December 2, 2009

four_christmases_movie_image_reese_witherspoon_and_vince_vaughn_1.jpgPop quiz: what’s big, bloated and rapidly losing comic edge? If you guessed Vince Vaughn, you’re close. But instead of ripping on Vaughn, the man, let’s pick on his films: a steady stream of increasingly mediocre “comedies” of which Four Christmases falls perfectly in line. Gone are the days when Vaughn acted in smarter comic fare like Swingers and The Wedding Crashers. Now he seems perfectly willing to act in any witless big studio offering. (In fact, between this and Fred Clause, he’s basically cornered the market on non-classic holiday entertainment). The thing is Vaughn, the man, is so damn likable (well, I like him), that audiences are willing to fork over big money for these movies. Maybe Vaughn signs on board these lukewarm scripts because he believes he can save them with his improvisational comic riffs. Unfortunately, not even his skill at that can save this Christmas. More after the jump:

four_christmases_movie_image_vince_vaughn__1_.jpgBlame for Four Christmases creative failure, however, certainly doesn’t rest solely on Vaughn’s shoulders. In fact, a veritable who’s who of Oscar winners helped shape this lump of coal, including 2006 Best Actress winner Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line) as Vaughn’s girlfriend, 1984 Best Actor winner Robert Duvall (Tender Mercies) as his father, 1981 Best Actress winner Sissy Spacek (Coal Miner’s Daughter) as his mother, 1979 Best Actor winner Jon Voight (Coming Home) as Witherspoon’s father and 1981 Best Supporting Actress winner Mary Steenburgen (Melvin and Howard) as her mother. Perhaps all these decorated actors were seduced by the movie’s basic premise, which is certainly a clever one for the age of the fifty percent divorce rate.

Basically, Vince and Reese play an unmarried couple who conveniently schedule an island getaway every holiday season to avoid dealing with their families. When their flight is canceled due to dramatic, C.G.I. fog, they have no other choice but to stay local and visit each divorced set of parents and their respective new spouses/boyfriends/etc. From this point on, the movie basically plays out like Meet the Parents times four plus mistletoe. Pit stops include a visit to Vince’s father’s house, where Vince is repeatedly beaten up by his white trash brothers (one of whom is played by Jon Favreau, whose appearance only serves as another reminder that the hungry young actors of Swingers are…full) and another equally uncomfortable visit to see Vince’s mother (Spacek), who’s now sleeping with his childhood friend. Unfortunately, none of these or the other set pieces are particularly hysterical or clever. It seems as if the writers rested on the strength of their premise, rather than fully exploiting it.

four_christmases_movie_image_jon_favreau_1.jpgAnother nit pick I have with the movie is its west coast setting. No offense Los Angeles, but you’re not really the most festive location for a holiday movie. If I’m watching a Christmas movie, I want snow, dammit, not some dusty location an hour north of the city.

To end on a note that’s a little more in keeping with the holiday spirit of giving, I will admit Four Christmases does provide a bizarre laugh or two. Maybe even three. If that’s sufficient enough to make you merry, then I say go for it. Otherwise, you can join me in asking Santa to bring Vaughn some smarter comic scripts this year.


This is another mediocre Vince Vaughn comedy that barely even qualifies as a stocking stuffer.

Four Christmases is rated PG-13 for some sexual humor and language. It has a run time of 88 minutes.

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