Wednesday, December 12, 2012

25 Days of Christmas Movies - Day 12: How Many Christmasses Do You Celebrate?

The idea of visiting several different homes for Christmas is not a foreign one for me and my family.  Ever since I was 5 and my parents divorced I've been making at least two different Christmas trips in order to spend time with both parents.  In the busiest time of my life, when my father was remarried, I actually had four Christmasses in one day (and that didn't include the Christmas spent with my mother later in the month).  Lately, my sister and I have done two Christmasses in order to see both my mother and father now that we are grown, but this year we are seeing a return to one single Christmas day.  Thank god my sister had two children, because they have forced mom and dad to be in the same place on the same day since my sis and brother in law won't be doing any traveling with two tiny babies.  It's something of a relief actually, because it means I get more of my precious two week break to myself.  However, it does mean I probably won't be seeing my uncle and grandmother this year as I have since I went to college.  But I like to think I'll be there in spirit.  However, it makes me wonder how many other people are doing similar Christmas Marathons this year.  It almost seems like it would be ripe enough conflict for a film...and it turns out, that it was.  Today's film deals with a couple who has to go to four different houses for Christmas this year and the various indignities they are subjected to in process.  It's time to hop in the car and to go home for not one, not two, not three, but Four Christmasses.

Orlando "Brad" McVie (Vince Vaughn) and his girlfriend, Kate (Reese Witherspoon) are a happily unmarried and childfree, upscale San Francisco couple whose respective households are somewhat similar - both bearing divorced parents, warring siblings with out-of-control kids and general awkward memories and simmering resentments from the past, which they find too embarrassing to share with each other. In an effort to avoid these families at Christmas time, Brad and Kate pretend to be engaging in charitable work and escape to exotic sun-spots, such as Fiji, to enjoy a relaxing Christmas there. Unfortunately, in the third Christmas of their relationship, Brad and Kate are trapped at San Francisco International Airport by a fogbank that cancels every outbound flight. To make matters worse, they are caught on camera and then interviewed by a CBS 5 news crew, revealing their whereabouts to the whole city and, worst of all, their families.  Suddenly, each of them is trapped into committing to four different visits with their parents and siblings and each one must face old and long-avoided confrontations and fears.  Will they survive this Christmas?

Four Christmasses is a comedy that has a really funny and witty film buried somewhere deep inside it.  It's almost a shame that it becomes something of a mess with the load of talent involved.  Witherspoon and Vaughn are lovely to watch most of the time, but their parents are played by such greats as Sissy Spacek, Robert Duvall, Jon Voight, and Mary Steenburgen.  With a cast like that, how did they end up with such a vapid script.  It's really not even the story's fault that it sinks on execution, it is the way that our protagonists have been written.  They aren't the stereotypical nice couple who just so happens to be related to complete psychotics...they are actually written as two of the most unlikable hip yuppies ever allowed to be protagonists.  In fact, they are so obnoxious to listen to in the early scenes that what happens to them is rather like watching obnoxious teenagers in a Friday the 13th can't wait to see them get whats coming to them.  The script attempts to compensate by making their respective parents and siblings into terrible people too, but all that does is provide a film with no one to like and no one to empathise with.  Even by the end of the film, no one has learned anything to fix their obnoxiousness...rather they are simply given more reasons to be terrible people.  Like I said, it's a real shame, because buried underneath the horrid characters there was actually a decent movie idea here.

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