Candy Cane Lane (Christian Movie Review)
About The Movie
When Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” starts ambushing your eardrums everywhere you go, you know the Christmas season has arrived. That means it’s time for new Christmas movies. The Amazon original film Candy Cane Lane starring Eddie Murphy is one such newcomer. It tells the story of a Christmas decoration competition gone wrong, as a family finds itself under the magical spell of a maniacal elf.
Unfortunately, if Christmas films are like presents under the Christmas tree, then Candy Cane Lane is a lump of coal. Joyless and surprisingly vulgar, this film left me feeling more like a “bah humbug” Ebeneezer Scrooge rather than his transformed counterpart.
The film is reminiscent of movies like Jingle All the Way (1996), a comedy about a character who must overcome rampant materialism to discover the true Christmas spirit. The trailers promised a fun, whimsical holiday adventure. And Eddie Murphy is Eddie Murphy, so the movie has that in its favor too. With an appealing Christmas backdrop, a clever concept, and a great lead actor, what could go wrong? As it turns out, plenty.
With my 8-year-old son home sick from school, I enlisted him to join me for the screening. We didn’t get very far. The film’s opening dialogue features a joke about inflatable sex dolls, the first sign that this wasn’t going to be the type of film I was expecting. Despite being rated PG and categorized as being for kids on Amazon, this story isn’t aimed at families. In fact, it’s hard to know who exactly it is made for.
It includes frequent profanity and adult humor. Several characters are turned into small, living porcelain figurines. They’re cute and fun. Kids will love them, right? Well, then you have one of these figurines, holding a lit match, who sees a picture of the film’s villain and says “I’m gonna burn her a—. Firestick up her a—. She’s going to h—.” The same diminutive character also watches a husband and wife lying in bed together and suggestively implies his desire for a threesome, “I love both of ya’ll. How strange is it about to get?” Classic kids’ jokes!
Moments like those described above might imply that Candy Cane Lane aims to be an edgy Christmas comedy for adults. But perplexingly, it’s not that type of film either. Beyond the swearing, sexual innuendos, and largely cynical tone, the film is very much in the mold of a typical family Christmas film. It’s a PG-rated movie, after all. The villain (an “evil” elf named Pepper) is cartoonishly silly, and there are plenty of sentimental “teaching” moments throughout.
It’s as if there were two drastically different visions for the film—one a whimsical family film and the other an edgy adult-oriented comedy—and rather than pick a lane, they decided to split the difference and meet in the middle. The result is a jarringly mixed tone that is unlikely to satisfy any of its possible audiences.
And that’s a shame, because there is a fun film buried somewhere beneath the surface of the needless and conflicting content. Candy Cane Lane is at its best when it leans into the family-friendly side of its identity. The movie elevates the importance of marriage and family, with a healthy marriage ultimately serving as the key to victory. The lessons the family members learn are valuable, and there are some entertaining scenes, heartfelt moments, and humor that works. But much like the characters in the film caught up in the materialistic exterior of the holiday season, viewers will have to look deep beyond the surface to find that wholesome message at its core.
One of the characters summarizes my viewing experience when she declares, “No, this doesn’t feel magical. It feels terrifying.” With many other holiday movie viewing options available (I’m looking at you A Muppet Christmas Carol), you’re best off putting this film on the naughty list and looking elsewhere this Christmas season.
Engage The Film
Grace and Law
Intentional or not, there is an interesting parallel between the story in the film and the biblical account of the old and new covenant between God and his people. Pepper, the bad elf, was initially in charge of Santa’s naughty list. She was fired because she lacked grace and found Santa too lenient. One character explains, “Her standards were impossible. One strike and you’re out…. She was punishing everyone on the naughty list, and we’re all on the naughty list.” Candy Cane Lane may take a less favorable approach toward religion, but as a preacher might say, “That’ll preach!” Santa’s “nice and naughty list” has always had an element of law-based fundamentalism built in (rewards are earned through good behavior, and bad behavior is punished), but in this film, Santa counters this impossible standard by offering grace and second chances, even for those who least deserve it.
The Meaning of Christmas
As with many Christmas movies, an underlying theme is the “meaning” of the holiday. Opinions will vary, but I’m not personally ruffled by Hollywood films that pursue this important question without getting to a baby born in Bethlehem. I think there is value in elevating the “Christmas spirit” of goodwill and love of neighbor, even if the story doesn’t reach the religious source that gives meaning to those cheerful sentiments. Candy Cane Lane exposes the emptiness of a materialistic Christmas celebration. What’s the use of bright lights and flashy decorations if there’s no joy found within the home itself? Christians can affirm this important message, even while understanding that there is a deeper significance to the season than an extra dose of kindness.