The Red Right Hand
  www.theredrighthand.co.uk





FOUR CHRISTMASES
His Father, Her Mother, His Mother And Her Father All In One Day

Director
Seth Gordon

Starring
Vince Vaughn
Reese Witherspoon
Robert Duvall
Sissy Spacek
Jon Voight
Mary Steenburgen
Jon Favreau

I can honestly say I don't think I have ever seen as much recognised and awarded talent (across the spectrum, from Oscars to Emmys to Grammys) squandered and wasted in such a festering turd as this.

I feel that opening statement deserves its own paragraph; I was even tempted to use it for my 'In A Few Words' section but decided it was too long. So with that said, I'm sure you have some sort of idea as to my thoughts and opinions of this film. The plot of this film is incredibly basic and unfolds like a writer's pitch. Brad [Vaughn] and Kate [Witherspoon] are happy and very much in love. In the first few minutes we observe them role-playing in a club, having sex in said club's toilet, taking dancing lessons, playing backgammon and planning a holiday for Christmas - this being the truest on-screen depiction of perfect love and domestic equilibrium... apparently. For the three years they have known one another, the couple has managed to ditch out on seeing their families for Christmas by making a quick phone call and taking a trip to some foreign beach. Due to some unexpected extremely heavy fog in the San Francisco area, their flight is re-scheduled for the following day. To get the plot going, a live coverage of the inoperative airport is filmed and both Kate and Brad are caught out by their families watching the news at home. Reluctantly, they both agree to visit each parent before the day is out - hence four individual Christmases. Each household has its own problem. First we have Brad's redneck-like father [Duvall] and beefed cage-fighting brothers [Favreau / Tim McGraw], followed by Kate's born-again Mother [Steenburgen] and other overly sexual female relatives, then Brad's mum, who has shacked up with Brad's best friend and finally Jon Voight... couldn't find anything wrong with Voight as Kate's dad; he seemed relatively normal. The film has a brief moment of formulaic but enjoyable comedy (baby screaming, father shouting, sons arguing) but as the energy dissipates, all we're left with are a few timid fat jokes, bickering sequences and a sassy portrayal of Joseph in a Nativity play; all of which is rounded off with a simplistic and overly convenient upbeat ending.

One of Four Christmases' many problems is that it veers wildly back-and-forth between cutesy comedy, light-hearted romance, screwball comedy and gross-out humour. Essentially, the whole thing feels like it's been written for and by fourteen year old boys. You've got simple, easy-to-understand humour, slapstick violence, a wealth of cleavage, oh... and stupid parents, 'cause everyone hates their stupid parents. They don't know you, they don't know your life; right? How can they possibly understand such a complex being as you? Another large issue are our two leads (and whether or not Reese Witherspoon was wearing a wig), they just weren't that funny. I must confess, on watching the first trailer I did smile at Vaughn's line, "What could possibly make me think you were getting shanked by four year olds on a jump-jump?" A line which they cut from the final release - idiots. My point is simply that we are supposed to be following this couple into these houses of horror and I just did not care. And for all intents and purposes, I should have loved this film! Tall cynical bloke, dressed in dark clothing reluctantly takes part in social undertakings; sounds perfect for me... sounds like a lot of my life. But no, it's not because the tall cynical bloke isn't Bill Hicks, Dylan Moran or Jack Dee, he's showboat Vince bloody Vaughn. And who stars along side him? Sweet, innocent little Ms. Witherspoon (who seems out of her depth in this role). Because of this, the leads are just too unappealing and as the secondary characters are imbued with more personality yet rushed on-and-off screen so quickly, the whole affair becomes boring and incredibly tedious.

This fucking shit makes me so fucking angry! I know I shouldn't swear so heavily about a film that is incredibly moronic (Hanlon's Razor and all) but I genuinely cannot help it. Granted, I've only slated this film down to a three out-of-ten but it irritated me so very much. I've been sitting here thinking about this film, writing out my review and getting more and more agitated by the nagging truth that this film will be considered funny. This is the sort of movie that people see advertised and think Vince Vaughn!? Reese Witherspoon!? Baby vomit!? That looks fucking hilarious! That looks like the funniest fucking film I have ever seen! Hardy fucking har har! I very well may just shit myself with sheer joy and excitement at the anticipation of watching that baby urp its fucking stomach out onto old Spoony causing Vaughn to dry heave in the background! I have to call everyone I know and tell them how funny this film is! Oh! Oh, if only every film was made this way... and the sad fucking truth of it all is that they slowly are. Fuck Seth Gordon, fuck this film, fuck crappy Christmas cash-ins. That's it; I'm done with this review.

This review quickly broke down into a bit of a mindless rant; sorry about that...maybe I should do an edited version, like my Da Vinci Code review. Nah, the people need to know.

Release Date:
28th November 2008

The Scene To Look Out For:
Although I can't say I can relate to this film or the situations detailed within, I can empathise with one particular scene. Ever played Taboo? It's a novel little card game in which pairs take turns to describe the word at the top of the card without using any of the key phrases listed. Simple but effective family fun. The ideal contestants, however, are best friends because they have special ways of talking to one another - quoting films is usually my way of getting around the taboo words. It is not, on the other hand, for couples. All that happens is the overly competitive individual of the group gets frustrated when their partner doesn't get the cryptic story they're describing. So, there was that scene.

Notable Characters:
It's amazing that despite having less than a dozen lines, Favreau still manages to completely out-trump anything Vaughn has to offer. It was also a little creepy to see Peter Billingsley (child actor and star of A Christmas Story) in his little cameo role.

Highlighted Quote:
"My childhood was like the Shawshank Redemption, except I didn't have some soft-spoken gentle black man to share my troubles with"

In A Few Words:
"Big cast, dumb humour, little to show for it"

Total Score:
3/10


Matthew Stogdon