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Susti Heaven

Brand Perfect

Closet Nomad


Studio: New Line
Year: 2008
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Duvall, Jon Favreau, Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakam, Tim McGraw, Kristin Chenoweth, Jon Voight, Sissy Spacek
Director: Seth Gordon
Release Date: December 4, 2009, 4:17 pm
Rating: PG-13 for (some sexual humor and language)
Run Time: 01h:28m:32s

ìCome hereÖtoothpaste and all.î - Brad (Vince Vaughn)

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On paper (and in reviews surrounding its theatrical release), this movie is everything I hate about cookie-cutter, modern Hollywood comedies. Thankfully, the Christmas season has me willing to give it a chance.

Movie Grade: C+

DVD Grade: B

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, itís time to focus on the ultimate season of giving, the Christmas shopping season. Sure, youíve probably already tackled the Black Friday crowds and maybe even spent all day online looking for the best virtual bargains on Cyber Monday. Chances are, youíve probably also picked up quite a few of the newest Blu-ray releases for your friends and family. Thereís an even better chance that one of those Blu-ray titles is the recently-released New Line distributed Four Christmases. This Reese Witherspoon, Vince Vaughn vehicle was a hit at the box office over a year ago, and is bowing on home video just in time for this yearís gift-giving season.

Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon) are a ridiculously happy couple who seem to be doing everything right in life. In their eyes, one of the biggest reasons for their happiness is the fact that they arenít married. Still, regardless of their lack of legal binding, they still feel a slight degree of guilt that they are avoiding their familiesí Christmas gatherings for yet another year. In fact, theyíve never spent Christmas with each otherís family since theyíve been together, but, thanks to horrible fog that grounds their plane to Fiji, they are forced to endure not one, but four family Christmases. Along the way we meet a myriad of crazy family members, from Bradís dad (Robert Duvall), mom (Sissy Spacek), and cage-fighter brothers (Tim McGraw and Jon Favreau) to Kateís parents (Mary Steenburgen and Jon Voight). Initially, these encounters find the happy couple second- guessing their decision to spread this holiday cheer, but by the end of their trip, these events just might bring them closer together.

Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn arenít exactly the first two A-list Hollywood actors I think of as a dream on- screen couple. Seeing Vince Vaughn quickly descending into the ultimate victim of typecasting is a whole other animal to have to deal with. Fortunately, neither notion is a huge problem in Four Christmases, and both lead actors are actually quite good, and exhibit a very nice, believable chemistry with each other. Vaughn is still on a road to phoned in, family-friendly comedic performances, a far cry from his foul-mouthed, ultra-cool work way back in Swingers, but heís still enough of a daring smart-ass to appeal to those who like at least a bit of an edge to their comedy.

Relying on sight gags for more than 75% of your filmís comedy quotient is always a huge mistake, and thatís exactly what director Seth Gordon (The King of Kong) does here. Anyone who had the displeasure of seeing the horrible theatrical trailer for Four Christmases last year knew that zany sight gags were plentiful in this film. Strangely, though, the vomiting baby that seemed to be its marketing departmentís key component wasnít as ridiculous in the film as it was in the trailer. Actually, about halfway through the film, I was thinking that same thing about it as a whole.

Donít get me wrong, thereís at least 15 other Christmas-themed movies that Iíd choose over this any year, but I went into this expecting the worst that Hollywood has to offer. Instead, itís got a nice, cast-against-type (Witherspoon and Vaughn excluded), ensemble cast that does a nice job with what theyíre given to work with. I also expected numerous sequences that were cringe-inducing, but that also wasnít the case. Ok, there are one or two uncomfortable moments, but thereís also plenty of amusing ones. While not exactly heavy on your typical Christmas movie elements, thereís enough seasonal cheer, decent performances, and actual laughs to make this a nice movie to have on in the background while youíre getting the last of your gifts wrapped.

New Line's Blu-ray only adds to the title's surprising appeal. The audio and video are top notch, with the dialogue-heavy lossless audio track also featuring some nice directional effects during the sight gag-heavy sequences. Extras-wise, we don't get a whole lot, but the Seven Layer Holiday Meals In a Flash featurette is a nice piece that features celebrity cook Paula Deen. There's also some deleted scenes and a hilarious Gag Reel that includes some great moments from Vince Vaughn.

Chuck Aliaga December 4, 2009, 4:17 pm