Australian Council on Children and the Media

Deck the Halls

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Short takes

Not recommended under 8, PG to 13 (Viol. Theme. Sex. Lang.)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Deck the Halls
  • a review of Deck the Halls completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 20 November 2006.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to violence, themes, sexual references and coarse language.
Children aged 8-13 Parental guidance recommended due to themes, sexual references and coarse language.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Deck the Halls
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild sexual references, Mild themes and coarse language
Length 106 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Steve (Matthew Broderick) and wife Kelly (Kristin Davis) Finch lead a nice, orderly life with their two adolescent children, 15 year old Madison (Alia Shawkat) and 10 year old Carter (Dylan Blue) in a nice, neat neighbourhood. However their order is seriously disrupted when new neighbours Buddy (Danny De Vito) and Tia (Kristin Chenoweth) Hall move in across the road with their twin, teenage daughters. It soon becomes very obvious that the Halls are the exact opposite of the Finches.

Buddy gets a job as a used car salesman as he’s very good at selling things, but he’s still trying to find his niche in life. As it’s approaching Christmas Buddy starts decorating his house with lights. This turns into an obsession when he decides he wants his house to be bright enough to be seen from space. The Finch family is naturally very put out about this, as not only is their sleep interrupted by the bright lights and accompanying loud music, but also because Steve has always been known in the town as “the Christmas Guy”.

What ensues is a fierce competition between Buddy and Steve while the remaining family members make friends. This doesn’t please Steve either as he doesn’t like the influence the Hall family is having on his children, whom he has reared very strictly. The Halls on the other hand, have looser moral standards, particularly when it comes to following the law. The lead up to Christmas becomes more and more tense until finally Kelly and Tia can’t take anymore and they have to move out to make their husbands see sense.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Unlawful behaviour

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some slapstick violence in this movie including:

  • Steve, dressed in a Santa costume, sits in a sleigh which suddenly takes off, pulled along by horses who have taken fright. The sleigh is out of control and almost hits a car, then becomes detached from the horses and plunges over a cliff. Steve ends up falling into a frozen lake.
  • Steve accidentally knocks over a petrol can, while chopping down a Christmas tree. The sparks from the axe ignite the petrol which burns down all of the Christmas trees.
  • Buddy gives himself an electric shock.
  • Steve falls into a camel pen, gets covered in muck and a camel spews over him.
  • Steve accidentally knocks down an old lady with a snowball.
  • Tia and Kelly both hit their husbands for being stupid.
  • in an ice-skating race, skaters deliberately knock others down so they can win.
  • Steve shoots rocket fireworks at Danny’s house and accidentally sets off the whole lot. One backfires and goes into his own house, setting fire to his Christmas tree and doing a lot of damage.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there is one scene that could disturb children under the age of eight, in which Buddy mentions that, while moving into the house, he dropped a refrigerator on a cat.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed or scared by the scenes mentioned above.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

It is unlikely that anything in this movie would scare or disturb children over the age of eight.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

It is unlikely that anything in this movie would scare or disturb children over the age of thirteen.

Product placement

None of concern.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • A friend mentions to Steve that Dave, the local policeman, is a cross-dresser. He is later shown wearing a pink bra and G-string.
  • The Halls’ daughters are often scantily dressed, much to the delight of Carter.
  • Steve and Buddy are shown inside a sleeping bag with nothing on as Buddy is trying to warm Steve up after falling through the ice.
  • It is implied that Carter sees a large picture of Tia in the nude (although nothing is actually shown)
  • Buddy and Steve are watching a rear view of ‘Santa Babes’ on the stage who are dressed in hot pants. They’re both drooling over them and yelling out to them when, much to their horror, the girls turn around and they realise that they are, in fact, their own three daughters. Many will find this depiction of middle-aged men behaving in this way towards teenagers and, in fact their own daughters, quite distasteful.

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern.

Use of substances

Some drinking of alcohol at home and on the street.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • damn
  • Jesus
  • oh my God
  • arse

 

In a nutshell

Deck the Halls is a family Christmas movie that few will find amusing. It is full of stereotypes and lacks imagination. The movie is supposed to be about the true meaning of Christmas but is not convincing.

The movie portrays law abiding citizens as dull and boring while people who skirt around the law are seen to be funny and more likeable. Buddy commits several crimes which are presented as being funny and go unpunished:

  • cuts down the town’s Christmas tree and gives it to Steve as a present
  • gives Steve a present of a new car and then tells him he has to pay for it
  • steals Steve’s electricity and newspapers

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