Movie Review: Four Christmases (2008)

Vince Vaughn may be the best straight man in comedy films today. And it seems he’s caught the Christmas bug, as for the second year in a row he finds himself in a comedy centered around the Christmas holiday. Last year it was the surprisingly funny, yet critically dismissed Fred Claus. This year he puts his subtle quick wit to use in Four Christmases.

But unlike his first foray into the holiday maelstrom, Four Christmases is tiresome and blatantly formulaic — so much so that within five minutes of each of the four substories, I knew precisely who was going to do what to whom. The only unanswered question to it all was why — why would Hollywood subject anyone to this duress under the guise of a holiday movie?

In case I lost you there, the film revolves around the hip, San Francisco couple of Brad (Vaughn) and Kate (Reece Witherspoon). They’re the unattached type and because of this they’ve decided to not have children and have actively avoided their families during the holidays (apparently any semblance of a family puts a crimp in the jetset lifestyle). But when fog cancels their vacation plans to Fiji, they’re forced to visit with each of their divorced parents (hence the four Christmases). After meeting their disjointed families it is no wonder Brad and Kate have been trying to stay as far away as possible.

The unimpressive setups first start at Brad’s father’s home. Here we meet his condescending dad Howard (Robert Duvall) and cage-fighting brothers Denver (Jon Favreau) and Dallas (Tim McGraw). This stop is little more than an exercise at humiliating Brad, as his father hurls a barrage of redneck insults his way while his brothers man handle him. Next comes a stop over at Kate’s mom Marilyn’s (Mary Steenburgen) home where her Gram-Gram (Jeanette Miller) gets flirtatious and the baby seed gets implanted deep into Kate’s head thanks to her pregnant sister Courtney (Kristen Chenowith). Later, during the never-ending day, they then visit Brad’s mom Paula’s (Sissy Spacek) house. More contrived laughs come from a friendly game of Taboo and from the fact that she’s now dating a friend of Brad’s from high school. Lastly, the couple makes their way to Kate’s dad Creighton’s (Jon Voight) residence. I don’t seem to recall many laughs here, that’s probably because my brain had ceased functioning by then.

Each visit tears the couple apart bit by bit — Kate comes to the realization that her life is empty without a child and Brad becomes more agitated with the notion of breaking their no child agreement. The insults between the two grow increasingly mean spirited further throwing into question how they managed to become a couple in the first place. Despite the obvious lack of romantic connection between the two and a spotty premise, Vaughn still manages to squeak out some laughs with his rapid fire verbal jousting. There isn’t a soul, dead or alive, that can keep up with him. The camera also continues to loves Reece Witherspoon (she is adorable as always) but I didn’t see any charm in her character and as the film progressed she became more of an annoyance than anything else. As for rest of the cast (which at last count had five Academy Award winners), all I can say is some of them should be ashamed for showing their faces and taking a paycheck.

I do however get the feeling Four Christmases is one of those movies that was probably much funnier when read aloud than when filmed. But nonetheless, if you are looking for some holiday cheer (we all are at this time of year) head back for seconds on the eggnog — you’ll be hard pressed to find anything that resembles holiday cheer here.

Critical Movie Critic Rating:
2 Star Rating: Bad


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The Critical Movie Critics

I'm an old, miserable fart set in his ways. Some of the things that bring a smile to my face are (in no particular order): Teenage back acne, the rain on my face, long walks on the beach and redneck women named Francis. Oh yeah, I like to watch and criticize movies.

'Movie Review: Four Christmases (2008)' have 7 comments

  1. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 9, 2008 @ 4:26 am gestrica

    With the lot of comments all over the world Four Christmases (2008) is getting in to hearts of people with lot of interest. I love the story of the movie. All in all it is December. The month every one thinks about their families. So it was the perfect time and movie was excellent I should say.

  2. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 10, 2008 @ 5:46 am Andrei

    Well in my opinion this movie Four Christmases (2008) is a good movie for everyone to watch and the best thing is it’s related to Christmas that makes it all the merrier.But I am clearly disappointed by the way the movie evolves from comedy to drama.It’s because near the end all the the comedy scenes disappear all of a sudden and real-life situation then have to be dealt with. Nevertheless it’s a movie worthy of watching.

  3. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 13, 2008 @ 12:22 am Alex

    I believe this is going to be another one of those every year christmas movie, the same story very christmas, waste of time to watch

  4. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 28, 2008 @ 8:50 am Diane

    I went to see this movie for a few laughs and I left without any! It was the most boring comedy that I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t only me; the other people in the cinema didn’t laugh much either. I almost left halfway but decided to stay in case it got better which it never did.

  5. The Critical Movie Critics

    January 15, 2009 @ 9:57 pm mower

    In the movie Four Christmases (reviewed above) Vince Vaughns quick fire comments make for quite a few laughs and shows his comedic versatility perhaps when you consider his comedy roles against for example a menacing bad guy portrayal of a character such as ‘Barnes’ in the 2001 movie Domestic Disturbance. I guess it’s kinda fun when an actor can play bad guy roles and also do comedy as effectively as this.

    Scenes such as the one which finds Vaughn’s character up on the roof with the satelite dish and the tv being hoisted into the air and to the ceiling contained some great comedy timing, plus a great, well timed punchline from one of his brothers in the movie. Reece Witherspoon is always great, be it in drama or in comedy roles such as this. Theres some pretty impressive names featured cast wise and when the character of Brad’s brothers are revealed to be trained cage fighting contestants, thats pretty funny right there. Perhaps it is interesting to note one of the brothers being played by Jon Favreau here, who, as Monicas boyfriend in Friends was on a quest to become the ultimate fighing champion in the hit tv show.

    It may be fair to say that some movies made with the plot revolving around Christmas are far better than others, but on the whole Four Christmases could be quite a fun movie for the most part, although, as already mentioned, the film perhaps takes a turn towards more serious issues as it progresses. As to whether 2007’s Fred Claus makes for a better holiday movie than Vince’s Four Christmases from 2008, well, maybe that’s for another discussion. What will the theme of his 2009 Christmas movie be if there is one scheduled may make for an interesting one to consider however.

  6. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 15, 2009 @ 8:40 pm depression

    That’s exactly what I felt the storyline is so predictable that i just had to endure until the end because of my stepson. They kindda wasted away great actors and money but storyline didn’t do well. Could’ve been a great movie. I’m not buying the DVD or else i’ll get depressed.

  7. The Critical Movie Critics

    September 9, 2009 @ 6:38 am Excess

    I caught the movie Four Christmases last year with my girlfriend but I think I doze off during the movie. However my girlfriend think it was a nice movie with a good holiday cheer.

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