27 November 2008

Film: "Four Christmases"

Four Christmases Directed by Seth Gordon
Story by Matt R. Allen & Caleb Wilson
Screenplay by Matt R. Allen & Caleb Wilson and Jon Lucas & Scott Moore
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Duvall, Jon Favreau, Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakam, Tim McGraw, Kristin Chenoweth with Jon Voight and Sissy Spacek
Theatrical Release Date: 26 November 2008
Date of Screening: 26 November 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For Some Sexual Humor and Language)

Essentially, Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon make time for four Christmas gatherings--one each with their respective parents, all of whom are now divorced.  This is one of those films where the premise is really just an excuse to get on with the comedy.  You're not going to leave Four Christmases feeling surprised by the amount of character development or mulling over the emotional resonance of the film.  You're going into it to laugh, and you'll likely leave having done little more than just that.  Since that's all Four Christmases strives for, that's quite okay.

The cast is superb.  Supporting Vaughn and Witherspoon are Robert Duval (his father), Sissy Spacek (his mother), Mary Steenburgen (her mother) and Jon Voight (her father), along with Tim McGraw and Jon Favreau (his brothers), Kristin Chenoweth (her sister) and Dwight Yoakam (her mother's new pastor boyfriend).  We're asked to believe that Brad and Kate have been together for three years and have not only managed to avoid spending Christmas with their families the entire time, but that they've never even met one another's family.  This becomes harder to believe as the film progresses, and the film loses its appeal as it tries to expose Brad and Kate's relationship for its shallow emptiness.

Four Christmases delivers, though, is in the situational comedy.  It's best not to think too much about things (such as when Brad and Favreau's Denver make it to their mom's, but no one says a word about their absent brother, McGraw's Dallas).  This isn't the must-see comedy of the Christmas season, nor is it a particularly bright feather in the cap of anyone involved.  Still, for those looking to inaugurate their Christmas season with a relatively undemanding 82 minutes, you could do worse.

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