with the consumerism aspects of Christmas, buy the biggest and best decorations he can for the house. Seems simple enough, however when he unknowingly stumbles upon a magical Christmas store run by the evilly mischievous elf Pepper (Jillian Bell), it becomes clear that he’s bitten off more than he can chew. Can he, along with his wife and three children, Joy (Genneya Walton), Nick (Thaddeus J. Mixson), and Holly (Madison Thomas), stop the nefarious plan before he becomes another victim to wicked Pepper? Tune in to Prime Video and discover those answers for yourself, when Candy Cane Lane drops!
The positives and negatives of Candy Cane Lane
If there’s one thing my family loves more than anything, it’s a Christmas film. As I stated in my Santa Clauses season 2 review, it doesn’t take much to please us, when Santa or the holiday is involved. So it shouldn’t come as too much of a shock that I loved Candy Cane Lane quite a bit. The premise itself is a standard holiday film, although forgoes the romance aspect of the season for the family-friendly hijinx instead, ala Home Alone. It’s a film that’s about family and what the spirit of the holiday truly means, which is something that almost anyone can relate to in one aspect or another.
The premise is predictable, but that is to be expected from a basic holiday film. Things that are predictable are inherently easy to enjoy because the anxiety of the unknown decreases significantly. That isn’t to say that there aren’t aspects of Candy Cane Lane that are surprising, because there are things that shocked me more than I expected for a Christmas film. Specifically, there is one twist that is rooted in the Christmas story in which the problem is developed, which if you pay attention, might not be that surprising. However if you’re just passively watching it for enjoyment, you might not see it coming.
Perhaps the most shocking aspect of the film was the CGI, which seemed impressive for a streaming/holiday movie. It felt unreal compared to the cheap aesthetics that I’ve come to expect from any other streaming Christmas film. By no means is the VFX world-changing, but it’s enough that it works well with the world in which the film is set, without feeling cheap. Talking about some of the more impressive pieces might be considered a major spoiler, so I’ll refrain, but I’m excited to see what others think after viewing Candy Cane Lane.
The most exciting part of the entire film is the incredible cast and acting. The entire Carver family are fantastic, with Eddie Murphy leading the charge as the patriarch. Murphy is always a strong comedic force even in this film, however, is outshined by Tracee Ellis Ross, who is the stronger of the two Carver parents. She’s hilarious and pragmatic throughout the entire situation. She’s the backbone of the family and without Ross in the role, the film would suffer severely. Each of the children also does a great job in their respective roles, with moments where the audience and relate to each of them.
However, the best parts go to a magical elf and a moving porcelain figure. Jillian Bell is phenomenal as Pepper, doing a wicked job of balancing the humor with the sinister. I’ve seen Bell in other roles but never appreciated her humor. That is until now. There’s something so special about her performance as Pepper. I didn’t know she could play evil so well. I cannot wait to see her in more roles like this, because it’s truly remarkable. Nick Offerman was also excellent as Pip. I didn’t even realize it was Offerman until the end and the credit rolled. Pip provides a ton of the heart of the series as the grumpy man with a heart of gold. I cannot stress how great he is in this role, but are you surprised? Offerman has proven time and time again that he’s an amazing actor, even in a Christmas film.
While Candy Cane Lane is a fantastic Christmas film to watch this holiday season, I would argue that it’s not exactly a young family-friendly movie. There are a lot of jokes and situations that aren’t for those younger than 10, and that’s perhaps being a bit generous. I saw it with my 15-year-old nephew and there were some jokes that embarrassed even him. So if you want to avoid some awkward conversations with your children, even about the reality of Santa being real or not, I’d maybe keep it for the older children and yourself.
Final thoughts on Prime Video’s Candy Cane Lane
Overall, I loved Candy Cane Lane. It’s one of the top Christmas films out there currently, with an exceptional cast that elevates an average holiday film script. If you’re looking for something fun and exciting to watch to celebrate the holiday season, this one should be at the top of your list.
Candy Cane Lane arrives on Prime Video tomorrow! Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord if you plan on watching Candy Cane Lane!