Screen Gems Movie Reviews
with Kennie Bass. You'll find it First On Fox!

Four Christmases November 28, 2008
Four Christmases
Studio: New Line Cinema
Rating: PG-13 for some sexual humor and language.

Taking "home for the holidays" to the extreme, "Four Christmases" shows the perils and pitfalls of family get-togethers.

For the past three years, Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon) have avoided spending time with their relatives at Christmas. Saying "you can't spell families without lies," they come up with elaborate schemes to get away.

But when their planned trip to Fiji is delayed by fog and they're seen on local TV stuck at the airport, Brad and Kate are forced to visit with each of their divorced parents.

Their first stop is his father's place, where dad (Robert Duvall) and brothers Denver (Jon Favreau) and Dallas (Tim McGraw) are waiting. The family not only forces Brad to face his childhood insecurities, he also gets physically battered by his wrestling fan siblings.

Needless to say things don't go much better at her mother's house, where mom (Mary Steenburgen) and sister (Kristin Chenoweth) reveal long hidden secrets about "Cootie Kate" and an irrational fear of "jump-jumps."

This is a fairly light comedy which manages to deliver chuckles throughout. There is no denying Vaughn is a funny guy and Witherspoon is skilled and beautiful actress. But the biggest crime committed by the film is its waste of talent.

There are five Oscar-winners in the cast. Witherspoon, Duvall, Steenburgen, Sissy Spacek (Brad's mom) and Jon Voight (Kate's dad.) Chenoweth won a Tony on Broadway. There are even Grammy winners present with McGraw and Dwight Yoakam, who plays a charismatic minister.

So you would think with that much sheer ability there is no way the movie could miss.

But it does. The first two family visits go a little long and the last two get the short end of the stick. Nobody in those scenes has very much to do, but it's especially galling to see Spacek and Voight read through a few lines before the story moves on.

As we begin the plot actually builds pretty nicely with Brad and Kate dealing with their relatives and their own relationship. But then it takes a predictable turn which is resolved very abruptly...taking us to...BANG! The credits.

It feels like they got to a certain point and didn't know how to end the story. Again, there are some laughs, but ultimately the movie is a great example of a missed opportunity.

I waffled a little bit on my final rating since this is far from a disaster, but I ultimately came up with a Single for "Four Christmases." My biggest complaint is almost criminal misuse of a good setup and great actors.

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