Rated PG-13 for some sexual humor and language, 82 minutes
Wes's Grade: C+
You've already seen the best parts of Four Christmases - all 3 minutes - in the trailers for the movie
Admittedly, holidays can be rough for some folks spending time with family. The movie "Four Christmases" is an endurance test even at a spry 82 minutes, as most of the funniest parts of the film - about 3 minutes worth - can be seen in the trailers for the movie. Largely unfunny, flat and misdirected with a couple of inspired moments, "Four Christmases" is a big disappointment considering you have 5 Oscar winners in its cast, not to mention a cast of talented non-Oscar winners including Vince Vaughn, "IronMan" director Jon Favreau, country music singers turned actors Dwight Yoakam and Tim McGraw, and "Pushing Daisies" star Kristin Chenoweth. The film also has a mean-spirited bent on it that's too uncharacteristic for a holiday film.
Kate (Reese Witherspoon) and Brad (Vaughn) are an unmarried, upscale San Franscisco couple who take nice, lavish vacations each Christmas to avoid their families. They've lied to them repeatedly over the years about taking mission trips or something to avoid telling them the truth. Except this time they get to the airport to hop on a plane to Fiji and all flights are canceled. The TV news catches them live in the act, and now they must endure four separate Christmases with their families, and after meeting them, they wish they had just stayed home. But the two come to realize the importance of their relationship and how serious it can be, including talk of marriage, children and the like.
It could actually be called "3 1/2 Christmases" (would've been a funnier title) since technically they're not celebrating with a separate family on the fourth christmas. Both Brad and Kate's families are divorced, which is why they must endure the separate Christmases. Only one of the Christmases, with Kate's mom (Mary Steenburgen) and sister (Chenowith), provides the most amusing moments, when they show fat pictures of Kate's childhood, and Brad and Kate are called upon to play Mary & Joseph in a church play.
The rest of it is largely unfunny, especially the moments with Brad's Dad (Robert Duvall) and brothers (Favreau and McGraw) and Brad's mother (Sissy Spacek) and much younger boyfriend (Brian Baumgautner, one of Vaughn's pals in "Swingers"), both of which are either too creepy, uncomfortable or mean-spirited (is it really necessary to beat up on each other). Jon Voight, as Kate's Dad, pops in for a couple of scenes, but actually he's the warmest and most normal of the families, and the nicest one of the bunch.
All of this would've worked far better with a more experienced director than Seth Gordon or newbie writers Caleb Wilson and Matt Allen, all of whom provide too many creepy, mean moments that can be predicted a mile away, including an ending that you'll know well before it ends. Vaughn did this last year with "Fred Claus," an equally unfunny and mean-spirited holiday film. Next time, if he's going to make a holiday film, at least make a little more warm and inviting than the mess that's onscreen here.