Four Christmases a.k.a. “4 Christmases,” “Mein Schatz, unsere Familie und ich,” “Anywhere But Home”
Reviewed by: Daniel Thompson
Romance, Comedy, Christmas
1 hr. 22 min.
Year of Release:
November 26, 2008
DVD: November 24, 2009
“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
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