Candy Cane Lane — Prime Video's foray into the world of Christmas movies and comedy legend Eddie Murphy's first festive film- is set to premiere December 1st. The film follows the shenanigans of holiday lover Chris and his family as they try to save Christmas from the mischief of a magic elf named Pepper.
Speaking to FILMHOUNDS, director Reggie Hudlin and writer Kelly Younger give insight into their festive family-night film, talking to us about what inspired the film, what it was like to collaborate with Eddie Murphy, and why Christmas films can do more for filmmakers than we give them credit for.
I wanted to congratulate you on writing such a lovely cozy Christmas film! I wanted to start by asking you about the genre-blending you do in this film. It's a comedy, it has all these great action sequences and elements of fantasy in it. Where did the idea- and the urge to blend genres together- come from?
Kelly Younger: I'm so happy you responded to it and I love that you're feeling afterward was of coziness! For all of the fantasy you've mentioned and all the elements of the supernatural, the story is actually based on real life. My mother and father have lived in California, at the top of the street that of course becomes Candy Cane Lane every December. My Dad who is a truck driver by trade should have been an artist — he's a woodworker, a craftsman. When they first moved to the area, he went all in decorating the front yard. He was also a car guy and he'd been restoring a 1955 Cadilac. He put it on risers and put reindeer on the hood so it looked like Santa's sled and ended up getting featured in the local paper. So that's the inspiration for Candy Cane Lane, and why this neighborhood would go full out and do this every year.
That's so lovely. Every family has their own holiday traditions and you spoke to that lovely bit of extra-ness you grew up around when it was Christmas time in your household. Tell me a little more about the themes of family and intergenerational connection, because that seems like such a massive part of the film.
KY: I love that you picked up on the themes of family there because of course the holidays are all about family. I love that you know the grandparents and parents and kids can all get together and one of our favorite holiday traditions is to watch Christmas movies together because like you said there's a sense of coziness and joy. And that's what I really hope this movie does because I feel like the world could use some more joy.
Did you find it difficult to write a film that the entire family can watch together without the adults feeling left out when it comes to the jokes and the comedy?
KY: I feel like you're right. It is a really hard balance to strike because you're trying to keep even a mature audience entertained. When I'm writing, I try not to write jokes for the kid. I try to write for the kid inside the adult. To me, that's how I try to make sure I'm not talking down to anyone, not the kids and not their parents either.
You also got to collaborate with Eddie Murphy on this which must have felt amazing.
KY: Exactly! Can we just stop for a minute and just acknowledge that comedy legend Eddie Murphy is in the movie? That in itself feels like a Christmas miracle. And what I loved about Eddie was that I asked him on the first day “What does Christmas mean to you?” and I remember he responded with “everything.” He goes over the top, he makes ornaments and gifts them to people so he really was this character. And to also have Tracee Ellis Ross who is in her own right brilliant was such a treat for all of us working on this.
It felt like a bit of a surprise to see your name pop up as the director for a Christmas film since we've grown accustomed to seeing you produce quite serious documentaries lately. What triggered the change in direction?
Reggie Hudlin: You know it's really funny you say that because I got my start in comedy with Boomerang and people were saying you are all comedy, that's all you can do and we can't take you seriously and then people had something to say when I decided to make documentaries and more serious dramas. Now people go, “Why do you want to tell a joke?”
So, either way, people have something to say!
RH: Exactly! I just like rotating the crops and changing things around creatively speaking and this felt like the perfect thing to do next.
The script is packed with big ideas and massive action sequences and to another director it could easily have been too much. What attracted you to the project?
RH: I loved the fact that this was such an original idea. Christmas films have become their own sub-genre and there's a formula they're supposed to follow and this one had its own heart. My contributions were usually in trying to make it bigger and increase the amount of chaos in the movie. Everyone knew that my motto was bigger is bigger on set. There wasn't a place that was too much for us to go.
It was such a treat to see you and Eddie reunite for this film so long after Boomerang. Did it feel easy to get back into a rhythm with one another?
RH: You know it'd been three decades since me and Eddie have worked together and we're so different now than we were then. We were young, single guys in New York, going out and living the life and now we are real grown-ups with kids and families. We both love Christmas because it means something bigger now and so I decided to tap into that. I had two big tools in my box to make this film a success — one was Christmas itself, because who doesn't love Christmas — and the other was Eddie Murphy. This film represents the lives we lead now, the people we've become which ain't so bad.
Candy Cane Lane is on Prime Video from December 1st.