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Four Christmases
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by Eugene Novikov

"The movie equivalent of Christmas carols blaring at the grocery store."
2 stars

FOUR CHRISTMASES tells the story of an unmarried couple who, foiled in their yearly attempt to avoid family Christmas functions by lying about a charitable commitment and running off to some tropical paradise, are forced to spend Christmas with each of their four parents. Though at least three of the four households constitute their own unique forms of hell, the couple walks away from the experience newly persuaded of the importance of getting married and having children.

Wait! That doesn't make sense! But here we are, and it is the inevitable result of shoehorning the same damn message into every "holiday" movie, year after year. The fact is that Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon) had a perfectly healthy relationship before the movie shows up and insists on playing couples therapist. They loved each other, and did things together. They even engaged in boisterous sexual roleplay, as in the amusing opening scene. They had fun and seemed happy. Maybe they didn't have the best relationship with their parents, but you can't have everything. For God's sake, leave them alone.

Nothing doing. When their flight to Fiji is delayed 24 hours, the movie drags them to a series of excruciating visits with Brad's aggressively blue-collar father (Robert Duvall) and brothers (Jon Favreau and Tim McGraw); his hippie mother (Sissy Spacek), now dating his best friend; Kate's suddenly religious Stepford Wife of a mom (Marry Steenburgen), who is shacking up with a megachurch pastor (Dwight Yoakam); and finally her dad (Jon Voight), who delivers a speech to usher in the happy ending.

Some of the film's material is conceptually funny but beaten into the ground, e.g. the notion of Brad's brothers being amateur MMA fighters who practice their craft on poor, prim-and-proper Brad. Parts are actually pretty awesome, like the Taboo game that reveals the extent of one married couple's closeness. Still other scenes are downright excruciating. One -- a contrived piece of business involving Brad and Kate being forced to play Mary and Joseph in a church pageant -- is so false that it stirs the film out of its lifeless stupor to make it straight-up unpleasant.

All of this, in any case, should be enough to send Brad and Kate scurrying to Fiji, preferably forever. They may actually go to Fiji after all, at the end of the film; it's not clear. First they learn lessons that have no bearing either generally -- it is possible, I am convinced, for one's life and relationships to have worth and meaning without marriage and/or children -- or on their specific situation. These are lessons that they do not need, and that cannot possibly be taught by their experiences in the movie. They're pulled out of thin air and forced on the film by seasonal conventions.

This is the second Vince Vaughn comedy where his rambling, narcissistic schtick spoils his viability as a romantic lead. Four Christmases isn't as bad as The Break-Up in this respect, but watching Vaughn attempt to navigate a movie this earnest while playing, essentially, a self-absorbed jerk is still painful. He needs to find roles where he can freely be an asshole (e.g. Old School or Wedding Crashers), or else not be an asshole (Into the Wild).

Christmas movies are a genre unto themselves. They keep coming because they make money, I guess, so there must be an audience for something like Four Christmases: a few half-hearted yuks tossed together with an arbitrary message about family and the holiday spirit and such. If you're a grinch like me, stay home and put on Bad Santa. There's a Christmas movie.

(Reprinted from Filmblather.com)

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17107&reviewer=419
originally posted: 11/26/08 03:54:16
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User Comments

9/23/11 Nuala Kelly from NI Jeez louise, this wasn't much cop 2 stars
11/29/09 Dan Bland, unmemorable movie- surprising, considering how many stars are in it. 2 stars
1/08/09 Cathy Loved it, I don't understand why other people didn't? 5 stars
12/04/08 Mickey Rourke Vince Vaughn looks like he just pulled his head out of Aretha Franklin's ass. 1 stars
12/01/08 Luisa I thought the movie was hilarious! 4 stars
11/30/08 Joe Smaltz better than a root canal, maybe 1 stars
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  26-Nov-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 24-Nov-2009


  DVD: 24-Nov-2009

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