It was around this time last year that a choice was presented to me. Go see Four Christmases or do nothing. Well I opted for Four Christmases but due to extenuating circumstances (a natural gas leak of some kind created a strange odor in the theater this film was showing) I never actually got to see it. And being the lazy person that I am I never bothered to go back and see it (I ended up seeing Role Models instead). But I figured this film would arrive quickly on DVD anyway, so why rush to see it in the theaters? Fast forward to a year later and this film is only just now arriving on the home video market…not terribly surprising (it is a holiday movie after all) but will the public still even remember what this movie was about a year after the advertisements stopped?
Every Christmas happily unmarried Brad and Kate escape divorced parents and exasperating relatives by getting on a plane. This year the airport shuts down and the couple is forced to celebrate four family Christmases in one hectic, hilarious day. Can Brad and Kate’s relationship survive Four Christmases?
Considering Vince Vaughn hasn’t been in much lately, it was a little surprising to see him opt for a holiday film (especially since the last time we saw him it was Fred Clause…which I did enjoy, don’t get me wrong, but it’s still kind of strange) again. But he’s still a pretty big name, as is Reese Witherspoon, so I doubt even releasing the film a year after its original theatrical release will have much of an impact on its sales, especially with it being a holiday title after all. Not that it really matters—the $80 million budget was more than paid back with the $163 million in worldwide box office receipts.
But enough about the film’s commercial success…we’re here to review the film itself. And I’m sad to say that the majority of critics were right about this one—with a 26% on RottenTomatoes, I have to say that it’s probably one of the least entertaining films I’ve seen in recent years, funny bits from the trailers notwithstanding. See the film does have some humorous and comedic moments, but they’re so bogged down by just…incredible narcissism from almost every member of the cast that it’s hard to really warm up to any of the characters.
Of course it also doesn’t help that Vince Vaughn plays the same character in just about every film; I’m sure the man has range, but he’s always put into these roles where he has to play a sarcastic windbag who eventually sees the light/feels regret and makes up with the woman he loves. Great and generic romantic comedy fodder, sure, but it gets really tiring at times to see him do little else with his roles. Witherspoon is the same way, although she’s definitely had plenty of opportunity to show off her acting chops in other roles so it’s hard to fault her for the generic portrayal she’s given in this film.
Honestly there are funny things about this film, but they were all pretty much given away by the trailer for the film. Granted the whole segment with Vaughn’s mom was quite hilarious, but when that’s all the film has to offer you during its 88 minute run time, it’s rather disappointing. Most of all the film hardly put you in any kind of Christmas spirit, with the vast majority of the cast being bitter or hateful towards one another in some fashion. Witherspoon’s family is just about the only shining light in the film and it’s pretty bad when Jon Voight is the shining light of Christmas in a film.
There’s a whole smattering of cameos to partake in here including Robert Duvall, Jon Favreau, Sissy Spacek, Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakam, Kristin Chenoweth, and Tim McGraw (who I didn’t even recognize…but then again he was hardly in it anyway). It’s definitely a star studded cast, but they all seem squandered in bit parts. In films like this it’s often the supporting cast that steals the show, but honestly the only ones who made me laugh besides Vaughn and Witherspoon were Favreau and Katy Mixon.
Overall Four Christmases may be a Christmas film, but it’s just a little overly bitter to really get you in the mood for the season. There are trees and snow and all that, but none of the spirit is present until near the end of the film and by then you spent up your energy trying to laugh at the jokes and not have it make you feel incredibly depressed that everyone’s apparently divorced and marriage/kids kill relationships. You’re better off watching the trailer for the film or just sticking to a Rental.
Warner releases Four Christmases in a standard Elite Blu-ray case that houses both the single disc Blu-ray as well as a digital copy for those plane rides to the in-laws this season (yay!…?). On the outside of the case is a standard cardboard o-ring with nothing special (no embossing or foil reflection, just a mirror image of what’s underneath it). As with most Warner titles the movie auto-starts, so the menu is pop-up and pretty basic and brief in structure.
Video arrives in the form of a VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer. Seeing as the film is only a year old it’s not surprising that it looks as good as it does. Plenty of detail, bright and cheery colors for the season and an overall fantastic looking visual element helps make the film visually enticing at least. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix is a bit brief, with it only really coming alive during the “Jump Jump” sequence with kids screaming in the surrounds. Soundtrack is pretty laid back and being that it’s a dialogue driven film there is little subwoofer activity…aside from Vaughn’s brothers in the film, who, as trained wrestlers/fighters, make quite an impact (literally). Plus there’s the satellite dish sequence, so it’s a pretty solid aural mix, but it’s quite laid back for the most part.
Four Christmases: Holiday Moments (HD)
HBO First Look – Four Christmases: Behind The Madness
Seven Layer Holiday Meals In a Flash (HD)
Deleted Scenes (Seven total)
BD Live Extras
Four Christmases: Favorite Christmas Memories
Paula Deen and Katy Mixon Unleashed – Outtakes
They’re all very brief and fluffy pieces, but the gag reel was admittedly pretty funny to watch. The Paula Deen/Katy Mixon “Seven Layer” piece wasn’t bad either as it actually elicited some genuine cheer out of the otherwise desolate set. The deleted scenes are forgettable, but that’s no real surprise.
Overall a disappointing film with extras to match. Which is a real shame as I usually enjoy Vaughn movies, but the movie failed to deliver as both a comedy and a holiday title. Rent It.
Four Christmases arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on November 24th.