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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Four Christmases (review)

Brad (Vince Vaughn: Fred Claus) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon: Rendition) are perfectly, deliriously happy with their unmarried, child-free existence, so naturally this cannot be allowed to stand. Over the course of a single Christmas day of visits with her mother, his father, his mother, and her father (and their assorted new partners, and their siblings, and their siblings-in-law, and so on), they will gradually come around to acknowledging the error of their nonconformist ways. It’s not all a total loss, even for those of us more likely to identify with Brad and Kate at the beginning of the film than we are once they’ve been “fixed”: if you like the two stars (I do), you’ll love them here, and while a bit more of the humiliation brand of physical comedy is deployed than a supposedly grownup movie should be attempting, much of it actually does work to generate sympathy on our part for Brad and Kate, rather than disdain. Still, the inevitable eventual swing to sentimentality — and to teaching Brad and Kate a lesson in what everyone is supposed to want out of life — feels like an abandonment of the movie’s earlier courage of its convictions.


MPAA: rated PG-13 for some sexual humor and language

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
  • I had been trying to work out why this film rubbed me wrong (quite apart from the “comedy” elements), and you’ve fingered it in your opening sentence. Thank you.

  • Ironically, the one thing that turned me off most about this movie is that trailer seemed so anti-family. I realize that not all families are perfect and after the year I’d had, I should theoretically be sympathetic to a movie that makes that point in a compelling manner. However, this isn’t that movie.

    Anyway, I don’t expect every character in a holiday movie to be likeable but it would be nice if they were interesting. And none of the characters in that trailer seemed like anything but refugees from a bad FOX sitcom.

  • MaryAnn

    The thing about this movie being anti-family is that it was clear why Brad and Kate wouldn’t want anything to do with their families: they’re awful. If anyone had earned their aversion to traditional family life, it’s them. And still, that cannot be allowed, which is ridiculous. Some people’s families really are not very nice, and it’s absurd to suggest that *everyone* must tolerate their families *no matter what* merely because they’re family. But that’s what this movie does.

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