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IN SHORT: Four funnies. [Rated PG-13 for some sexual humor and language. 86 minutes]
Being set at Christmas-time means, we guess, that the writers of this compact comedy showed a little respect for the time and held the four letter words to a minimum. In their place, the every funny combination of baby vomit and juvenile behavior by grownups. No diss from yours Cranky. We laughed way too much to care about much other than the fact that a post-divorce Reese Witherspoon looks foxier than she has in a lot of movies. And Witherspoon wasn't hard on the eyes to begin with. Aside from that,the only flaw in Four Christmases is one of time. Simply, our happy loving couple have been happily loving for all of three years and they've managed the feat by avoiding their respective families at holiday time. Both Brad McVie (Vince Vaughn) and girlfriend Kate (Reese Witherspoon) have seen all parental units divorced and remarried, meaning four different family events to attend. They fib about doing charity work in exotic locations -- inoculating children in Burundi and so forth -- and skip off to vacation in more pleasant exotic locales, like Fiji.
This year, though, the San Francisco airport is fogged in. A local television team catches the pair desperately trying to find a flight out of the City by the Bay to anywhere their parents aren't and soon cellular phones are ringing off the hook. Busted
What follows is as funny as it is juvenile. If there had been any mention in the script that Brad and Kate had attempted the holiday juggling act at least once in their romantic career (and, obviously, it would have been a disaster) then the story would have some grounding in reality and could have built more comedy based on earlier events. Forgive us for thinking like a writer. The criticism would have popped in any first year screen writing course. Luckily, the rest of the experience is funny enough to keep us all entertained. And so come the four holidays:
We begin with Brad's dad Howard (Robert Duvall) and brothers Denver (Jon Favreau) and Dallas (Tim McGraw). Here, Kate learns that Brad has been lying to her throughout the course of their relationship and Brad gets the snot kicked out of him by his bigger brothers. Onwards . . .
Kate's mom Marilyn (Mary Steenburgen) has found religion in a major way under the divining hands her new beau Pastor Phil (Dwight Yoakam). Here, Brad discovers that Kate, too, hasn't told all about her past. That's something her sister Courtney (Kristin Chenoweth), a new mom who gives more intricate details about nursing than any male would ever want to know, is more than happy to with the help of the family photo album. Such secrets include the painful fact that Courtney was the hottie cheerleader and Kate was the porky piglet of the family. oops, gave it away. Kate is distracted all the while because she's stolen a pregnancy test from the medicine chest (sic) and the annoying kidlets of the family are busy playing keep away. Onwards . . .
Brad's mom Paula (Sissy Spacek) has a new hubbie. He happens to be Brad's former best friend from high school, Darryl (Patrick Van Horn). Mom's into that mental self-actualization nonsense and sees nothing wrong with being happy with her life, no matter how it affects all those around her. OTT she runs a fairly middle class type household and Brad would rather be anywhere else. That leaves just one parent, Kate's dad Creighton (Jon Voight) way up in Lake Tahoe. By the time the fourth christmas rolls around, Brad and Kate have pretty much had it with each other and all the little crinkles in the relationship that were never really worked out in the first place -- like whether commitment and babies and stuff like that were ever going to be part of the overall picture.
Essentially three years of bliss have flushed down the toilet in less than twelve hours. Kate talks all this stuff out with her dad while Brad drives back to his dad's house. There, daddy sets boyo's head on straight.
We wouldn't have told you all of this if it weren't for the simple fact that the overall film is a pretty good sit. It's not a Christmas movie. It is a classic dateflick; one which offers fun for both sides of the genetic equation. Even more refreshing is the PG-13 Rating on the thing. We've spent the last couple of months bombarded by four letter words in every comedy that's come down the road. Is baby vomit an acceptable substitute? Well, yes, in small doses it is.
Terrible pun. We apologize.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Four Christmases, he would have paid . . .
Take a date.
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