Four times the noxious.
In this uneven comedy, Brad (Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon) are a boisterous, adventurous young couple who studiously avoid visiting their dysfunctional families every christmas, opting to take wild vacations – and lie to their families that they are instead doing volunteer work for underprivileged kids overseas. This year, they get busted, and must visit all four of their divorced parents (and extended families) in one day.
Now if this were a wonders-of-christmas movie, it would be bilious enough, but FOUR CHRISTMASES combines the nausea of a christmas movie with the gut-belching dementia of a marriage-is-awesome movie. Ultimately, christmas is just a device to drive the unmarried couple into the cloying proximity of family and married life. And to discover the wonders therein. Cue shining rainbows and angels singing.
At first, the couple resist the insidious madness. In Brad’s words, “You can’t spell families without lies.” We soon learn he picked up that axiom from his cantankerous dad (Robert Duvall – like Favreau, could carry the movie on his wild boar performance alone!). Brad and Kate have no desire to tie the knot and end up like their dissatisfied and divorced parents. But this movie doesn’t leave well enough alone and allow Brad and Kate their fun-loving life of taking impromptu dance lessons or role-playing picking each other up in bars. In the process of visiting their varied families, they come to realize truths about each other and – so the movie tells us – how dysfunctional THEY are for not wanting to end up married!
(Nuance: It may be missed by the Great Unwashed, but the message of the movie is not EXACTLY “to be married” but to “be together,” which is tantamount to marriage, in gutless modern pc parlance.)
I spit on this movie’s message! Written by – surprisingly – four guys (Matt Allen, Caleb Wilson, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore) and directed by Seth Gordon, all of whom we can be sure have been pussywhipped into marriage and are now suffering cognitive dissonance, as they promote “married bliss” even whilst showing us every parent in the movie unhappily divorced!
To top it all off: disrespectful, unruly kids! Every child in this movie is a brawling, loudmouth brat that deserves to be abandoned in a parking lot. Yet the cognitive dissonance in full swing: Kate gets all swoozy with the desire to have kids after being browbeaten and physically beaten by them. I spit again! Ptuh!
Like Mighty Mouse, Jon Favreau saves the day. Favreau is Denver, one of Brad’s thick-necked brothers, a tattooed, redneck wrestler who takes every opportunity to bodyslam Orlando (Brad’s given name, from the city where he was conceived). Favreau’s scenes, along with Duvall’s scenes as Brad’s father, are like the magic of christmas and kwanzaa and chanukah and martian-snow-day all rolled into one.
Other parenting roles feature Mary Steenburgen and Jon Voight as Kate’s separated parents. Then there’s Sissy Spacek as Brad’s mom, now sleeping with Brad’s best friend Darryl (Patrick Van Horn – Vaughn’s and Favreau’s pal from SWINGERS, 1996!).
FOUR CHRISTMASES does have its hilarious moments – installing a satellite dish on Duvall’s roof, Brad playing Joseph in a Nativity Scene that he saves with his latent Community Acting talent, Brad’s delectably uncomfortable meeting with his mom and her lover – his best friend/step-dad. And any scene that Jon Favreau is in. I love that man!