How a sunny Southern California street inspired “Candy Cane Lane”

Eddie Murphy reunites with 'Boomerang' director Reginald Hudlin for a new twist on a holiday movie.

Forget your white Christmas, we’ll be at the beach.

While the notion of a white Christmas has come to define the holidays for many, Candy Cane Lane sets out to offer a holiday movie for those in warmer climates, specifically Southern California.

The movie, which hits Prime Video on Dec. 1, follows Chris Carver (Eddie Murphy), a dad who is determined to win his neighborhood’s holiday light contest. In his quest for December domination, he embroils his family in unexpected chaos when he makes a pact with Pepper (Jillian Bell), who he later discovers is a scorned elf, setting in motion a curse that brings the “12 Days of Christmas” to life.

<p>CLAUDETTE BARIUS/ AMAZON</p> Tracee Ellis Ross, Eddie Murphy, and Genneya Walton in 'Candy Cane Lane'


Tracee Ellis Ross, Eddie Murphy, and Genneya Walton in 'Candy Cane Lane'

That might sound like magic straight out of the North Pole, but for screenwriter Kelly Younger, the holiday magic started at home. His father lives on the same real street as the Carvers in the film — Acacia Ave. in El Segundo, Calif. — and is just as passionate as Chris when it comes to decorating for the holidays.

“His father really is that guy,” says director Reginald Hudlin. “He makes all these handmade decorations for the yard. He's a truck driver, but he's also an artist, and he makes original stuff every year. Shooting a Christmas movie in Southern California gives you these really unique opportunities. I believe the holiday spirit is what you grew up with.”

<p>CLAUDETTE BARIUS/ AMAZON</p> Eddie Murphy in 'Candy Cane Lane'


Eddie Murphy in 'Candy Cane Lane'

Growing up in Southern California, Younger had always wanted to write a Christmas film with a non-traditional setting. “Most Christmas movies have snow,” he says. “And I get it! But what about those of us who’ve only got sand? We’ve got holiday spirit too! As kids, we would take our boogie boards to the beach and ride down the sand dunes like we were on sleds. That’s what inspired the opening shot of the movie. I’d love to see more holiday movies set in unexpected places.”

Younger brought the crew, including Hudlin, to his parent’s house to experience the real Candy Cane Lane before production began. “They had hot chocolate and all this awesome stuff,” adds Hudlin. “It's so joyous and wonderful. We really wanted to capture the magic of what people really do, because real-life Christmas, it doesn't matter how you do it, as long as the love is there, then the magic's there.”

<p>CLAUDETTE BARIUS/ AMAZON</p> Tracee Ellis Ross in 'Candy Cane Lane'


Tracee Ellis Ross in 'Candy Cane Lane'

Hudlin, Younger, and Murphy were all eager to create a holiday movie filled with Christmas magic that also portrays the reality of the season’s stressors. “In my family the holidays are filled with joy and excitement, yet they can be stressful and exhausting!” says Younger. “ I wanted to show a real family, in a real neighborhood, dealing with real life but also with a touch of magic. Those are the wish-fulfillment movies I love the most, where ordinary people get into extraordinary situations, but the spirit of Christmas helps them find their way back to what really matters. For me, that’s family and home, and that home is on Candy Cane Lane.”

<p>CLAUDETTE BARIUS/ AMAZON</p> Eddie Murphy and Ken Marino in 'Candy Cane Lane'


Eddie Murphy and Ken Marino in 'Candy Cane Lane'

For Murphy and Hudlin, it was also a chance to reteam for the first time since 1992’s rom-com classic Boomerang. But with so much time in between, they wanted to make a movie reflective of all that has changed in their lives in the ensuing decades. “When Eddie and I made Boomerang, we were both single guys living in New York, going to the same clubs,” says Hudlin. “It was a movie that captured a version of what we were doing. Now, we're both married with kids and living in L.A. This is a movie that captures what we are about right now. Eddie really loves being a dad, and I love being a dad.”

<p>CLAUDETTE BARIUS/ AMAZON</p> Eddie Murphy, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Reginald Hudlin on the set of 'Candy Cane Lane'


Eddie Murphy, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Reginald Hudlin on the set of 'Candy Cane Lane'

While Murphy was already a mega-star when Hudlin directed Boomerang, it was only Hudlin’s second movie. Now, he’s got credits directing major television shows, films such as House Party and Marshall, and even a stint as the producer of the Oscars to his credit. But what mattered most was his familiarity with Murphy’s style. “I knew Eddie's rhythms, so I knew how to design a movie from development through production that really makes it easy for him to do his best work,” Hudlin notes.

<p>Courtesy of Prime Video</p> Animated ceramic holiday figurines in 'Candy Cane Lane'

Courtesy of Prime Video

Animated ceramic holiday figurines in 'Candy Cane Lane'

Of course, it helped that Younger’s script also fed into all of Murphy’s interests. “Eddie, who loves Christmas more than anything, went full holiday on his performance,” says Younger. “As a writer, there’s no greater thrill than seeing your characters come to life in the hands of great actors. Once Eddie had the script, the real magic happened. The story spoke to his own personal love of being a father and family man, so I knew we had the next great holiday classic on our hands.”

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