The trailers and TV spots for Four Christmases suggest that its lead couple, Brad [Vince Vaughn] and Kate [Reese Witherspoon] are going to have to cram in four visits to their divorced parents and their various dysfunctional families when plans to go to Fiji are ruined by flight-cancelling fog. The problem with the film is that the families get less dysfunctional as we get closer to the end of the film – and then there’s the cop-out Hollywood ending that recalls the plot point that precipitated the whole fiasco in the first place.
The merriment begins as Brad and Kate visit Brad’s father [Robert Duval], who is also hosting Brad’s two brothers-cum-wannabe-ultimate-fighters [Jon Favreau and Tim McGraw], one of whom is married and all of who, are rednecks who would make rednecks complain about profiling. A hitherto unknown pricing cap for gift exchanges and a satellite dish installation cap a visit that includes Brad being beaten half silly by his brothers – and a secret about Santa being revealed.
The second visit is to Kate’s mom’s [Mary Steenburgen] home – where cougars hold sway, according to Kate. These include lecherous Gram-Gram [Jeanette Miller], Aunt Sarah [Carol Kane] and Aunt Donna [Colleen Camp] – all of whom are upstaged by Kate’s pregnant sister, Courtenay [Kristin Chenoweth] and the revelation that mom’s new boyfriend, Reverend Phil [Dwight Yoakum], is the pastor of an aggressively ecstatic congregation, where Brad gets carried away with their Christmas pageant
By comparison, Brad’s mom [Sissy Spacek] is merely an aging hippie who is now living with Brad’s ex-best friend. By the time we visit Kate’s father, she and Brad have decided that they don’t want the same things and he drops her off, thereby missing the least dysfunctional part of the day – before waking up to the realization that… wait for it… he loves her. D’OH!
From a fast-paced dysfunctional family Christmas movie, Four Christmases devolves rapidly into a toothless tiger. The laughs that dominate the first half of the film [beginning to fade, rapidly during the second visit], are pretty much gone before we reach the fourth visit. By then, it’s time to trot out variations on most of the homilies we’ve come to expect in lazy seasonal films. The crazed energy of the first visit dies well before the last act and all we’re left with is a curiously lacklustre, meaningless film that can’t even get a laugh out of its call back to one of the film’s best scenes, involving an on location TV news crew.
This puppy just ain’t worth it.
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