Blu-Ray Review: Four Christmases

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Running just 88 minutes (including credits), Four Christmases feels like little more than an extended sitcom with a movie-star cast. The concept involves a couple, Brad and Kate (Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon), both of whom have divorced parents, who opt to sneak away on vacation every Christmas rather than spend time with their extended families. Through a contrived series of events, their families end up discovering the deception, and they are forced to spend Christmas going from one set of parents to the next, experiencing a total of “Four Christmases.”

By the very nature of the premise, this is an extremely episodic movie. As Brad and Kate go from one household to the next, they are placed in simplistically comical situations. As I said, it feels like a series of sitcom plots; that is, entertaining, but completely devoid of substance. The filmmakers attempt to shoehorn in valuable life-lessons about family, and of course, Brad and Kate evolve as a couple thanks to their experiences. However, none of this really matters in the end. This isn’t a movie you watch in order to learn anything. You watch to laugh, and I have to admit, it does get kind of funny on occasion.

The first Christmas involves Brad’s father and brothers. They are a poor, redneck family, and the dichotomy of this family with the upper-class couple of Brad and Kate ended up being very funny. The gift exchange in this sequence was a comedic high-point for the film, and I loved watching the tension escalate throughout the sequence. Jon Favreau really stands out as Brad’s brother, a tattooed cage-fighter all too eager to violently demonstrate his career.

Lending credibility to this sequence is Robert Duvall as their father. One of many unexpected big names to make an appearance, he is very funny as he watches Brad inadvertently destroy his home. I was really surprised to discover how many big names they were actually able to get. Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon already seem too good for this material, but as the film progressed, I was shocked to see actors such as Jon Voight, Sissy Spacek, etc. begin making appearances. It really is a great cast for such a small, forgettable film.

As Brad and Kate went from one Christmas to the next, I found the formula frustrating. As they go from house to house, they find themselves forced to evaluate their relationship, but I just didn’t believe that the situations they endured would lead to the transformations they end up going through. It all felt very forced and structured in order to lead to an inevitable happy ending. My problem is that they were happy right from the beginning. The problems they discover in their relationship are manufactured by the contrivance of their situation.  By the end of the day, when they are essentially different people, it doesn’t feel necessary.

However, none of this should really matter if the movie is entertaining. And it is. It’s a very slight film, instantly forgettable, but kind of fun while watching. This is the kind of movie you would rent when bored, and it would entertain you. However, you would forget you ever saw it ten minutes later. Just as forgettable are the Blu-Ray extras. There is a ten-minute segment that briefly covers the making of only two sequences, and neither segment is all that insightful. There is the HBO First Look that was made for the film. I’ve always disliked these segments, as they never provide any insight into the film, but rather serve as an extended commercial. Another extra is a really lame fake cooking special with celebrity cook Paula Deen. She teams up with one of the redneck characters and they show how to make a “seven layer holiday meal” that is an extension on a joke from the film. It isn’t funny at all. Then there is the usual gag reel, which consists of nothing but people laughing at themselves, and around 7-8 minutes of deleted scenes. I didn’t laugh at a single one, and none of them do anything to enhance the story.

Overall, this movie is nothing but a time-filler. I had a moderately good time, but I would definitely not recommend purchasing the film. If you’ve seen everything else, and you’re really bored, you could do worse. There are occasional laughs, and it can be fun to watch some well-known actors just having a good time. But overall, nobody is going to remember that this ever existed. It will come and go, and be simply a footnote on the careers of everyone involved.

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