Friday, November 28, 2008

Four Christmases


I can't help but to chuckle at how Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon) got busted on national television no less, for having everyone whom they have lied to, see exactly where they are - at the airport trying to get to their vacation destination rather than accepting the invitation from their families to spend the season's greetings with. After all, as far as Brad's mantra goes, you can't have families without "lies". Anyway it is a situation that I'm fairly familiar with, and his reaction when the television camera gets poked in his face, brought back the memory of my own busted moment many years back.

As the wafer thin story goes, here is a couple who have spent the last three years in their "honeymoon" period, where everything is fine and dandy, and they seem to be A-OK with their commitment-less agreement and enjoying life as it is with each other. But a fog-ruined holiday meant they have to spend their one-day delay in San Francisco, and play tote the politically correct line in visiting all their divorced parents - that makes it four pit stops to commemorate the festivities, and hence the title - and this led to various inevitable hilarious situations.

Such as revisiting the ghosts and skeletons hidden in the homes they each grew up in, and for the first time, for both Brad and Kate to really discover who they once were, and who they are now, warts and all, for the other party to see. In fact, the first two house visits did just that, in presenting their worst nightmares and their attempts to overcome them. Sounds cliche I know, but that's the gist you get from the entire movie, that it's nothing more than a generic holiday movie where things that can go awry, do.

Given that it's a compact under 90 minute film, you'd come to expect that the latter half of the visits suffered from haphazard editing in order to make a mad dash to the finale. And this tells from the way characters magically appear one moment, and disappear the next. Reese Whiterspoon just pales herself against the gigantic Vince Vaughn, and it's quite a curious case of what the filmmakers actually had in mind in casting a really tall Vaughn against a really short Witherspoon, that you can check out those heels she had to deck just to reach his erm, armpits. Vaughn definitely stole her thunder here (in what was reel reflecting real - you just got to love his rendition of Joseph) although some of the usual wisecracks did get toned down, and he seemed to be muted for the most parts, almost sleepwalking, instead of being able to run riot with the role. Perhaps the much publicized tiff with his co-star did take its toil after all?

Four Christmases doesn't offer any gifts to the audience, and you're likely to stay one step ahead of the characters all the time. Genuinely funny jokes are rare, and moments of contemplation on the greater good gets mentioned only fleetingly. It's still quite amazing though that the film managed to get on board as supporting characters, the likes of Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Jon Voight, Mary Steenburgen, Kristin Chenoweth, Tim McGraw (!) and even the director of Iron Man Jon Favreau! So it's enjoy the moment with the supporting characters (almost all of whom their characters seem a little sexed up), in what would be a rather plain film.

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