November 9, 2007 Fred Claus
Studio: Warner Bros. Rating: PG for mild language and some rude humor.
If you think you have trouble living up to family expectations, try being the brother of a saint. That's the main idea behind the film "Fred Claus."
Fred (Vince Vaughn) has lived his entire life in the shadow of his much more famous brother Nicholas (Paul Giamatti.) Due mainly to his own bad decisions things haven't turned out too well for Fred. In financial trouble his only hope is his brother. But Santa says Fred has to travel to the North Pole and work in his toyshop to earn the money he needs.
As you can imagine Fred isn't exactly "elf" material. Things don't go smoothly on the job and with Christmas just a few days away the entire holiday is in jeopardy.
Vaughn does a pretty nice job but that's not too much of a stretch since he's basically playing himself. Fred is a slacker and a hustler with a quick wit and a heart of gold buried under all of his bluster.
Fred's family problems go way beyond his brother. Santa's wife (Miranda Richardson) is not very fond of her brother-in-law. Fred's mom (Kathy Bates) is very disappointed in how he has turned out. And his fiancee (Rachel Weisz) is just about ready to dump him. Trying to help his brother by giving him a job doesn't work out too well for Santa. And it couldn't have come at a worse time. The "Board of Directors" has an efficiency expert (Kevin Spacey) ready to shut the operation down move everything to the South Pole.
With tension rising and the family in crisis, the feuding brothers have to find a way to get along, save their family and save Christmas.
This movie is aimed squarely at children and on that level it succeeds. But if you're a little older like me you may find it a bit stale. There are plenty of movies about giving and redemption during the Christmas season. While those lessons are on display here they're not delivered nearly as well as we've seen in other stories.
While it's not a disaster you may be better off renting a DVD of "A Christmas Story" or "The Santa Clause" instead of watching this. On my rating scale, "Fred Claus" earns a Double.
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