Four Christmases

Four Christmases movie poster
MPAA rating: PG-13
Genre: Comedy
A married San Francisco couple (Reese Witherspoon, Vince Vaughn) struggles to fit in visits with all four of their divorced parents on Christmas Day.
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Vince Vaughn, Robert Duvall, Mary Steenburgen, Sissy Spacek, Jon Favreau, Tim McGraw, Jon Voight
Director: Seth Gordon
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Editorial Review

"Four Christmases," which is several maraschino cherries short of a fruitcake, has a refreshing point to make about family. If you don't like yours, ignore it. When the holidays arrive, tell your parents you're inoculating children in Burma, so, whoops, looks like you'll miss Christmas again this year. The movie sticks with this family-unfriendly notion till the very end, but any whiff of delectable domestic comedy is overwhelmed by scenes such as the one in which a toddler sticks a used pregnancy test in her mouth. Or when a baby soaks Reese Witherspoon with vomit.

There's a good movie buried in "Four Christmases," underneath the layers of baloney and ham, but we never get much of a taste.

Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn play San Francisco lovebirds who avoid Christmas with their divorced parents by planning vacations disguised as volunteer expeditions. But this year, a thick fog grounds all the flights. Before Christmas Day is out, the pair has to make four separate stops, one for each divorced parent. Vaughn and Witherspoon, both peppy and likable, have before them four scenarios in which to preen, riff, jab and yuk-yuk. And get a load of their parents:

Robert Duvall, Oscar winner. Mary Steenburgen, Oscar winner. Sissy Spacek, Oscar winner. Jon Voight, Oscar winner.

Unfortunately, the actors are nothing but fancy window dressing in this movie which rushes from scene to scene before bad gags have time to land their bad punch lines.

The only laughs come from Vaughn, a master of ingratiation. Witherspoon is no Roz Russell or Lucille Ball. But she fills space nicely.

She provides the movie's faint emotional heartbeat, courtesy of her character's ticking biological clock. So the question arises: Do they want to start their own family? Maybe. But their hypothetical child would spend Christmases not at grandpa and grandma's house but on islands in the South Pacific. Which, come to think of it, is where we'd rather be instead of watching this movie.

--Dan Zak (Nov. 26, 2008)

Contains sexual humor and language.