Allow me to first thank Hollywood for delaying the first Christmas film until at least Thanksgiving weekend. Last year the film Fred Claus was released in the first week of November. I not only hated the film, but disliked it even more because I was not in the holiday spirit. Call me a Scrooge for not wanting to see a film about Santa Claus only a week after I dressed up like a Power Ranger for candy.

Nevertheless, this year’s first holiday release was Four Christmases, a romantic comedy starring a cluster of famous actors including the two leads, Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn. They play a happily dating couple who plan to spend their Christmas vacation in Fiji and away from their dysfunctional divorced families. However, on the morning of their flight, all planes are grounded due to fog, which force them to visit all four of their separated parents in one day.

During each visit, the couple learns something new about each other through embarrassing family discussions or conflicts. There is also a theme of family bonding after they question their relationship in the long run. Typical Christmas film: a candy coated layer that has a gooey center.

Regardless of the familiar formula, the film works quite well. There was an immense amount of publicity during filming about Vaughn and Witherspoon constantly fighting on set or refusing to do scenes with one another. Surprising, the petty conflicts did not injure their performances or chemistry, because the two actors are great. Vaughn’s typical rants add a lot of laughs to the film, and Witherspoon’s earnestness makes the awkward situations even more enjoyable. Also, the film’s supporting cast including Jon Voight, Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Jon Favreau, and even Tim McGraw all add their own comedic touch to the film. The writing and directing are fine for a comedy, but above par when it comes to a holiday film because there is no denying that films about Christmas are not aimed to win awards.

For anyone who has been subjected to the awkward holiday encounters with the new lover’s parents, you would appreciate the situations for the characters. For instance, Vaughn’s brothers are aspirant UFC wrestlers and spend the entire visit trying to put him in a headlock to say “mercy.” We all have our shameful family stories during the holidays that we have to accept, because that is who we are. This film captures that spirit and adds some wonderfully witty banter to bring an enjoyable comedy for the holidays.
To complete this review, I thought it would only be appropriate to share one of my more embarrassing holiday stories involving a partner’s family. The first time I went to my old lover’s Christmas party, I was introduced to her crazy grandparents. After shaking their hands the grandmother leaned into my partner’s ear to ask, “Is he black boy?” This was not too embarrassing until she went around to every aunt and uncle asking if they thought I was black. First, I am a pasty white guy; second, would you really ask everyone in sight if someone was a certain race? Regardless of the horror, I got a gift certificate to Circuit City for the experience and we broke up a few months later. Oh, those holidays.

My Grade: B
My Ex’s Grandmother: Insane