Obnoxious macho entitlement with an ugly chaser of smugness meet maudlin sentimentality without feeling or conviction. This is what happens when Vince Vaughn is juxtaposed with Christmas, and the drippy dialectic combines to create the dire Fred Claus.
Vaughn assays the title role, the resentful neer-do-well older brother of the more successful Santa (Paul Giamatti). Strapped for cash to start a gambling venture, Fred has no choice but to return to the North Pole to work with the elves despite the misgivings of Mrs. Claus (an inexplicably slumming Miranda Richardson) and everyone who knows him. His anger gets the best of him but he proves to be the only one able to best Clyde (Kevin Spacey), the efficiency expert sent to screw up Santa and shut down the operation.
The movie goes the distance in being as predictable as possible. Fred has a girlfriend (Rachel Weisz) whos too good for him and whom he almost drives away; he teaches the uptight elves to cut loose and dance while giving love lessons to John Michael Higgins; his angst is defined by a "blame the mother scenario out of Freud 101; and his hipness is measured in how he "relates to black characters so ludicrously stereotyped as to insult our intelligence. The film is tired, tired, tired, and not even the inexplicably sharp cast can do much to redeem its creaking plot devices and banal uplift.
If you find the idea of Vaughn fighting a bunch of irate street corner Santas the last word in ironic hilarity, I suppose weve found your new favourite movie. But anyone looking for something less obvious will be left out in the cold and far from the ski lodge. (Warner)