If it wasn't for Vince Vaughn's rapid-fire comedy, this would be Four Christmases too many.
Four Christmases sort of follows along the same lines as any holiday movie these days -- dysfunctional families being dysfunctional until they realize how warm and fuzzy it is being dysfunctional. Yawn. In this case, unmarried, yuppie couple Brad (Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon) have successfully avoided their crazy families during the holidays for a few years now, concocting some cockamamie goodwill story about saving babies in a third-world country, while they really go on an island adventure. But uh-oh, plans go awry this Christmas, and they are forced to indulge in a little family good cheer. Guess what, though? Brad and Kate learn something from their ordeal. They realize a) they love each other and might want a family of their own, but they need to get to know each other better and b) they still don't want to spend the holidays with their families. Ever again.
While Witherspoon is no slouch in the comedy department and definitely holds her own with her co-star -- even though he looks freakishly tall next to her tiny frame -- Vaughn is the one who keeps things afloat for the most part. Honestly, he could read from the phone book in that quick-paced, stream of consciousness way he's perfected and we'd still laugh. It's Four Christmases long list of supporting players, however, that is rather alarming, starting with Robert Duvall as Brad's no-nonsense dad to Sissy Spacek as Brad's hippie mom. Sure, Mary Steenburgen and Jon Voight, who play Kate's divorced parents, would do a movie like this, but Duvall and Spacek? They must have needed a paycheck. The one standout is Jon Favreau as Brad's brother, a buffed out, Mohawk-ed extreme fighter. Old buddies Favreau and Vaughn may have needed to work out a little aggression.
Newbie director Seth Gordon, whose claim to fame is the little-seen but hilarious documentary King of Kong, unfortunately shows his lack of experience with Four Christmases. But maybe it isn't Gordon's fault -- not completely. The real culprit may be the way this film follows the same, tired Christmas cookie cutter plot holiday movies seem to be about these days -- in which the families are SO dysfunctional, the antics SO over the top, it makes you want to run out of the theater so you can get to your own defective family for a little normalcy. I'm not saying we can return to the It's a Wonderful Life-type sugary fare, but it would be nice to see a holiday comedy about familial ties that isn't always so mean spirited.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 stars.