Four Christmases

By Gen Mc Bride

Christmas, for most of the population who celebrate it, is about gathering with family, taking the opportunity to reunite with loved ones and share in the spirit of the holiday. Most of us do this with great anticipation. But not Brad and Kate, an intensely committed couple, played by Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon, who would rather be anywhere but near their respective families at Christmas. So much so, they invent elaborate excuses every year that keep them away.And because it’s always for a good cause, they’re granted a pass by their relatives. This year, they’ll be busy volunteering to inoculate children in some remote third-world country. In actuality, they’ll be vacationing on some tropical island. But the San Francisco fog works against them this Christmas, and they’re captured on camera by a news crew at the airport dealing with the cancelation of their flight, and, of course, there’s no getting away now.

So, why don’t Brad and Kate want to spend Christmas with their families? Well, mainly it’s because they’re products of broken marriages and each of them have two homes to visit. Hence, the title. Brad’s family consists of a bitter old man, played by Robert Duvall and two brothers (Jon Favreau and Tim McGraw) who are amateur cage fighters who take great delight in torturing their attorney brother. His uncoventional mother, a quirky Sissy Spacek, is remarried and Brad has yet to come to terms with a stepfather he knows all too well. Kate’s mother, played by Mary Steenburgen, has found religion and a not-so-angelic devotion to the pastor of her church, while her sister, an earnest Kristin Chenoweth, just can’t say enough about the joys of childbearing.

Brad and Kate, who airily dismiss the idea of marriage and the notion of children, are content to just focus on each other, spicing up their relationship with some sexy role-playing, dance lessons and exotic vacations. But on one Christmas day, traveling from one parent’s home to another, they face their fears four times and discover more and more about each other with each visit. She didn’t know his name wasn’t really Brad. He didn’t know she went to fat camp. She doesn’t know how to give good clues in Taboo. He is inflexible in changing the rules of their relationship. Suddenly, the happily unmarried couple doesn’t feel so happily unmarried.

The movie is good for a few laughs, mainly at the expense of Vince Vaughn’s Brad. I’ve always been a big fan of Vince Vaughn’s rapid-fire stream of consciousness delivery and he certainly has his moments. While it seems like he carries the movie for the most part, Reese isn’t without her chances to shine. Unfortunately, the opportunities are few and far between. Even with it’s stellar cast, the phrase “lighthearted comedy” feels a little generous. It is definitely light, but doesn’t have much heart.

2.5 out of 5 stars.