Thu, Nov 30, 2023 3:36 PM
By GARY GERARD HAMILTON, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Eddie Murphy has fond childhood memories of gathering with his family in Brooklyn and being wrapped in the wonder of the season as they watched classic holiday movies. Now, his Christmas wish is his new film, “Candy Cane Lane,” will create similar memories for others.
“That was in the front of my mind when we chose this script … we want to do something that’s going to be around forever,” Murphy said. “When I was growing up, we used to watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ and ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ and ‘Rudolph’s Shiny New Year’… I think we made a movie like that, that people will watch over and over again.”
The Prime Video release out Friday follows Chris Carver (Murphy) who’s obsessed with winning his neighborhood’s annual Christmas decorating contest. Stumbling upon a mysterious store, he unwittingly strikes a deal with a good intentioned but slightly mischievous elf named Pepper (Jillian Bell) who brings the 12 days of Christmas to life. That turns into a holiday headache for the town and puts Carver at risk of being transformed into a miniature ornament.
“There is the element of magic in the movie, that imagination that children have and all the fantasy of it,” said Tracee Ellis Ross, the “black-ish” and “Girlfriends” star who plays Murphy’s wife. “I’m excited to watch kids watch the movie.”
Ross and Murphy are so dynamic on-screen, it's hard to believe the two actors never worked together before – let alone had never met. Ross' Carol is the ultimate spousal teammate, providing levity to her husband's extreme Christmas competitiveness.
"She’s a comedian and a great actress and all that came together. And she improvises … you don’t even expect to click with an actor,” said the 62-year-old Oscar nominee. Chuckling, he added, “Most of the time, you have a working relationship and there is no clicking — but there’s a great deal of clicking on this one."
The film also stars Thaddeus J. Mixson, Ken Marino and David Alan Grier, along with an ensemble that includes Nick Offerman, Robin Thede and Chris Redd whose figurine characters are past victims of Pepper’s antics.
The film was written by Kelley Younger, whose family grew up on Candy Cane Lane in El Segundo, California — a neighborhood known for competitive holiday decorating. While there are plenty of feel good moments in the story, the movie is also packed with action scenes.
“I wanted a movie that had everything I like in it," said director Reginald Hudlin. "I love Christmas movies. I love Christmas music. I love the colors. But I also love action movies... So, I said, why not put everything you like into one movie?”, explained Hudlin, whose 1990 flick “House Party” starring Kid ’n Play was added to the National Film Registry last year. “Christmas movies are surprisingly elastic.”
“Candy Cane Lane” is Murphy's first holiday film and his first reunion with Hudlin since their 1992 classic “Boomerang.” The uber-popular romantic comedy helped expand Murphy beyond comedy-first roles and action films, allowing him to flourish in new Hollywood territory as a debonair ladies man.
“I love that ‘Boomerang’ has the legs that it has. I love that it still works,” said Murphy of the film which also starred Halle Berry, Robin Givens, Martin Lawrence and Grier. “I love that all the people that were in it went off and did amazing things and yeah, I’m proud of that film.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Murphy planned a return to his stand-up comedy roots, but as the global health crisis upended much of the world, Murphy pivoted to making movies again. He recently wrapped shooting “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel Foley,” the fourth installment of his blockbuster franchise nearly 30 years after the last chapter.
“It’s not something that I would rule out and say I would never do,” Murphy said about returning to stand-up.
But what Murphy and Ross are aiming to do is give friends and loved ones yet another reason to spend time together during not just this holiday season, but future ones as well.
“That is the hope, that we’ve made a timeless classic,” said Ross.
Murphy, a father of 10 and a grandfather, echoes Ross' sentiments: “Christmas movies have a built-in audience – your family’s all together and they want to look at something that they can all watch together…if you do a good job, you watch them forever."
Follow Associated Press journalist Gary Gerard Hamilton at @GaryGHamilton on all his social media platforms.