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Four Christmases

Movie title: Four Christmases (2008)
Grade: D- (1 star)
Rated: PG-13
Director: Seth Gordon
Producers: Gary Barber, (Exec.) Peter Billingsley, Roger Birnbaum, Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon
Starring: Vince Vaughn “Brad,” Reese Witherspoon “Kate,” Robert Duvall “Howard,” Sissy Spacek “Paula,” Jon Voight “Creighton,” Jon Favreau “Denver,” Mary Steenburgen “Marilyn,” Dwight Yoakam “Pastor Phil,” Tim McGraw “Dallas”
Genre: Romance/Comedy
Summation: A couple struggles to visit all four of their divorced parents on Christmas Day.
Spoilers ahead: No

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In the spirit of holiday fun, a bunch of us are going to be turning to TV for our Christmas entertainment. The classics, like It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, Scrooged, and A Charlie Brown’s Christmas are going to be played until they drive some of us crazy.

What are the rest of us going to do? A number will head to the theatres to find some new Christmas entertainment on the big screen. If that number happens to include you, then you might want to resist the urge to see Four Christmases. If you don’t see it, you can’t be disappointed by it like I was!

It’s about a dating couple that gets prepared to fly to Fiji to get away from their annoying families for the holidays. When their trip is cancelled due to bad weather and they are spotted on TV, they find themselves locked into the commitment of visiting all four sides of the family (both sets of divorced parents). In the socially hellacious encounters they are forced to endure, they learn about themselves and that they actually know very little about each other. They also learn that there comes a time in a relationship when it’s ok to progress to the next level and change goals.

Despite trying very hard to be a funny, family-oriented, merry, and warmhearted movie, it fails on just about all counts. That’s the first reason not to see it. It is neither funny, nor family oriented (I’ll explain why in a sec), it’s not merry, but it is awkward in place of those things. And it’s not really warmhearted. To be more accurate, the closest it gets to warmhearted is when it makes you think: “Duh! We know family is important even though they get on our nerves sometimes! Thanks for the public service message! Now please make us laugh!”

The acting is good and the cast great, but Marlon Brando himself couldn’t save this sadly written script from its inevitable doom. And I must ask, what kind of an alleged family Christmas movie blows the lid off the Santa secret for younger viewers whose parents might object? You might not want to watch this with your kids, parents, and that is the second reason not to see it.

But how does it fare as far as straight-up comedy goes, you ask? Not very well at all. It isn’t that funny. I laughed maybe twice throughout the whole movie. It suffers from rotten writing and poor direction. And that is, you guessed it, reason number three not to see it.

Reason number four, and perhaps what irked me most of all, was its reprehensible unlikable-ness all the way through, with tasteless scenes of vomiting and uncalled-for family fighting that tries to pass as whacky in-law “horseplay.” Crazily unbelievable scenes where kids run away with used pregnancy tests don’t score any extra credit points either!

We could go for more reasons not to see it, but we’ll stop counting. The chemistry between Vaughn and Witherspoon is noticeably off. It’s as though neither of them are enthused about their roles. The message of the importance of family is true, but the film feels so contrived that it becomes a major drag.

The slapstick, which shows up often in an abhorrent attempt to amuse, will nearly make you cringe in unbelief. The humor might make you smile at places, but those occasions are rare. It won’t bring on but a small handful of laughs at best, and it won’t make you relish the holidays any more.

Predictable and painful is this film as it scoots through four different households, forcing you to be as repulsed by what you are watching as Brad and Kate are of their dopey in-laws. While not boring or slow, it is poorly crafted with pungent predictability. Every step of the way, you know where the film’s heading, and as wretchedly as everything is developed, you can’t wait for it to be over. The ending is as “blah” as the rest of the film.

I honestly don’t know which I’d choose—pouring salt in an open wound, or seeing this movie again! So make a list and check it twice, and make sure that seeing Four Christmases isn’t on it.

(JH)

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