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TOP 100 MOVIES in 2008!
Directed by Seth Gordon
Starring Vince Vaughn, Reece Witherspoon, Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Jon Favreau, Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakam, Tim McGraw
Review by Eli Manning
A couple struggle to visit all four of their divorced parents on Christmas Day.
There's a very funny scene about halfway through Four Christmases where the film's two stars Brad and Kate (Vaughn, Witherspoon) are forced to play the roles of Joseph and Mary in a Christmas show. Kate has stage fright and Brad has stage courage -- meaning that he goes over the top to upstage Mary in her own birth of Jesus and steals the entire production. Brad decides to improv his role and adds many lines to the script so he can be the center of attention.
It's a laugh out loud moment in the film and unfortunately it's really only the true great scene in an otherwise hit and miss comedy.
Four Christmases could of been a great one but there are two overlying problems with the film:
1) Where is the CHEMISTRY? In order for a romantic comedy to work (and this film would be characterized as one), you need to have chemistry with the two leads. If there is a dynamic situation between your lead male and female, then the audience automatically cares about them and will laugh with them all the way to the ending. If not, then we're left wondering why we're watching this film.
Reece Witherspoon has accumulated a nice body of work already. She's won an Academy Award in a Dramatic/Musical role and is a leading lady success in the comedy world with her Legally Blond films, plus Sweet Home Alabama, Election and a nice stint on the Friends TV show. She's definitely has the chops and is known in the Hollywood circles as a very meticulous actress. She does hours of rehearsals and comes on set ready to say her lines verbatim as she understands the emotional and comedic beats that are needed for each scene.
Vince Vaughn is also an accomplished actor. Comedy is definitely his thing. He's a miss in the dramatic genre as his roles in Psycho, Domestic Disturbance and The Cell weren't exactly box office or critical hits. So ever since his role in Old School in 2003, he has not ventured out of comedy. He's good at comedy, so he might as well stick with what he's good at.
Unfortunately for Four Christmases, Vaughn is a completely different actor than his co-star. He's what you call an instinctual actor as he show up on set ready to change the lines in the script and do improv. In the DVD director's commentary of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Doug Liman (who also directed Vaughn in his breakthrough role in Swingers) talks how Vaughn just shows up and rewrites the script for his character. It's how he works the best and it's usually why a Producer hires him.
So why didn't the Producers get that these are two actors who would have a hard time working together, much less for over 3 months in a comedy film? Comedy is do or die on the performance and these actors definitely have their own style. And they must of drove each other crazy! Imagine Reece trying to deliver the line in the script and hit her emotional beat and then witness her co-star go off in a completely different direction. All while there is lights in their face and 100's of crew watching them.
Hence the lack of CHEMISTRY between the two and therefore a lack of funny moments. So Brad the character that Vince Vaughn plays does the same thing as Vince Vaughn when he played Joseph.
#2) The art of Four Christmases is suppose to be how two normal/successful people react to their otherwise crazy family. But the problem is that the family just isn't crazy enough. There are so many moments in this film where they could of pushed the envelope with the characters they set up, but really didn't do anything nearly as funny as they could of.
It's the supporting characters who should of earned all of the funny moments in Four Christmases. It's the way the script is set up. But it seems that the two stars wanted most of the funny lines. The problem with that is they are playing the straight-men/reactionary roles in the comedy. Every comedy needs them and but in Four Christmases there is a clash of the funny lines. Think of the great comedy team of Abbott and Costello! Imagine if Costello wanted all the funny lines Abbott has. I guess that's what's happening these days in Hollywood where the leading actors are the ones who have the most power on a film set. In truth, Vince Vaughn needed to be harnessed in Four Christmases. He can play the straight-man, just like he did in Dodgeball, but he's now the star of his film and wants to show the world how funny he is.
All in all, we really didn't learn anything from these characters either. There were also so many great plot and thematic comedic moments to play as well. Family is what almost all of us have. We understand that we must learn to love them no matter how much we hate them. But they didn't even go there in Four Christmases either.
2 stars out of 4!