Published Nov 27, 2008Starting out with a pragmatic and unconventional couple who scoff at the (il)logicality of traditional social expectations and treat their romance with a healthy and logical realism that doesnt idealize or embellish for the sake of cultural adherence, Four Christmases proves itself to be ahead of the romantic comedy pack, at least initially. It possesses the potential to be a subversive heart-warmer for those of us who have grown tired of the generic Judeo-Christian ethical babble that has been crammed down our throats since birth.
Unfortunately, the lesson learned here is that of assimilation, as Four Christmases has the audacity to suggest that happiness can come only from valuing social norms and as such, devolves into a crass Republican wet dream that infers life purpose through crapping out babies and opening joint chequing accounts.
Brad and Kate (Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon) have an annual Christmas tradition of travelling to an exotic locale to vacation rather than visiting their idiosyncratic families. This tradition is rudely interrupted when their flight to Fiji is cancelled and their families see them on live television, prompting obligatory holiday visits to four separate abodes, as both sets of parents are divorced.
From redneck "rasslin brothers (Jon Favreau) to pothead mothers (Sissy Spacek) to big-boobed breeder siblings (Kristin Chenoweth), Brad and Kate learn the value of family and like many who enjoy an unorthodox lifestyle, are manipulated into living like everyone else in order to make the moral majority feel better about the cages in which they have trapped themselves.
Thankfully, along the way there are some genuinely amusing moments, mostly involving derogatory remarks about fat babies and Reese Witherspoon beating up several small children and smacking the head of an infant off a wall.
However, these moments are often overshadowed by broad comedy that does not always work (the Mary and Joseph re-enactment, as well as a satellite dish installation gone wrong) and an overall resolution that plays much as The Stepford Wives would if that last feisty wife had just shut up and contentedly converted. (Alliance)