Sunday, November 30, 2008

Four Christmases: Review

There used to be a time when it wasn't appropriate to show the best parts of a movie in the trailers. I guess the movies were better and they could leave things out. Or, trailer makers were better at their jobs taking a funny moment in an even funnier scene so that when you see it again during the movie it still surprises you. I've seen too many trailers for Four Christmases, so I could see the baby vomiting on Reese coming from a mile away, but for a change, it was even funnier in the movie because there's more to that scene than just what you see on TV in the trailers. In general, I also have a beef with movie marketers who think all movies must fit into just a few molds, and so they market them that way. "This must be a comedy, that must be an action thriller", etc. However, by inaccurately marketing movies usually just leads to disappointment when you leave the theater, though many of them reach audiences on DVD because by then they only have their name or popularity to sell them, rather than their supposed plot. Four Christmases wasn't a misrepresented as many comedies have been, but there's a lot more to it than just continuous hilarity.

Reese and Vince Vaughn have been dating a while, and they like doing things together and having fun (I won't ruin it, but the opening scene is hilarious) and avoid their families at Christmas. They usually lie ("you can't spell families without lies") and go off on a wonderful vacation. This year, flights grounded for a day and being seen on the local news means they have to actually see their divorced families. While each family represents stereotypes a bit, they're not quite caricatures (though Jon Favreau as Vaughn's brother was annoyingly over the top). Vaughn's dad and brothers are middle class NASCAR fans who love to wrestle and be men's men. Vaughn never fit into that mold, left and became a lawyer. Now he's back and has to figure out how to avoid getting his ass kicked. There were two supporting characters that made this scene work and relatable, Tim McGraw as a father of two boys he can't afford to give big presents to, and Katy Mixon as Favreau's super pregnant wife who makes bologna casseroles and extols the virtues of her husband. He's touching (without meaning to) and she's hilarious without actually being crass.

Each of the other Christmases has something that would resonate with anyone from or with access to a large family. There are elements of not fitting in, rising above what you were born into, trying to meet your family's expectations and just plain disliking your family. The bigger theme I liked throughout the day was whether Reese or Vince actually knew enough about each other to have a life together. Can you love someone if you don't know where they come from or who their family is? How much do you need to know about someone so you feel like you really know them? They did a good job of exploring that a little bit more with each family. I liked the movie and give it a 3.5 LAMBS/stars


Fletch said...

We went down different paths with this one, that's for sure. I can appreciate some of the elements you point out, but I found it mostly unfunny (though I did think that the trailer left out the funniest part, thankfully - the Taboo scene) with flat characters and a sellout ending.

Jess said...

Fletch, you're right, I should have put a caveat on my review that I love dysfunctional family Christmas movies. The Family Stone, Love Actually, etc. are musts for my Christmas.