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‘Four Christmases’ is a light-hearted romp

PHOTO PROVIDED When their trip to Fiji gets canceled, Kate (Reese Witherspoon) and Brad (Vince Vaughn) have to endure trips to see their families in the 2008 comedy “Four Christmases.”

When it comes to Christmas movies, there are the classics. Films like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “A Christmas Story,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Die Hard” and “Christmas Vacation” are in a league of their own. Then, of course, there are a new batch of Christmas movies. Films like “Elf” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” are modern-day classics.

We’ve got an entire month of “Throwback Thursday” Christmas movies, so I thought I’d start with something light and funny. With that in mind, I chose “Four Christmases.” While it’s certainly not in the class of those listed above, the 2008 comedy is a solid Christmas movie.

When we first meet Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon), they’re at a swanky San Francisco club. The two exchange some witty banter before sneaking off to the bathroom for some extra curricular activities. Turns out that the joke is on us. The two already live together and the scene at the club is just their way of spicing things up.

We quickly learn that Kate and Brad are from dysfunctional families. During a ballroom dance class, they reveal that they hate the idea of marriage or having children. They try to avoid their families at Christmas by traveling abroad and pretending to be doing charity work. They plan to go to Fiji, but all flights from San Francisco are grounded due to fog. When they are interviewed by a local news crew, it alerts their families that they will be home for the holidays.

Instead of basking in the sun in Fiji, the couple now has to plan on visiting their families — Brad’s father (Robert Duvall) first, then Kate’s mother (Mary Steenburgen), then Brad’s mother (Sissy Spacek), and finally, Kate’s father (Jon Voight, before he lost his mind on social media). Four visits in one day! Four Christmases, get it?

Although they live together, the couple is clearly in the early phase of their relationship. They haven’t adequately prepared one another for the madness that lies ahead. The first stop at Brad’s father’s house is probably the funniest of the four Christmases. Duvall plays a crusty divorced dad who lives on what looks like a ranch. Brad upsets the family by purchasing fancy gifts, including a satellite dish for his father. “I don’t want no satellite,” Duvall yells.

We also meet Denver (Jon Favreau) and Dallas (Tim McGraw), Brad’s brothers. Denver tells Kate that Brad’s given name is Orlando because they were named in the cities where they were conceived. Denver and Dallas are obsessed with MMA, so they beat the crap out of Brad moments into his arrival. For my money, the first visit is the best. Duvall has a bit role, but he really carries that segment of the film.

After that visit, three Christmases remain. As the film progresses, we learn more about Kate. She was the black sheep of her family. Growing up, she was overweight and had a lesbian relationship. They go to church services with the family where Brad and Kate are plucked to play Mary and Joseph in a live nativity. There, Vaughn really gets to flex his comedic chops. He turns Joseph into a one-man stage play and becomes a rock star during the scene.

“Four Christmases” is a lot of fun, but check your brain at the door. There’s no way the timing works for four long family visits. Still, the film works because of the chemistry between Vaughn and Witherspoon. There’s also the aforementioned supporting cast. Duvall and Spacek are excellent choices for the parent roles.

There are some raunchy sex jokes in the film, but overall it’s pretty safe to watch with the kids. It’s rated PG-13 for language and adult themes. It’s available on Amazon Prime, Google Play, Xfinity OnDemand, YouTube and iTunes.

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Chris Morelli is a staff reporter for The Express.

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