Christmas isn’t about families, and good times, and joy to the world and all that nonsense! It’s all about humbug, misanthropy, selfishness and greed. Yeah, that’s what Christmas is about. Thanks for the new car, Dad. I didn’t get you a goddamn thing, and you’d better be grateful.
Touch on the cynical side, perhaps? Nah, not really. Not when you consider it next to Four Christmases, which takes this sort of po-faced, Scroogetastic agenda as its starting point. Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon star as Smiley and Frowney, two carbon blobs in a relationship that routinely ditch their families at Christmas, preferring to spend their time lazing on a tropical beach getting pie-eyed on rum. But when their flight is cancelled and, in a startlingly improbable plot development, Smiley and Frowney are filmed by the local news crew, the duo are forced to suffer four – count ’em! – four Christmases back-to-back! Madness.
Cue four clichéd set-pieces rehashing of all the crazy, predictable things that go wrong at a family Christmas, viz: vomiting children, grumpy parents, the production of an embarrassing photo album. It’s all there, in all its predictable anti-glory. Vaughn and Witherspoon skip through their lines without thinking; it’s almost like they want the movie to be over more than we do. Then there’s the case of their divorced parents – Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Jon Voight and Mary Steenburgen (all Oscar winners to a man), who all have their own particular take on “kooky” with which to imbue their 2D characters.
And while there’s a couple of chuckle-worthy moments, it’s all pretty bland and uninspiring stuff. Tag onto that an implausible (and incredibly saccharine) ending and this is one Christmas morsel that may well end up making you feel slightly queasy. Pass the indigestion tablets, will you uncle Col?