IF YOU ENJOYED Seth Gordons King of Kong:A Fistful of Quarters, an oddly gripping and very funny doc about the climactic battle for the highest recorded score in Donkey Kong, you owe it to yourself to actively avoid Four Christmases. Gordons follow-up, Four Christmases is the kind of film that you should only watch if youre trapped on an airline and cant fall asleep, the kind of holiday film that makes Jingle All the Way look like a cinematic tour de force. Its painful to watch because its not about unity or holiday cheer; its about shaming single couples that dont want to get married or have children into doing sowhen they feel like it, that is. Hand puppet shows are less glaringly obvious in their agendas than Four Christmases.
Brad and Kate (Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon) are a pair of childless, unmarried yuppies that selfishly want to have the holidays to themselves.When their connecting flight to Fiji is grounded and a group of TV reporters show their families that theyre within driving distance, the couple is obliged to visit all four households. In the process, the couple learnsor more accurately, Kate does and Brad follows suit that they know nothing about each other and really should stop being so uptight and squirt out a couple of kids already.
The film invites unhesitant cynicism of this kind because it clearly doesnt want to do anything but reinforce the great American melting pot ideal of family above all else (curiously, all four families, from trailer trash to hippy-dippy freaks, apparently live in the San Francisco area). Its claim to an evenhanded argument is that it sends up red- and blue-state stereotypes evenhandedly and does so by making everyone equally loud and unfunny. Brads beer-swilling dad (Robert Duvall, who apparently accepts Budweiser in lieu of checks) is miles away from his zany, sexually liberated mom (Sissy Spacek, who looks like she needs a cold one).While Kates megachurch-attending mom (Mary Steenburgen, perfecting her spacey older mom look) is light-years apart from her affluent but surprisingly quirk-free dad (Jon Voight, in full Father Knows Best mode). Dont worry: Both liberals and conservatives can appreciate the different families wackiness because theyre all inhuman, moronic clichés.
Though her relatives are all equally unpleasant to be around, Kate somehow learns that the couple really should stop living in the moment and start seriously thinking about children and tying the knot.With a diverse extended family thats uniformly irritating, its impossible to guess the cause for this miracle of moralizing, where a selfish urbanite decides to become one with the heartland and make friends with a breast pump (Apparently, she has no idea how one works! Kooky!). Needless to say, if youre looking for mindless comfort and laughs, just turn on the TV and get them for free from the Parker clan in A Christmas Story or the Griswolds in National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. Neither film will make you lose respect for the people that made them, especially not their directors.
> Four Christmases
Directed by Seth Gordon Running Time: 82 min
Reese and Vince decide to cash in with the putrid holiday flick, Four Christmases.