The only thing I hate more than a bad Christmas movie is a bad Christmas movie that wastes its otherwise talented cast and 2008’s Four Christmases does just that.
Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon are the deeply unlikely couple Brad & Kate (she could do way, way better) who can’t be bothered to spend time with their respective families. Naturally, they each come from wackily dysfunctional families and in a bid to avoid going home for the holidays, they lie to their families and plan to jet off for an exotic Christmas in the sun. Karma steps in and bad weather prevent any flights from taking off, and when the couple are interviewed by a news crew, they have no choice but to visit their estranged families.
Because the script says so, Brad and Kate’s respective parents are divorced, and the couple has to visit four households on Christmas Day. The opening few minutes of the movie works hard to get across that Brad, and Kate don’t want to have kids and get married, they want to live a carefree life of being professional snobs. It doesn’t take a fictitious Belgian detective to work out that before the credits roll they would have had a change of heart. They do.
Effectively, the concept is an extended version of the Vicar of Dibley episode (The Christmas Lunch Incident) where Dawn French has to have four Christmas dinners. Only instead of a snappy script co-written by Richard Curtis, we have a generic comedy with no characters to care about and the likes of Sissy Spacek, Mary Steenburgen, Robert Duvall, Jon Voight and Jon Favreau given nothing to do. Vince Vaughn had entered the autopilot phase in his career and Skype’s in his performance; Witherspoon does her best to raise some cheer, yet even her infectious charm can’t salvage the movie.
Director Seth Gordon has yet to make a solid narrative movie, his marvellous The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters got him on the radar, and Four Christmases was the first movie off the back of his hit documentary. Horrible Bosses and Identity Thief had some laughs, but both were completely forgettable. Ironically there are four credited writers on this movie that roughly equals at least ten writers worked on the script. At what point in the writer’s room did these ten people decide they had a funny, romantic, festively charged screenplay that would entertain millions? I’m guessing they were aiming for “that’ll do”, if so then Four Christmases succeeds on its mission statement to be nauseatingly predictable.