By Josh Moss
Remember “Fred Claus” from last December, the movie in which Vince Vaughn starred as Santa Claus’ brother? No, you forgot about that bust? Yeah, us too. Sadly, this year’s “Four Christmases” is no better. Feel free to toss it out to the curb next to your needle-less Christmas tree.
Seth Gordon, who helmed last year’s fascinating and entertaining documentary “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters,” directs “Four Christmases,” and we’re not going to chuck all the blame on his shoulders. Marty Scorsese himself wouldn’t have been able to salvage one scene from this mind-numbingly lifeless screenplay by newbies Matt Allen and Caleb Wilson.
One of the major problems is that Vaughn and co-star Reese Witherspoon — yes, that Reese Witherspoon, the one with the Oscar — share zero on-screen chemistry. The two play a couple (Brad and Kate) that has been together for a few years and is happily unmarried. They view tying the knot as a “time bomb waiting to explode.” After all, both of their parents are divorced. Though we’re supposed to view their relationship as one to root for, Witherspoon seems bored, as if she’s reading her lines off a script. Vaughn, as usual, has that whole fast-talking shtick down cold, but Witherspoon is lost trying to keep up in the comedy department.
Each year for Christmas, Brad and Kate convince their families that they’re flying to some third-world country to volunteer during the holidays. In reality they go scuba diving in Costa Rica or Hawaii. But when fog (!) invades San Francisco and grounds all flights, they have to visit their parents instead.
Traveling to four different homes could have been a laughter goldmine, but every scene that follows is cringe-worthy. Brad and his cage-fighter brothers on a roof trying to install a satellite dish is a predictably stupid moment. And Kate in a giant inflatable house is as boring as the scene at Brad’s mom’s place when everybody plays Taboo. Seriously, screen-time is dedicated to watching people play Taboo. There are also, wait for it, puking babies!
There aren’t even any great cameos worth mentioning. Apparently, Tim McGraw makes an appearance we never noticed. It’s worth noting that Robert Duvall is wasted as Brad’s hillbilly father. Once Kate finally realizes she may want more (children, a wedding) out of her relationship with Brad, not only do we not care, but it never seems genuine. To top things off, there aren’t even any memorable tunes to get you in the holiday spirit. Honestly, the only time we chuckled was when we found out why Brad’s real name is Orlando.
We have no problem if Vaughn wants to give the whole Christmas-movie-thing a shot again next year. But, please, make sure it has a little heart to it if you do. Otherwise it feels a little like getting coal in your stocking.
1/2 fleurs di lis out of 4