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Four Christmases

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four christmases

Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn are caught by the always alert News 5 reporters.

The weirdest thing with this movie – at the screening, the critics didn’t laugh. On opening night, with my sister in town who wanted to see it, the audience erupted with laughter fairly often.

The movie was directed by Seth Gordon, who did the funniest and most interesting documentary in some time, The King of Kong from last year (and he gave a small part in this to Steve Wiebe, the underdog in that). It isn’t Weibe that makes this cast impressive. It’s the fact that this has five Oscar winners.

The couple is played by the husky Vince Vaughn, who is 6’5”, and Reese Witherspoon, who is a petite 5’2”. They’re a happy couple, but since they both have divorced parents, it means they have to do a lot of traveling during the holidays. They decide this year to take a vacation to Fiji and blow off the families. That is, until a pesky news reporter catches them in the airport that’s fogged in. Wearing a Hawaiian shirt and with deer-in-the-headlights looks, they were busted. The plan was off, and they make the rounds.

When they visit Robert Duval, it’s a mess. Not only is he rather mean, the brothers are too. Tim McGraw is one, and his Swinger co-star Jon Favreau is the other. They’re named Dallas and Denver, the cities where they were conceived.

Favreau actually has some funny moments. When the family is playing the game Taboo, and he and his wife win without giving many clues. It’s hysterical (and we’ve all seen couples like this). Watching him devour the ribs is also amusing. Since he’s a cage fighter, he’s often putting Vaughn into various grips and holds and taunting him as he tries to break free.

Witherspoon’s mother is played by Mary Steenburgen, and she’s a born-again Christian. Her sister (Kristin Chenoweth) shows up, and shows pictures of her as a kid. She was fat, which really wouldn’t be a big deal to Vaughn, but it obviously hurts her self-esteem. Vaughn, being that guy he is in most movies, doesn’t seem to make the situation better with his jokes.

They get to Vaughn’s hippie mothers house, we see she’s played by Sissy Spacek. The funny element there is that she’s dating a man that was Vaughn’s best friend in high school. Watching that guy act like a stepfather is fun, especially with the subtle look of confusion and anger splashed across Vaughn’s face. I’m smiling now thinking about how the guy offered Vaughn $10 for gas.

The other Oscar winner is Jon Voight, who plays her dad.

Vaughn is good friends in real life with Peter Billingsley, who was the blonde boy in A Christmas Story. He has talked about how when he got to Hollywood they were in an Afterschool Special together and stayed friends.

Billingsley is one of the producers, and also has a cameo in this. With Vaughn doing Fred Clause as a Christmas movie last year, you wonder if he’s just so enamored with A Christmas Story and he wants a film that’s shown each year around the holidays.

This was an uneven comedy that too often relied on those tired jokes we’ve seen so many times: sliding off the roof, barfing babies, snotty kids, overbearing fathers.

Audiences are going to love this. The one I saw it with did. It’s not a very strong comedy, though. It was a great premise that was wasted.

I’m giving it a D+.

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