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Four Christmases (A Movie Review)

Updated: May 9, 2023

Four Christmases

Four Christmases


Starring Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Duvall, Jon Favreau, Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakam, Tim McGraw, Kristin Chenoweth, Jon Voight, Sissy Spacek, Katy Mixon, Colleen Camp and Peter Billingsley.

Screenplay by Matt Allen, Caleb Wilson, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore.

Directed by Seth Gordon.

Distributed by New Line Cinema.  82 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

With this film and Fred Claus finding release in just about a year, is Vince Vaughn making his move to wrest the title of king of bad holiday films away from Ben Affleck (Reindeer Games, Surviving Christmas) and Tim Allen (The Santa Clause 1-3, Christmas with the Kranks)?

Well, while he has made a pretty impressive run of wretchedness, he still has a bit to go to beat out Allen, the undisputed champion.

However, the best thing that I can say about Four Christmases is that it is a whisker less horrendous than Fred Claus.  In fact, considering the fact that Vaughn did not release any other films in the time in between them – unless you count that Wild West Comedy Show thing he did and a small cameo in Sean Penn’s Into the Wild – Mr. Vaughn may soon be getting coal in the stocking of his career.

It is a bit of a shame, because there is actually the potential of a clever idea obscured amongst all the wrestling, horny Granny and baby vomit jokes.  Buried deep – like a vein of coal (oh no, it’s a running gag!) – amongst an hour’s worth of non-stop low-brow humor, followed by a half hour of cringe-inducing sappiness.  However, the potential was there.

In the modern world, with the divorce rate over 50%, it’s probably a more common storyline than we would like to believe as well.  It’s this simple – a couple has to do the typical family stuff on Christmas day, but both of their mothers and fathers are divorced.  So suddenly, they are stuck having to do four parties – and four meals – his father then her mother, then his mother and finally her father.

Holy tryptophan, Batman!

If this was played at all smartly, it would make for a terrific film.  However, their parents and siblings are just broad caricatures, sapping any real comic tension from the idea.

Instead of actually mining the idea for intelligent comic potential (not another mining reference!), Four Christmases thinks it is HY-STER-ICAL to have someone fall off of a roof. 

‘Cause you never see that in a seasonal comedy.

You understand why these couples got a divorce.  You just come to wonder how these parents got together in the first place.  For example, how did the grumpy, unfeeling redneck (Robert Duvall) hook up with the super-sensitive hippie (Sissy Spacek)?  Also, isn’t Jon Voight just about old enough to be Mary Steenburgen’s father, rather than her ex-husband?

As you can see by this list of supporting roles, some serious acting talent was pulled in for this ridiculous film – all four of those parents either won or were nominated for Oscars – as was Reese Witherspoon, who plays Vaughn’s girlfriend.  Other impressive names here include Broadway starlet Kristin Chenoweth, respected actor/director (and Vaughn’s best friend) Jon Favreau, the underrated comic actress Katy Mixon (she is the only entertaining part of the HBO series Eastbound and Down) and country music stars Tim McGraw and Dwight Yoakam.  Also on hand to give the movie some holiday gravitas is a cameo by a grown-up Peter Billingsley, who as a boy starred as Ralphie in the classic A Christmas Story.

They all should have stayed home.  Four Christmases is a huge waste of all that talent.

However, just because someone went and made the movie, that doesn’t mean that we have to watch the stupid thing.  It’s the movie equivalent of receiving a fruit cake as a gift.  File it away and toss it in the bin as soon as Aunt Tillie heads home.

Dave Strohler

Copyright ©2009 All rights reserved. Posted: November 16, 2009.

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