Fred Claus [Blu-Ray] David Dobkin

Fred Claus [Blu-Ray] David Dobkin
Though the DVD cover of Fred Claus doesn't say "a Vince Vaughn film," it might as well. Vaughn's influence is all over this earnest Christmas tale about the pathetic, overshadowed brother of Santa Claus who overcomes sibling rivalry to help St. Nick save Christmas. David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers) directs; John Michael Higgins (the scene stealer from The Break-Up) appears in a key role; it's even set in his hometown of Chicago. Vaughn essentially plays the same character as in Wedding Crashers and The Break-Up: an obnoxious yet lovable working class motor mouth who needs to overcome his self-absorbed character flaws to achieve his goals. As always, the gifted comedian is interminably entertaining, cramming in gags and one-liners with natural ease. Unfortunately like The Break-Up, Vaughn's presence is so commanding that he dominates everyone around him, specifically Paul Giamatti. Giamatti is cast right as a neurotic, worrisome Santa but any significant emotional attachment to his plight is overshadowed by Vaughn's domineering. It's a Joel Silver (The Matrix, Lethal Weapon) production, so much money is put in front of the camera. Dobkin crafts a number of entertaining action/fantasy set pieces, including a rambunctious chase between Vince Vaughn and a horde of Salvation Army Santas. Many more expensive actors show up in supporting roles as well - Kevin Spacey is cast in the clichéd role of the evil auditor who threatens to shut down the North Pole operation, Rachel Weisz is lovely and endearing as Fred's girlfriend and Elizabeth Bank appears as perhaps the yummiest Santa's Little Helper ever put to screen. Their numerous subplots threaten to bloat the film and tax the attention span of holiday audiences, but Dobkin manages to get it in under two-hours. When Christmas is saved in the end, Fred successfully redeems himself and everyone learns his or her lessons. The true meaning of Christmas is hit home with earnestness, satisfying the needs of the genre. While the programming of It's a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story will not be threatened by Fred Claus, you may want to pop this in the DVD player instead of the overplayed Christmas Vacation. The DVD and Blu-Ray editions of Fred Claus have the usual sort of featurettes, deleted scenes and audio commentary, but the best additions are the "Fireside Chats" with Giamatti and Vaughn, which show how good a pairing these two distinct personalities were and what could have been if given equally significant roles. (Warner)