I don't believe in getting wrapped-up in the madness that is "Black Friday" - though I'm still surprised that Lionsgate hasn't put out a straight-to-video movie based around it -, but I do believe in the annual post-Thanksgiving/pre-Christmas holiday family-comedy film. A Christmas Story was the first one I remember. The Family Stone was the most recent one I remember liking (it's really much better than all of y'all think it is). And Jingle All The Way was the worst of the lot... until Four Christmases, that is.
But I believed in Four Christmases. I believed that Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn could generate a more convincing comic chemistry than Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston were able to in the almost-kind of good The Break-Up.
Witherspoon's on-screen comic lightness does expose the smug underbelly that Aniston just can't seem to shake off even among her more tolerable performances in Along Came Polly, Friends With Money, and She's The One. And as Vaughn has kept on the chub, he's a much more huggable and charming version of himself than the one that broke out in Swingers. But damn, not even the most stubborn audience member should expect quality from these two talents when they're saddle-bagged with a script as bogus as the four-person created page-burner of Four Christmases.
Brad (Vaughn) and Katie (Witherspoon) get flight-delayed in their hometown of San Francisco, and when their plan to avoid all holiday family contact becomes unveiled at the hands of a at-the-scene news reporter, the couple must visit all four of their households through the remainder of December 25th. Though the film is set in northern California, the screenwriters four and director Seth Gordon apparently felt like channeling flyover country for some of the comedy. Most draining is the evangelical nativity re-enactment sequence that will drain all the blood from your brain and wish for someone to strike a million matches off the the top of your head so that you can feel something other than the opposite of a good time.
Fresh from directing the beloved and slow-growing crowd-pleaser The King of Kong, Seth Gordon has a box office smash on his hands with Four Christmases, but what a rotten path to take in order to reach that plateau. The hook of the film plays on the misery all of us have experienced as captive family members back home for the holidays. But the wicked twist of Four Christmases is that it actually makes you want to rush out of the theater (the still of Reese Witherspoon up top is representative of the viewing experience...) and into the arms of those Christmas sweaters and board game festivities back home that you previously took for granted. In that way, I guess Four Christmases does deliver a bit of that lil' old holiday spirit.