Four Christmases (Rated PG-13) 3 Stars

    Critics HATED it. It opened the week after Twilight, which is number three in pre-sold ticket sales on Fandango. The plot is actually pretty stupid, yet somehow, Four Christmases (82 minutes) is maintaining its number one earner spot from week to week. It shouldn’t be. On the surface, this showed all the makings of a disaster…director Seth Gordon’s only major previous credit was The King of Kong (a documentary about an arcade game) and there are four writers, which is never a good sign. It should have quietly disappeared, and after watching it, I really wonder why it hasn’t. {mosimage}
    Of course, there are some powerful forces at play here. Last year’s writer’s strike slowed movie production, and there are fewer movies out than usual, which means less competition. It’s a Vince Vaughn movie, and that name alone will bring out a sizeable chunk of audience. It’s a holiday movie with no competition, and it works as date movie. So, for those of you biding your time between holiday parties while you wait for The Day the Earth Stood Still (and I hate to break it to you, but no way will the remake be as good as the original) and The Tale of Despereaux, you could do worse. 
    The film introduces Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon) as two strangers meeting at a party. There is some not very clever shtick, VERY Vince Vaughn, which Witherspoon doesn’t quite manage to pull off. We transition to a nice plot build-up with Brad and Kate scaring other singles about marriage and expressing their “exit strategy” for holiday gatherings. 
    The pair head to the airport, but as expressed so succinctly by the title of the movie their flight is grounded and they end up headed to four Christmases in order to appease the family they avoided for so long. It is during this scene that the audience must take a moment to pause and realize that Witherspoon is a very little person. Seriously, she is in six-inch platform sandals and she doesn’t even hit Vaughn’s shoulder. He’s monstrously huge!
    First, they head to Brad’s dad’s and a set of family stereotypes lifted straight out of Talladega Nights. Brad’s dad is played by Robert Duvall, and slimmed down/buffed up Jon Favreau cameos as one of the brothers. Next, it’s time to visit Kate’s mother in her “cougar den.” Wow. OK. Mary Steenburgen should never, ever, ever, attempt to play the sexy older woman on the prowl. I feel a little sick. Wait!  It’s Kristine Chenoweth playing the sister! I like her! 
    Once Brad and Kate wrap up some awkward moments, they head to his mother’s place. Sissy Spacek plays the mother, and she seems as out of place as every other female character in this movie (Except Chenoweth, who holds her own). In a shocking and completely unexpected twist, they finish up their evening with a big fight about their relationship. Kate ends up with her Dad (Jon Voight) and the rest of her family for Christmas dinner. Which begs the question: if her entire family was just going to head over to her father’s, why not just call the movie Three Christmases? Bottom line, there are a few legitimately funny moments, but five minutes after you leave the theater you won’t care about the plot of the characters.  

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