“Four Christmases” Equals 82 Minutes Of Self-Inflicted Annoyance
There are many people that find “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” to be a hilarious work of genius. I am not one of those people. There are people that can’t get enough of Ralphie and his BB gun in “A Christmas Story”. Me? If I see that movie once more, I’ll be physically sick. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas…but can you count the good Christmas movies on one hand? I’ll spot you “Elf” and “It’s A Wonderful Life”, you come up with three more. One thing is for certain, there is no way you put “Four Christmases” on that list.
There were moments during “Four Christmases” that made me cringe and I don’t mean in an irritainment way either. On two occasions, this movie actually made me want to cry out. At one point, there are four characters screaming at each other while a baby cries at the top of its lungs…and this is supposed to be a funny moment. If not for Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon, who are fairly impossible to dislike, this movie would be a complete and total disaster of annoying proportions.
Vaughn and Witherspoon play Brad and Kate, a yuppie, San Francisco couple who have been dating for three years without any real commitment to each other (marriage, kids, etc.). They have been lying to their divorced parents (hence the four Christmases) about where they have been going for Christmas to avoid visiting them but this time, their flight has been canceled. By sheer chance, Brad and Kate get on live TV about the cancellation and, wouldn’t you know it, every one of their parents is watching the news right then and there! So Brad and Kate commit to visiting their families…and right about then is when we get on the Annoying Train and we just don’t get off.
The first visit is to Brad’s father, Howard, played by Robert Duvall…who is 100% slumming it here. If you thought he was collecting a paycheck in “Kicking & Screaming”, well, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Brad’s brothers are UFC fighters played by Jon Favreau and Tim McGraw. They punch Brad. McGraw’s kids attack him. It’s redneck heaven…and we are supposed to chuckle along with this? I didn’t laugh at all and I mostly felt terrible to watch Vince Vaughn act in something like this.
The second visit takes us to Kate’s mother’s house. Kate’s mom, Marilyn (Mary Steenburgen, looking very surgically altered), is an old hot chick that hooks up with her preacher. Kate’s sister, Courtney, is played by the adorable Kristen Chenowith. There could be some personal bias here…but she was easily what I enjoyed the most about the movie. Chenowith is forced to play the sweet/cruel older sister role (that you have seen 1.4 million times) but even when she teases Witherspoon, she’s adorable.
Kate and Brad go to church with Marilyn and are forced to act in a stage version of the birth of Christ. I imagine the writers/producers/director thought this scene would be the showstopper of hilarity. Not. Even. Close. Again, it’s tough to watch Vaughn and Witherspoon say and do things that just aren’t funny, no matter how hard they are trying…and believe me, they are trying really, really hard.
We eventually meet Brad’s mom (Sissy Spacek)…but it’s more of the same annoying bits that are disguised as comedy. Brad’s mom is dating Brad’s best friend and, even though it would never happen in actual human life, they are very open about their bedroom habits. However, this does lead to the funniest scene of the movie. Favreau’s character and his wife play a board game and use some really hilarious clues to guess a word. For example, Favreau’s wife says: “This is what you needed when you came home late from the bar two weekends ago”. The answer? “An alibi”. Not bad.
By the time they get to Kate’s father’s (Jon Voight) place, Kate starts to have second thoughts about her arrangement with Brad. They have a fight when Brad decides that their “No Marriage, No Kids” bit is what he really wants. I’ll let you guess how it all ends up…don’t think too hard.
“Four Christmases” reaches critical mass at about the ten minute point. It’s another awful movie in a long line of filth from New Line Cinema, which is very much more miss than hit these days. Who is in charge over there and are they not reviewing scripts?
Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon are virtual life preservers here as they struggle mightily to keep this movie afloat. They shamelessly mug it up, get beat up by kids, insulted, and thrown up on, all with the hopes that it will get a laugh. It’s truly painful to watch at times. Witherspoon has been in garbage comedy like this before (“Legally Blonde”, “Sweet Home Alabama”) and Vince Vaughn is slowly approaching that territory (“Fred Claus”, “The Break Up”). These two actors are too talented and they deserve better than “Four Christmases”.
Cinematically Correct note: Vince Vaughn is officially playing Vince Vaughn in every movie.