Slay Bells

Paul Rudd headlines this festive foul-mouthed comedy centred on Santa Claus (Ricky Gervais) running into a spot of bother with a mafia boss Jimmy No Fingers (Christopher Walken) when he delivers to his house on Christmas Eve and accidentally witnesses a triple murder. However not even its game cast and knowing humour can save it from being an ultimately crap gift to audiences.

Slay Bells major problems lie in its uneven tone. The swearing quota would be at home in a Martin Scorsese gangster flick but its sugary Yuletide message smacks of overkill.

Rudd plays a down on his luck lawyer who splits up with his girlfriend (Leslie Mann) on Christmas Eve of all days! He’s out on the town and drunk as a skunk when he literally stumbles into a man wearing a Santa outfit and throws up on him. Comedy high jinks ensue, but Rudd and Gervais have very little chemistry despite the odd comedy zinger fired between the pair.

Rumour has it none other than Judd Apatow gave the script a polish and shine but sole credit goes to Get Him To The Greek’s Nicholas Stoller. The re-imagining of Father Christmas as a loud, obnoxious Brit is a far cry from the likes of Richard Attenborough’s much loved depiction, but falls utterly flat.

As befitting a movie made by the Frat Pack, there’s cameos from Seth Rogen, Ben Stiller, Steve Carrell and, bizarrely, Stephen Merchant as a hobo who has frozen to death under a bridge during the film’s admittedly funny opening scene.

Santa running into the mafia hit on Christmas Eve is a fresh approach, but after a while it runs out steam and direction. Gervais at least tries something different but his constant whiny performance and high-pitched screeching make him the worst Santa since Tim Allen in The Santa Clause. Lines such as “It’s a night Yule never forget, my friend” are great coming from Christopher Walken, in great pantomime villain form, but not even he can rescue it.

One might even suspect it’s a vanity showcase for Gervais, who doesn’t really have the greatest range as an actor. The Americans seem to love it but to me, it’s another variation of David Brent – this time in a Santa costume, but no less egregious.

The supposed highlight of the movie features a farting reindeer which may or not be Santa covering his tracks. “Sprouts” he says to a bemused Rudd. It’s meant to be funny but not. Given the talent on display and the writers involved it’s appallingly low brow. Santa Claus swearing like a sailor on shore leave might be funny for five minutes, but it clocks in at two hours. It might want to be the new Midnight Run, but falls well short.

By Martyn Conterio

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