Kate (Reese Witherspoon) and Brad (Vince Vaughn) have been together for three years and each Christmas they travel to an exotic destination to avoid visiting their respective families. This year, they are on their way to Fiji after having lied to their families about the reason for their trip. But all flights out of San Francisco airport are cancelled due to the fog, and Kate and Brad have no excuse not to visit the four homes of their divorced parents to celebrate Four Christmases.
Review by Louise Keller:
A top cast just manages to keep Four Holidays afloat but the script offers too few laughs, and slapstick turns to schmaltz before we've had enough Christmas Cheer. On paper it might seem like a good visual gag, but the height difference between ultra-tall Vince Vaughn and petite Reece Witherspoon is a distraction, and their on-screen chemistry has already gone on holidays: there is none. We never believe they are a couple, so why should we care if they embarrass themselves and each other at the homes of their respective divorced parents. Mercifully it's short, but with a handful of Oscar winners in tow, expectations are considerably higher than the script allows and Four Holidays, cobbled together by Four Scriptwriters, is no holiday at all.
The opening is a total misfire when Vaughn and Witherspoon assume different personas as they pretend to meet and pick each other up in a trendy bar. Then, as they get ready for their upcoming holiday in Fiji, there's banter about why they lie to their families and avoid commitment. The scene is set and we are ready for some laughs. And yes, we enjoy their discomfort when they are caught out on their lie in a public way. For me, the best part is the anticipation which terrific actor will play the part of his or her mother or father. But the script is short of ideas and never delivers. First off the rung is Robert Duvall as Brad's dad, a grouchy redneck whose home is demolished when the installation of a new satellite dish goes wrong. The physical tomfoolery by Brad's extreme wrestler brothers (Jon Favreau and Tim McGraw) is less than funny, as is the joke involving the screaming baby. Here and at their next stop, where Mary Steenburgen plays Kate's mother, who has recently embraced religion (and the local Pastor), Brad and Kate discover things about each other they did not know. And guess what? It isn't good. Nor is it particularly funny. The humour is misjudged and by the time we meet Sissy Spacek's Paula and Jon Voight's Creighton, the holiday is well and truly over.
Vaughn plays a brash, loud-mouthed character we have seen many times before and he is good at it. Witherspoon goes through the paces and looks lovely, but this is not a good role for her. Together, they are an odd couple, who talk a lot but don't connect. The film might aspire to champion family, relationships and commitment, but there is no satisfying emotional curve to show us the way. Never mind that the ending is contrived, Four Holidays lacks fun and more importantly, has no heart.
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FOUR HOLIDAYS (M)
(aka Four Christmases)
CAST: Robert Duvall, Jon Favreau, Reese Witherspoon, Dwight Joacham, John Voight, Mary Steenburgen, Vince Vaughn, Sissy Spacek
PRODUCER: Gary Barber, Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon
DIRECTOR: Seth Gordon
SCRIPT: Matt Allen, Caleb Wilson, Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jeffrey L. Kimball
EDITOR: Mark Helfrich, Melissa Kent
MUSIC: Alex Wurman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Shepherd Frankel
RUNNING TIME: 82 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 4, 2008