As a dog returneth to its own vomit, so doth Hollywood

By By Mark Mitchell

By Mark Mitchell

“Deck The Halls” 20th Century Fox Directed by John Whitesell Written by Matt Corman and Chris Ord Starring Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick Rated PG/95 minutes Opens Nov. 22, 2006 Zero out of four stars

As a white man, I feel a special fear when I see a certain breed of my white sisters. These are the girls with something a little too damp around the mouth, the eyes of a soul looking for the wrong kind of action and baby-fat that is no longer cute.

There’s an ignorant danger about these women-children, sucking cigarettes, smacking their jellied lips, fumbling key-chains bearing miniature shoes and bottle openers and roach clips and acrylic trolls.

They have mousy hair in the waning, damaged contortions of an old permanent and extremely pale skin, makeup in unnatural shades of pink and brown, huge breasts and oversized T-shirts, generally bearing some cartoon, something in the vein of “Just Give Me All The Chocolate And Nobody Gets Hurt.” They have splayed feet in white Keds, shins widening like a rubbery V under their large, quivering thighs.

These women constitute a huge part of the millions who loved “Titanic,” and bought $150 orchestra tickets to “Lord of the Dance.”

In short, these women, their stubbly, cruel-faced mates and unfortunate spawn, are the people who support all of the questionable taste in the world. They are why Miss America marches on year after year and movies like “Deck The Halls” are made.

Ah, but it feels good to hate a movie as much as I hate “Deck The Halls.” I can’t remember the last time I hated a film this much, and it’s downright nourishing to my soul to feel such extreme loathing and disgust for a truly cringe-inducing, cloying nightmare of a holiday film.

The story, a word used here in only the strictest of terms, follows Steve Finch (Matthew Broderick), suburban dad and Christmas enthusiast, who finds a wrinkle in his well-ordered existence with the arrival of his new neighbor, Danny Hall (Danny DeVito). Danny has big dreams and plans to illuminate his house with enough holiday lights to make it visible from space (literally–sigh).

Not to be outdone, Steve declares a war of one-upmanship with Danny that threatens to drag the Christmas spirit down with them.

If this all sounds a little too “Home Improvement”-y for your tastes, you’re not alone. I’m fairly confident this same plot was used in several “Home Improvement” very-special-Christmas episodes–just not one in which Jill finds out she has breast cancer or Brad spends a night exploring illegal narcotics or Mark starts wearing black leather and his parents learn to love him for who he isn’t.

When a sitcom has you beat for narrative depth, it’s time to pack it in.

There is absolutely nothing complimentary to say about “Deck The Halls.” It’s enough to make you want to destroy all young trees so that hamburgers and chemicals and cancer can prevail uncontested on the earth.

I do wish I could say that both DeVito and Broderick are good people who were unwittingly tricked into accepting these roles only through the darkest acts of voodoo and Scientology–that they were forced into a dark corner, eating their hair, while Tom Cruise screamed at them to take their vitamins and Christian Slater crept up behind them arms out, zombie-style, until they agreed to make the film.

But let’s face it, they aren’t and they weren’t.

DeVito is the kind of creep usually reserved for serial rapists and Ripley’s museums. Broderick may very well have been charming in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” but the last decade of his career has been very unkind. He’ll take the checks where they come, thank you very much.

As the credits rolled, I felt like someone had just taken a floral-scented electric-blue urinal puck and spent the last 90 minutes forcibly scrubbing all the sex and individuality and humanity off me.

No one should ever hate himself or herself enough to pay to see this movie. No one should ever feel that hopeless.