Four Christmases (DVD)

There are great Christmas movies – It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, Scrooged and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. And there are crap Christmas movies – Fred Claus, The Santa Clause 2 and 3, Elf, Christmas with the Kranks and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Now we have Four Christmases, which falls somewhere in the middle.

Kate (Witherspoon) and Brad (Vaughn) are a happy, loving couple with lots of rules – they will never get married, never have kids (can you predict the ending yet?) and they will never visit their respective families for the holidays. They both have parents that have divorced and remarried, and they haven't visited any of them for the hoidays in some years. But when their planned trip to Fiji for Christmas is delayed due to fog, and they are interviewed on TV at the airport, they are forced to visit their respective dysfunctional families.

There are a couple of decent gags in this film – both of them involving Jon Favreau – but for the most part it's relatively laugh free, and pretty mean-spirited, to boot. It doesn't seem to know whether it wants to be a knockabout, slapstick romp or a sweet rom-com or schmaltzy melodrama, and so it doesn't do any of them particularly well (you can always smell the desperation when filmmakers rely on vomiting babies for laughs). There's zero chemistry between Vaughn and Witherspoon, which means that you spend much of the film wondering just how these two misanthropes got together in the first place. And how did such stellar stars as Duvall, Voight and Steenburgen get involved in this project? All three of them look as if they'd rather be somewhere else – Fiji, maybe. Four Christmases is the kind of film that makes me glad to be spending Christmas Day alone – most probably watching It's a Wonderful Life for the 47th time.

EXTRAS *½ A gag reel; seven deleted scenes; and the trailer.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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