The war on ‘Christmases’


Someone should alert that bloviating Bill O’Reilly that, between this film and last year’s “Fred Claus,” Vince Vaughn is launching his own one-man attack on Christmas.

In “Four Christmases” he stars as Brad, a self-involved yuppie who marks the holiday by lying to his family about helping the underprivileged so that he and his live-in girlfriend Kate (played by Reese Witherspoon) can jet off to a tropical paradise.

When a dense fog blankets the airport, their cancelled flight leads them into the homes and hearths of their various families.

It follows the standard “Meet the Parents” formula, as their numerous familial oddities are trotted out and past skeletons unearthed, much to the cutesy couple’s dismay. Each scenario is less amusing than the last. And, as Robert DeNiro demonstrated in the above-mentioned film, “Christmases” is quick to populate former serious actors in the wacky parents’ roles (Look, it’s Robert Duvall as a beer-swiggin’ redneck! Sissy Spacek as a new-age hippie, Mary Steenburgen as a Jesus freak!)

As we are forced to travel with them, countless questions arise (beyond the typical “how did this film get greenlit?” “who’s this hard up for cash to accept a paycheck for this.”).

1) Just how close do these families live to each other? Seriously, this is Jack Bauer territory, for only “24’s” super-agent is capable of accomplishing so much in the course of a day. By the film’s end, the two have sat through several holiday meals, installed a satellite dish on a roof, rehearsed and performed in a nativity play, stroll down memory lane with various family members, wash and dry clothes vomit-stained clothes, swear off children, want to have children, break up and make up (and please don’t give me grief for ruining the end, you know exactly what you’re getting in a film like this.

2) If they are skilled enough at lying to learn the Burmese saying for “Merry Christmas,” they certainly could have come up with a whopper to save them the time with certain members of the family, couldn’t they? Brad’s family alone has to be the most obnoxious clan of mouth-breathers (with Duval as his cruel, selfish dad and Jon Favreau and Tim McGraw as his loutish siblings), that any woman with half a brain would be hitchhiking her way back to San Fran. The film never gives us a sense that there is anything but contempt from any part of this clan.

3) After stridently defending their relationship at the beginning of the film, why change what ain’t broke?Seriously, if they were content in their own little hermetically sealed relationship, there is little provided in this film for a persuasive argument to the testament of marriage and family? Just what happens with Kate when one minute the mere mention of children curls her lips as though she just sucked a lemon, to suddenly longing to have a child herself. Was it the scene when she’s asked to look for poop in a diaper? Or perhaps it was the stench of curdled breast milk her little nephew spews on her. Either way, the transition was not once believable.

4) Just how large was that crafts services table to keep Vaughn happy? OK, I realize that this one is just plain mean, but really, he does not look healthy, resembling an older brother of Kevin (“King of Queens”) James with perhaps a chain-smoking problem.

Vaughn does his shtick that has carried him through many a film, firing off lines as though it was an Olympic event. And while that works in more zany or sophisticated comedies (like “Old School” and “Swingers,” respectively), he’s out of his element in sweet romantic comedies. His aggressive banter worked much better in “the Break-Up”,” where he played a total ass in what can only be described as an anti-romantic comedy.

Witherspoon is a non- entity here, in a role that any number of blondes could have filled. The sass so professionally shown in Election, Legally Blonde and Walk the Line is tucked behind her perky Jennifer Anniston haircut.

So, fruitcake, take a breather, you’re about to be replaced.

That oft-chided holiday gift tradition that is so spurned by recipients now has a cinematic substitute . The “Four Christmases” DVD should in the coming years be the one item recipients are loathe to get.

~ by usesoapfilm on December 1, 2008.

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