Review: ‘Four Christmases’ – The Case of the Missing Third Act

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The pairing of Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon in a comedy about family (not to be mistaken for a family comedy) is about as appealing as a peanut butter and tuna fish sandwich.  Separately, they’re fine.  Together?  Not so much.

And thus the joyless experience of watching Four Christmases begins.

What’s it about? San Fancisco couple Kate (Witherspoon) and Brad (Vaughn) are completely enfatuated with each other.  They’ve been a couple for three years now, and each Christmas they find an excuse to avoid visiting their respective parents (all of whom are divorced) so they can take an exotic vacation for the holidays.  Thick fog grounds their flight to Fiji, and while attempting to reschedule their flight at the airport the two end up on the local news.  All four parents just happen to be watching the same newscast, causing their cell phones to ring and ring and ring and ring.  and now Kate and Brad must spend quality time with relatives they really don’t like.

First on their list of visits is Brad’s white trash father Howard (Robert Duvall) and his UFC-enthusiast brothers Dallas (Tim McGraw) and Denver (Jon Favreau).  Brad is beat up his brothers.  Zaniness ensues.

Second is Kate’s mom Marilyn (Mary Steenburgen), a cougar-type who’s never met Brad and can’t keep her eyes off of him.  Marilyn and sister Courtney (Kristen Chenoweth) delight in digging up Kate’s past (She was fat!  The other kids taunted her!  They thought she was a lesbian!).  Inexplicably, Kate takes a pregnancy test, only to have to retrieve test applicator (Thing you pee on?  Pee reader?  I have no idea what the actual term for it is) from a bratty neice in the inflatble trampoline emporium known as a Jump Jump.  Oh, and Brad and Kate somehow get chosen to portray Joseph and Mary in Marilyn’s boyfriend’s (Dwight Yokam) church play.  Wacky and zany mix-em-ups ensue.

Next it’s on to Brad’s mom’s (Sissy Spacek) house, where Brad is still uncomfortable that his high school buddy (Patrick Van Horn) is now Mom’s live-in boyfriend.  A game of Scattergories ensues.  It’s not that zany, but it sure is unfunny.

By this time Kate and Brad have seen other sides to their significant others, and their three-year infatuation with each other has come to a screeching halt.  (In regular relationships, this happens much, much, MUCH sooner.)  Kate visits her dad (Jon Voight) without Brad as Brad visits his father again.  Lessons are learned.

What’s good about it? The movie is 82 minutes.  And there are some funny lines here and there.

What’s bad about it? This is one of those soulless, mean-spirited Christmas movies marketed in a way that makes you think you want to see it.  The Christmases in this film are a mere excuse to tie four family visits into one day (it could very well have been called Four Easters or Kate and Brad are so unlikeable, as are all their extended family members.  The pregnancy test was an invitation to raise the stakes, but it is dismissed with such nonchalance that you’re scratching your head as to why it was even introduced (other than a reason to have Witherspoon chase her neice in a Jump Jump).

What’s worse, THE MOVIE HAS NO THIRD ACT!  The movie, while humorless, follows a standard story arc, and at the point where Kate and Brad learn that Nobody’s Perfect and Like It Or Lump It, Your Family Is All You’ve Got, you expect their newfound knowledge to be put through one more test that will make or break the relationship.  Instead, [SPOILER ALERT] the film does the “one year later” thing and you see them on New Year’s Day with their newborn baby, and somehow they avoided not telling any family members about the pregnancy.  And lo and behold, a news crew ambushes them because their bundle of joy is the first newborn of the year!  And the cell phones ring and ring and ring and ring AGAIN!

So apparently Kate and Brad didn’t learn ANYTHING.  Perhaps they would have if there was a third act.

Perfect for: the Two and a Half Men crowd.

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One Response to “Review: ‘Four Christmases’ – The Case of the Missing Third Act”

  1. Heather Says:

    I saw this movie last night and thought it was totally AWFUL. You’re right – not only is it not funny, it’s really frustrating because it’s so ridiculous and mean-spirited. I was glad I didn’t pay anything to see it.

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