Movie Review

Four Christmases a.k.a. “4 Christmases,” “Mein Schatz, unsere Familie und ich,” “Anywhere But Home”

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual humor and language.

Reviewed by: Daniel Thompson
CONTRIBUTOR

Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults, Teens
Genre:
Romance, Comedy, Christmas
Length:
1 hr. 22 min.
Year of Release:
2008
USA Release:
November 26, 2008
DVD: November 24, 2009
Copyright, New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment Copyright, New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment
Relevant Issues
Copyright, New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment

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Many people are convinced that traditional marriages don’t work and that this practice should be abandoned. What does the Bible say about marriage?

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Featuring: Reese Witherspoon
Just Like Heaven,” “Walk the Line,” “Legally Blonde,” “Pleasantville

Vince Vaughn
Fred Claus,” “Wedding Crashers,” “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Kristin Chenoweth
Bewitched,” “The Pink Panther,” “Stranger Than Fiction

Jon Favreau
The Break-Up,” “Made”

Jon Voight, Robert Duvall, Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakam, Sissy Spacek, Carol Kane, Tim McGraw, Mackenzie Brooke Smith, Sterling Beaumon, Katy Mixon, Stephanie Venditto, Zachary Gordon, Cedric Yarbrough, Skyler Gisondo, Collette Wolfe, Laura Johnson, Noah Munck, Kenny New, Taylor Mills, Creagen Dow, Katie Soo, Taylor Geare, Brandon G. Holley, Irena A. Hoffman, Jordi Caballero, Bryce Robinson, David Aranovich, Steve Byrne, Taylor Lyn, Visa May, Haley Hallak, David Hodges, Lee Kuhn, Hope Rene Young, Patrick Manuel, Greg Young, Royce Roy, Stacie Luann, Shawna Washabaugh, Desanka Ilic, Sue Fletcher, Zak Boggan, Zachary Culbertson, Alana Kenden, Kyle Scudiere, Matthew Glen Johnson, Michael Zazarino, Tony Sommers, True Bella Pinci, Jeff Redlick, Sharon Grgich, Didi Banks, Gabriella Gustafson
Director: Seth Gordon
Producer: New Line Cinema, Ott Medien (Germany), Spyglass Entertainmen, Gary Barber, Peter Billingsley, Roger Birnbaum, Michael Disco, Toby Emmerich, Derek Evans, Jonathan Glickman, Mark Kaufman, Udi Nedivi, Guy Riedel, Mary Rohlich, Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon
Distributor: New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment

“Her father, her mother, his father, and her father all in one day.”

Every holiday season we get at least two or three films involving family get-togethers at Christmas time. Sometimes played for laughs, sometimes for drama, and sometimes for both, these films are designed specifically to get those in the Christmas spirit out to the theaters. And while there are some good Christmas movies from classics like “It’s a Wonderful Life” to modern day hits like “Elf”, most of the time these Christmas films are very formulaic retreads of previous stories seen during previous Christmas movies. While “Four Christmases” does have its moments, it unfortunately falls woefully short of the classic level, and right square in the middle of the formulaic retreads.

The story centers on long time couple Brad and Kate (played by Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon). Brad and Kate aren’t married, and that’s the way they like it. They’ve both come from broken homes, and care not to complicate their relationship by putting a permanent tag on it. They also care not to ever see their respective families again, especially around the holidays. Instead, every Christmas they go on a vacation, leading their families to believe they are off doing something noble, like inoculating babies in Burma. When all flights out are cancelled due to weather, and Brad and Kate are seen on the news, they are forced to spend Christmas with all four of their families, at the four different households of their respective parents. And from that point forward the film plays out as a fairly formulaic story filled with calamity after calamity at each household, as Brad and Kate learn more about each other and must decide whether they are happy with each other and the way things are, or if things should change between them.

From a comedy standpoint, the movie is definitely hit or miss. There are a few very funny moments, but for every one of those there is at least one that plays out without generating the humor it intended. Vince Vaughn is responsible for most of the funny bits in the film, and you’ll only find these funny if you’re a fan of Vaughn. His off-the-cuff, fast-talking style will either have you laughing or cringing. The supporting cast is first-rate, with actors such as Robert Duvall, Jon Voight, Sissy Spacek, and Kristin Chenoweth playing some of the various family members of Brad and Kate. It seems as though most of these fine actors get little to no screen time, and it feels as if a serious opportunity was wasted.

From a Christian viewer’s standpoint, the film definitely has its setbacks. While the language is actually very restrained, there is plenty of sexual content, mostly in dialogue form, throughout the film. Also, it seems like when the movie is in a rut the director stoops to very base forms of humor, just to get a laugh. And while these scenes aren’t inherently immoral, after a while there’s only so many times baby vomit and urine jokes are funny and/or necessary.

Also of note is a long scene set in a church involving a re-creation of the nativity scene that is, well, let’s just say awkward. Some people in the movie theater weren’t very comfortable with the scene, and while the portrayal of Christians wasn’t a completely positive one, I wasn’t terribly shocked or offended by the scene. The reason for this is probably because the movie plays upon false stereotypes quite a bit. The film portrays brothers who are ultimate fighters and aren’t smart at all, a dad who’s older and a hunter—so he drinks a lot, and kids who are literally nothing but trouble. As a discerning viewer, just as I realize this isn’t an accurate portrayal of hunters, ultimate fighters, or kids, I also realize that the exaggerated interpretation of Christians given in the film is completely inaccurate and mostly played for laughs, just as those other false stereotypes.

It’s a shame this film wasn’t very good, because it had potential. It had the potential to be funnier, as was evidenced by some moments in the film. It also had the potential to deliver a positive, realistic message that marriages aren’t perfect, and sometimes they’re tough and involve compromise, but are ultimately rewarding. Instead there’s nothing more than a brief touching moment about the importance of family and honesty. I guess at the end of the day you can stack “Four Christmases” on top of that ever growing pile of mediocre, forgettable “family” Christmas movies that are nothing more than another wasted opportunity.

Violence: None / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: Heavy

An accurate explanation of the purpose Jesus Christ's birth. Answers for skeptics. Plus, Christmas carols, games, coloring pages, reviews of Christmas movies, and more…

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—I thought this movie was absolutely hilarious. It shows christmas for the modern family in modern society. It was perfect to sit back, relax, and enjoy this movie with my friends. I would definitely recommend it to anyone.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Megan, age 20
Positive—My husband and I saw this movie with our 10 year old son. From the standpoint of being with our 10 year old, it was offensive. From an adult perspective, there were a couple of comments that were of an adult nature, but nothing that offensive. We found it funny and laughed quite a bit. It went from comedy to a little more serious towards the end, but we still enjoyed it.
From the standpoint of having my son with me, I was a little uncomfortable when they started talking about how there was no Santa Claus. We still believe!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Robbin T., age 46
Positive—My husband and I saw this movie with our 10 year old son. From the standpoint of being with our 10 year old, it was offensive. From an adult perspective, there were a couple of comments that were of an adult nature, but nothing that offensive. We found it funny and laughed quite a bit. It went from comedy to a little more serious towards the end, but we still enjoyed it.

From the standpoint of having my son with me, I was a little uncomfortable when they started talking about how there was no Santa Claus. We still believe!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Robbin T., age 46
Positive—I thought this movie was absolutely hilarious. It shows christmas for the modern family in modern society. It was perfect to sit back, relax, and enjoy this movie with my friends. I would definitely recommend it to anyone.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Megan, age 20
Positive—Four Christmases My husband and I just rented this film. We were looking for a comedy, and this delivered. Lately a lot of the comedies we've rented have been very raunchy and unpleasant. We both enjoyed this film and laughed a lot. There certainly is objectionable content, so if you are a sensitive viewer than pass on this movie. We always watch PG-13 movies and often PG movies before allowing our kids to watch them.

I expect Vince V. movies to have crude humor. For him, this movie was pretty tame (for instance, compared to Dodge Ball, also PG-13). It was interesting to me how the exact concept of marriage was portrayed, just without the label and the ceremony. I didn't notice the lesbian theme. Since I had two babies back to back and have been nursing the last 3 years I got a kick out of some of the humor. Just to clarify, the sister in law doesn't ask Reese's character to touch her in a sexual way. I think I read that in a review. Again, this is not a Christian film. It embraces themes of honesty, integrity, love and commitment.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—jb, age 33 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—My husband and I took our kids to see this movie after seeing the previews. I wish I would have done more research on it first, though. It was your typical Hollywood movie in the sense that it could have been a decent film, with the omittance of a few scenes. There was a part where a grandma referred to sexual relations with her husband (crude humor), references to homosexuality (flippant and really unnecessary), and one part where the sister asks the heroine to touch her inappropriately. I'm not a prude, but it just seemed to me that it was gutter-humor that could have been cut out for a more family-friendly film.
In addition to some crude humor, there was a scene in the church where they were putting on a nativity play. That might be deemed offensive to some. The main couple struggled with the “commitment” of marriage, but lived together and had relations.
I gave it a neutral rating because, in the scheme of Hollywood film, it is definitely not the raunchiest, but it could have been cleaned up a bit—and would could have been a better movie, if thought would have been given to a Christmas-oriented family film. I would not have taken my elementary-aged children to the film, in retrospect. It is more appropriate for adults and teens. There were some humorous parts to the film and it delivered for simply being mind-fluff cinema.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Sara, age 35
Neutral—The scene that I'm going to write about is the scene where the family went to church. At first I was freaked out. The pastor came out and the crowd went insane. It actually reminded me a lot of a program that I tried where the people seemed to be more obsessed with the minister than the Lord. I'm hoping every Christian was offended by this scene, because if we look more to our leadership than to our God there is something wrong. I felt like I learned a lot from this scene. That maybe the reason why the world sees us as “crazy” or whatever other terms they use, maybe it's partly our fault because we say one thing and act another. I want to be like Jesus! I think that's what anyone that sees this movie should get out of it. Walk the talk.
Other than that scene, the storyline was cute. The sexual jokes were awkward and unnecessary. I would be embarrassed to watch it with a guy friend.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Noelle Curran, age 18
Neutral—The scene that I'm going to write about is the scene where the family went to church. At first I was freaked out. The pastor came out and the crowd went insane. It actually reminded me a lot of a program that I tried where the people seemed to be more obsessed with the minister than the Lord. I'm hoping every Christian was offended by this scene, because if we look more to our leadership than to our God there is something wrong. I felt like I learned a lot from this scene. That maybe the reason why the world sees us as “crazy” or whatever other terms they use, maybe it's partly our fault because we say one thing and act another. I want to be like Jesus! I think that's what anyone that sees this movie should get out of it. Walk the talk.
Other than that scene, the storyline was cute. The sexual jokes were awkward and unnecessary. I would be embarrassed to watch it with a guy friend.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Noelle Curran, age 18
Neutral—My husband and I took our kids to see this movie after seeing the previews. I wish I would have done more research on it first, though. It was your typical Hollywood movie in the sense that it could have been a decent film, with the omittance of a few scenes. There was a part where a grandma referred to sexual relations with her husband (crude humor), references to homosexuality (flippant and really unnecessary), and one part where the sister asks the heroine to touch her inappropriately. I'm not a prude, but it just seemed to me that it was gutter-humor that could have been cut out for a more family-friendly film.

In addition to some crude humor, there was a scene in the church where they were putting on a nativity play. That might be deemed offensive to some. The main couple struggled with the “commitment” of marriage, but lived together and had relations.

I gave it a neutral rating because, in the scheme of Hollywood film, it is definitely not the raunchiest, but it could have been cleaned up a bit—and would could have been a better movie, if thought would have been given to a Christmas-oriented family film. I would not have taken my elementary-aged children to the film, in retrospect. It is more appropriate for adults and teens. There were some humorous parts to the film and it delivered for simply being mind-fluff cinema.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Sara, age 35
Negative
Negative—We took our teenaged children to see this after reading a review on a supposedly Christian site. I was appalled and wish I would've encouraged my husband to walk out of the theater with me and bring the kids along. This movie was disgusting from every aspect. From the sheer cruelty of one family, to the implied lesbianism, to the sexually inappropriate “Christian” mother (wearing a large cross dangling between over-exposed cleavage), and on and on… it was an embarrassment. It was painful to watch and truly degraded Christianity and marriage in hurtful, destructive ways. Please save your money and your senses and avoid this movie like the plague! It is horrible, and deeply offensive.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Pat Cwiek, age 54
Negative—I could hardly sit through this movie. I saw it with my 2 cousins in high school and 4 of my friends from college and almost all of us did not like this movie at all. There are very few movies that I have felt so much dislike for.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Nicole Johnson, age 18
Negative—I write this to warn others to not waste their time, money or intelligence. I have seen other Reece Witherspoon movies and have enjoyed most of them. But I blew it in a big way by not first researching this movie on this Web site. Not only was the movie offensive, but for the most part not funny. The Nativity scene in the church play was sad to say the least. I should have left after the first scene of this movie and encourage others to not make the same mistake I made.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2
—John, age 51
Negative—I went to see this moving thinking it would be a decent Christmas film and was very shocked by the content in the movie. There was not a review before I went to see the movie, so I was not warned before hand of the excessive cussing, sexual content including a character whose main purpose for being in the movie was for her cleavage, and a total disrespect for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The most offensive scene of the whole movie took place when the family gathered to share gifts but were sharing “spiritual gifts” rather than physical gifts. The “spiritual gifts” shared were all very sinful and vulgar. This scene made me shiver inside as it was very sacrilegious. I do not recommend this movie to any Christian.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Katie, age 23
Negative—Typical modern day concept of cohabitation. Movie tries to deliver some kind of morality, some kind of goodness in all this. But movie doesn't show that couple ever got married, but just pro creation, as if these two: the sanctity of marriage and procreation are somehow mutually exclusive.…
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Stan, age 62
Negative—We went hoping for a good Christmas movie. We stayed through the first and started into the second Christmas and had to leave. It was crude, rude, and totally unacceptable.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Pat Ferguson, age 68
Negative—This movie had a few funny scenes, however, there were so many crude, vulgar and sexual comments that were totally unneccessary. It could have been so much better. Too bad Hollywood can't come out with anything better than that. I also thought the church scene was definitely mocking Christianity.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Elizabeth, age 50
Negative—My wife and I saw this movie because the one we went for was not available. Unfortunately, we did not look at a review first. We only saw about two-thirds, because we walked out during the nativity scene. After watching crude language and behavior for most of the movie, and then seeing the blasphemy of the nativity scene, we had had enough. Frankly, we should have walked out after the opening scene, because of its vulgarity. I am saddened to see Reese Witherspoon in a film like this. Of the films I have seen with her as a star, I would consider it the poorest film she has made, both morally and technically.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Steve, age 55 (USA)
Negative—What a TRASH movie!!!… I still feel dirty after having watched it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 1
—John Doyle, age 31 (USA)
Negative—I seriously regret going to the theater to view this film. This was a good reminder of how I should NEVER go to the movies without first checking a Christian Movie Review Web site. There were too many offensive scenes to name. The whole storyline with “her mom” was something I had to get on my knees and ask forgiveness for even watching. Everything in that part from the Lesbian insinuations to the preacher/church scene was over the top offensive to the Christian faith. Please do not make my mistake. Save your money and your precious time.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Angie, age 37 (USA)
Negative—I went to see this moving thinking it would be a decent Christmas film and was very shocked by the content in the movie. There was not a review before I went to see the movie, so I was not warned before hand of the excessive cussing, sexual content including a character whose main purpose for being in the movie was for her cleavage, and a total disrespect for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The most offensive scene of the whole movie took place when the family gathered to share gifts but were sharing “spiritual gifts” rather than physical gifts. The “spiritual gifts” shared were all very sinful and vulgar. This scene made me shiver inside as it was very sacrilegious. I do not recommend this movie to any Christian.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Katie, age 23
Negative—I write this to warn others to not waste their time, money or intelligence. I have seen other Reece Witherspoon movies and have enjoyed most of them. But I blew it in a big way by not first researching this movie on this Web site. Not only was the movie offensive, but for the most part not funny. The Nativity scene in the church play was sad to say the least. I should have left after the first scene of this movie and encourage others to not make the same mistake I made.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2
—John, age 51
Negative—We took our teenaged children to see this after reading a review on a supposedly Christian site. I was appalled and wish I would've encouraged my husband to walk out of the theater with me and bring the kids along. This movie was disgusting from every aspect. From the sheer cruelty of one family, to the implied lesbianism, to the sexually inappropriate “Christian” mother(wearing a large cross dangling between over-exposed cleavage), and on and on… it was an embarassment. It was painful to watch and truly degraded Christianity and marriage in hurtful, destructive ways. Please save your money and your senses and avoid this movie like the plague! It is horrible, and deeply offensive.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Pat Cwiek, age 54
Negative—I could hardly sit through this movie. I saw it with my 2 cousins in high school and 4 of my friends from college and almost all of us did not like this movie at all. There are very few movies that I have felt so much dislike for.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Nicole Johnson, age 18
Negative—We went hoping for a good Chrismas movie… we stayed through the first and started into the second Christmas and had to leave. It was crude, rude, and totally unacceptable…
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Pat Ferguson, age 68
Negative—Typical modern day concept of cohabitation. Movie tries to deliver some kind of morality, some kind of goodness in all this. But movie doesn't show that couple ever got married, but just procreation, as if these two: the sanctity of marriage and procreation are somehow mutually exclusive.…
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Stan, age 62
Negative—I thought the film's ratings needed to be altered. I, also, wished that I had learned more about the film before I went. I think it is entirely inappropriate for even 13 year olds. The crude sex talk was more that enough, and I wish I had left after the first scene that involved huge innuendoes. I could only recommend this film to ADULTS. I was very disappointed in the movie trailers portraying it as a family movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Michelle, age 37 (USA)
Negative—I went to see this movie with high expectations. I knew there would be some crude gestures, and some language, but I thought it would have a great Christmas story line and have a lot of funny parts—I was very wrong. The movie had NO plot, crude joke after another, kids talking back to adults (very unnecessary), and I left the movie feeling awful. There is nothing in that movie that is uplifting. I could not believe how crude the jokes were-every one pertaining to sex and gay/lesbian content. Those things are so serious in today's world, and they are broadcasted like it's nothing at all. It's so sad to see a movie, let alone a Christmas movie wasted like that, when it could've been made very well. I do not recommend it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 1
—Britney Jensen, age 19 (USA)
Negative—I am 37 and my fiance 28, and we walked out of the movie. We would not carry any adult nor child to see this movie and since then, I actually started coming to this and other sites to review the reviews :)

Blasphemous; cussing; encouraging / glorifying and promoting lust, fornication, adultery; children in the show were obscene, etc, etc, etc.

The cinema actually promoted the show as rated G, and after a very courteous discussion with the manager (he was quite pleasant), we got replacement tickets, and he got evangelised to (www.wayoftheMaster.com/goodperson.shtml).

To respect the guidelines and according to the guidelines given on this site, kindly bare in mind the following… “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”—Galatians 5:19-21 (KJV)

P.S.—If Christianity is based on Christian principles, then let it be judged on Christian principles and precepts, hence we should make no apology for what the Word of God says.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Paul, age 37 (Trinidad)
Comments from young people
Negative—When I saw this movie I was very disappointed. From the first it was mocking God when they were filming the nativity scene and made Christians look foolish. It cursed throughout the movie with what the he**at least 10 times and said b**ch a couple times as well. I thought this movie would be a funny, cute flick but I was wrong. Although it had some funny parts, with mocking Jesus my Lord and Savior and having so many curse words plus promoting that its ok to be gay or lesbian…… I just cannot support any Christian to see this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Jessalyn, age 11 (USA)