Movie Review: Four Christmases (2008)


Could someone get Reese Witherspoon a box to stand on please!
Photo: Warner Bros.

Ahhh, the Christmas movie that gives up on giving. While the first hour of Four Christmases is a lot of fun, packed with plenty of comedy it truly gives up on entertaining the audience in its final act. This doesn’t necessarily make it a bad movie; it just makes it a movie that you were enjoying and ultimately got bored with… and fast. Perhaps the strangest thing about the whole movie (for me personally) is how the lead character’s name is Brad (my name), his mom’s name is Paula (my mom’s name) and there is an Aunt Donna in the flick (my aunt’s name). Is this all coincidence or were the screenwriters secretly following me around in order to build their characters? We will probably never know.

The film centers on Kate and Brad (Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn), a happy unmarried couple living together and each Christmas making up new lies to avoid their families in order to go on a variety of tropical vacations. This year the destination is Fiji, but when fog rolls in grounding all outbound planes the two get wormed into visiting their four separate families all in one day as they are caught on live television by the local news reporting on the flight cancellations.

We then follow Kate and Brad from one dysfunctional family to the next, which is the root source of all the comedy, or doom-and-gloom, it depends on how you look at it. A lot of what follows is fall down/gross out comedy, but as anyone that has seen Vince Vaughn in action knows, the guy can deliver almost any line and make it funny. The two bounce from one family to the next and encounter amateur UFC fighters, disgruntled fathers, born again mothers, evangelical boyfriends, vomiting children, pregnancy tests and a one-time best friend now dating Brad’s mother. It’s impossibly silly, but nonetheless mindless entertainment.

Things take a turn for the worse near the end as comedy is abandoned and Brad and Kate are faced with real life issues they must deal with as the film tails off into what is comparable to the series finales of most primetime sitcoms. They bring the funny and somehow believes the audience has grown attached enough to the characters to actually think we care about their lives to the extent we want it to turn into clichéd melodrama. Sorry, not interested.

Four Christmases is director Seth Gorden’s first outing that is not a short or a documentary as he made the wildly entertaining video game doc The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters last year. Gorden does a perfectly fine job bringing the funny, but based on the poor decision to abruptly switch from comedy to drama was not the best decision and once he does it he really proves he doesn’t have much of a game for the dramatic.

This flick won’t become a holiday classic, but I am sure it will entertain those that go see it. At a meager 82 minutes it doesn’t demand a lot of your time and in the early moments it offers some hearty laughs.