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There are few holiday laughs for Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy is 62 years old and looks around 39. Whatever he’s doing is working, but the same can’t be said for his latest projects.

“Candy Cane Lane” is one of several recent gut-wrenching comedies alongside Murphy’s three-picture deal with Amazon. “You people.” This marks a reunion between Murphy and director Reginald Hudlin, whose one-time “Boomerang” (1992) rescued Murphy from one of the depressions endured by most major movie stars, especially comedy stars. He might need another elevator after “Sugar Cane Lane,” which isn’t a chore or a travesty. But it’s definitely less than Murphy deserves.

Screenwriter Kelly Younger based her tediously constructed fantasy on the real-life Candy Cane Lane neighborhood of El Segundo, California, just south of Los Angeles International Airport. Homeowners go crazy with decorations every holiday season. Murphy plays a sales employee for a plastics company determined to win the neighborhood’s competitive contest for the best and biggest decorations. However, he is soon laid off, along with half of his colleagues, just days before Christmas. The upcoming Candy Cane Lane attack is especially important because it comes with a $100,000 bounty.

A father and his youngest daughter (Madison Thomas) are lucky enough to find a magical holiday gift shop under a cloverleaf in Los Angeles. Jillian Bell stars, as humorously as the material allows, as Pepper, the malevolent North Pole outcast elf who plans to turn the Murphy character and her family (Tracee Ellis Ross is the generally supportive mother) into tiny little Christmas figures.

Pepper has already miniaturized others and condemned them to this little porcelain fate; Even though it’s 2023, Nick Offerman, Robin Thede and Chris Redd provide the voices of the Victorian little ones. Redd’s flirtatious gaslighter character spies Ross and suddenly starts saying “hey, baby,” prompting Murphy’s character to say, “Hey, that’s my wife!” causes him to say. and Redd replies: “Because Now, Brother.”

The verbal humor in “Candy Cane Lane” is about how many times Murphy and the others will start a sentence with “Nothing -” before the Christmas carolers interject with “fa-la-la.” Save that PG rating! It’s good for a few laughs (“Are you kidding me?” Bell asks later in the game), but the complications of the plot start to become tedious long before the family gets their hands on the five gold coins in a frantic, curse-breaking manner. rings, an attack by Pepper’s minions, including some hostile digital swans and geese, and the arrival of Santa Claus at the 11th hour.

David Alan Grier wears a Santa Claus beard in “Candy Cane Lane,” but for most of his limited screen time, he waits for others to do or say something. Hudlin, Murphy and Ross only occasionally break this project out of visual routine. I realize that writing a new Christmas script can’t be easy; To achieve this, it must tick a certain number of predictable boxes. Murphy is playful, but in just a few minutes with Ross (small conversational scenes that don’t rely on forced curiosity or reactive openness) they seem relaxed and enjoying the company. This is how we roll.

“Candy Cane Lane” – 2 stars (out of 4)

MPA rating: PG (for language throughout and some suggestive references)

Running time: 1:48

How to watch: Premieres on Prime December 1

Michael Phillips is a Tribune critic.

mjphillips@chicagotribune.com

excitement @phillipstribune



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