With the weather growing cold and the smell of cider slowly filling the air, the time has come for a Christmas film to make its presence known in cinemas across the country. Rarely is the film good, often profiting on the 'holiday spirit' and its ability to carry from Thanksgiving through the New Year. But occasionally, one rises to the surface, appropriately earning the title of 'holiday classic.' Unfortunately, 2008 is not one of those years as Four Christmases, starring Hollywood heavyweights Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaugh creates little to laugh about, on its way to becoming one of the season's biggest disappointments.
The film tells the story of Brad and Kate, a young couple who share a strange relationship that does not include marriage or commitment. Every Christmas, in an effort to avoid their families, the two set out on a trip where they can be alone and savor in the quiet and tranquility that surrounds them. But this Christmas, after all flights are canceled and they are cornered into an interview on a live news broadcast, the two find themselves making promises to each of the parents for a Christmas visit. So now, in an effort to please each of their divorced parents, Brad and Kate must muster-up the courage and celebrate their loathed holiday four times, with four different sets of people. Through the process, they will discover that being a family isn't all-that-bad and that neither knows the other as well as they originally thought.
Though the story proved to be quite simple, and in a way intriguing, it was the acting that quickly jumped off the screen. Featuring two stars in Witherspoon and Vaughn,the film showed immediate potential. Throw in a massive supporting cast that includes names like Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Jon Voight and Kristen Chenoweth, and you would think there be no way that this film couldn't soar to unbelievable heights. However, as many films do, Four Christmases proves our initial thoughts wrong, from the very beginning.
Though the names are notorious with great films, the chemistry that exists between all the film's stars was non-existent. From the unbelievable relationship portrayed by Withersppon and Vaughn to the ridiculous set of families that compose the rest of the stars, the actors rarely shared the screen well, often setting up moments of awkward interactions and unbelievable dialogue. It just wasn't there; and when a film lives or dies on its ability to make you laugh, the chemistry often proves to be the most important aspect of the film, regardless of who is starring in it.
Additionally, the story, which was written by Caleb Wilson, fails to live up to its pre-release hype. And while it's premise is simple enough, its inability to close out moments proves to be as annoying as it is inconclusive. What is with Kate's mom and the new pastor? Where was Dallas during the second half of the film? And why are the first two visits three times longer than the last two? All of these questions are personified on the screen as the story seems to lack focus, continuity and the ability to pace. There is no constant driving force in the film as Kate's decision to take a pregnancy test seems random and uncalled for; not to mention each lead's inability to see the distress of the other during their respective visit.
The result is a chaotic madhouse comedy that lacks laughs and congruency between its components; all of which come together to form a holiday film that will make money, but will not be worth the price of admission.