Drive-By Movie Review: Four Christmases

This is a review of the 2008 movie Four Christmases starring Reese Witherspoon, Vince Vaughn, Robert Duvall, Jon Voight, and Sissy Spacek

Plot Summary: A couple struggles to visit all four of their divorced parents on Christmas Day.

Me: Can you believe this is the 200th post here at Len Penzo dot Com!

The Honeybee: So?

Me: What do you mean, “So?”

The Honeybee: I hardly think your readers care.   Is that really an important milestone?   Come back and see me when you reach 1000 posts.

Me: But at the rate I’ve been writing, I won’t reach that number for four more years.

The Honeybee: Exactly!   Now let’s get on with this review because we have a lot of stuff to do today, including picking up the Christmas tree.

Me: I’ll have to assume it’s the Christmas movie we watched last night, Four Christmases, that put you in such a, um, festive holiday spirit.

The Honeybee: That movie didn’t even come close to putting me in the holiday spirit.

Me: Really?   I never would have guessed.   In Four Christmases Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon star as Brad and Kate, a very self-absorbed couple that rejects the notion of marriage and family.   But when their annual holiday flight to the tropics is canceled, they have no choice but to make a day of it and visit each of their four divorced – and extremely odd – parents on Christmas.

The Honeybee: Just how did Brad’s hippie mom (Sissy Spacek) ever end up with a redneck for a husband (Robert Duvall)?

Me: That is a mystery but, I have to say, after seeing his parents it is easy to imagine why Brad would be so opposed to marriage and children.

The Honeybee: I didn’t think Vince Vaughn was as good in this movie as he was in Fred Claus.   In fact, I didn’t think this movie was as good as Fred Claus.

Me: Me either, but I still thought there were some pretty funny laugh-out-loud scenes in this movie.

The Honeybee: I actually thought the movie’s funniest moments were in the beginning, before Brad and Kate began visiting their weird parents.   After that, the funny scenes rapidly disappeared.

Me: I agree for the most part.    Then again,  I absolutely loved the couple’s visit to Brad’s mom, who happens to be living with his erstwhile best friend twenty years her junior – I howled at the scene where the family plays the Taboo board game that reveals the extent of their intimacy, much to Brad’s chagrin.

The Honeybee: That was funny.   But for every scene like that, there were two or three that just didn’t jangle my jingle bells.

Me: Ooo, that’s a good one.   Can I steal that?

The Honeybee: Go ahead.

Me: Of course, Hollywood being Hollywood, this couldn’t just be a half-way decent funny movie about Christmas.   Oh no!   The writers also had to find a way to teach us all a little lesson at the end.  

The Honeybee:   In this case that happens to be, uh, I’m not really sure.

Me: Well, it tried to shoe-horn in a couple of convoluted messages.   The first, of course, was the importance of family.   The writers, though, really stretched it by  giving Kate this epiphany that she really wanted kids and marriage after all.

The Honeybee:   That was beyond a stretch:   How could Brad and Kate end up going from being so against marriage and children, to being sold on the concept   – especially after spending all Christmas  having a crappy day with their dysfunctional families?

Me: The same way that Santa Claus gets down our chimney each and every Christmas to deliver the kids their presents – artistic license.

The Honeybee: If you say so.

Me: I will agree though that the eventual swing to sentimentality really was unnecessary, and I would have been much happier if the two would have reaffirmed their original decision to skip marriage and children.     What’s your verdict on this one, Honeybee?

The Honeybee: I’ll give this a “rent” rating.   It was an okay Christmas movie, but I’ve seen better.   You?

Me: I agree.   Although Four Christmases had its moments, the writers definitely put some coal in our stockings when they decided to toss a heavy dose of holiday schmaltz into the movie egg nog.

The Honeybee: I didn’t know people put schmaltz in egg nog.

Me: Oh yeah! They do it all the time – a sprinkle of nutmeg, a splash of brandy and a shot of schmaltz.   Now let’s go get our Christmas tree.


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