Four Christmases

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Four Christmases Movie Poster Image
Holiday romcom is amiable but centers on family dysfunction.
  • PG-13
  • 2008
  • 89 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 19 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 15 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Fathers belittle their sons; brothers beat on each other; mothers neglect their daughters in pursuit of their next romance; and a father finally confesses to being a horrible role model. Plus, two people discover they have many more differences than they cared to admit. The lead couple live a Yuppie-fied life in which vacationing in exotic resorts seems to be the main engine of their relationship. Still, even the most awkward situation is mined for humor, and in the end, trite as it may sound, they find their way back to each other.

Violence

Lots of heavy-duty wrestling that, at first, seems purely funny until you realize there's a bullying element to it. Some yelling and screaming. A man falls off the roof clutching an antenna, starting a chain reaction that has the television smashed to bits and a fire igniting on the carpet.

Sex
Within the first half hour, a couple indulges in some serious double entendre and then makes out heavily in a bathroom stall; later, it's implied that they have sex (audiences just see them leaving a bathroom looking slightly unkempt). An older woman has a relationship with her son's best friend, and he discusses their sex life. Another woman is involved with a "rock star"-like pastor and drops sexual innuendoes, even ones aimed at her daughter's boyfriend. Men openly ogle women's cleavage.
Language

Strong language includes "a--hole," "s--tty," and "hell."

Consumerism

Product mentions and placement include Direct TV, Xbox, EPT (pregnancy test), Stanford, jump-jumps, breast pumps, and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

There's a fair amount of social drinking; one character seems to spend a lot of time brooding while clutching a beer.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this romantic comedy is riddled with gags centering on major family dysfunction. And there's real bite underneath the laughs: The central couple (played by teen favorites Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn) finds out soon enough that they don't really know enough about each other, and their families beat them up -- both physically and emotionally. It's all played for laughs, of course, which takes some of the edge off, but younger kids may still wind up perturbed by the scenes of familial mayhem. There's also some swearing (including "s--t") and social drinking, as well as some innuendo and implied sex.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written by4Spice September 16, 2010

ok movie

a romantic movie no action kind of funny 14 and over for sex drugs and language
Parent of a 2, 6, and 7 year old Written byRachael Starke January 5, 2009

We walked out a third of the way through

Went to see this on impulse on date night with just my husband. From the opening scene we knew it was a bad decision. Crude, distressingly dysunctional families... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old January 13, 2011

Perfect for Teens but, not for kids

This move was def funny! But, it just had waaaaaaaaaaaaay too much sex in it! It was sweet and sour... :(
Teen, 13 years old Written byfmnj2020 January 14, 2011

terrible for kids..maybe even bad for adults!

no highlights. really bad movie. i turned the movie off within 1 hour of putting in in. within 15 minutes foul language was used and some adult content was disp... Continue reading

What's the story?

After three years together, Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon) have the holidays down pat: Every December, they tell their dysfunctional families that they're performing charity work in some far-flung location -- when they're really vacationing at a swanky resort. But this year, heavy fog shuts down the San Francisco airport, and Brad and Kate are forced to spend Christmas Day in the city. After a local TV crew captures their dilemma for everyone -- relatives included -- to see, they're stuck seeing every one of them, from Brad's disgruntled dad (Robert Duvall), wannabe wrestler brothers (Jon Favreau and Tim McGraw), and cougar therapist mother (Sissy Spacek) to Kate's born-again sexpot mom (Mary Steenburgen), passive-aggressive sister (Kristin Chenoweth), and newly enlightened father (Jon Voight). But as they slog through the four separate celebrations, they begin to discover how little they actually know each other -- and that they might want something different from their relationship.

Is it any good?

Though FOUR CHRISTMASES is predictable and sort of comes off like a hybrid episode of Family Feud and Girls Gone Wild, it's hard to resist Vaughn and Witherspoon's appeal. They tap into the humor of one outlandish situation after another (perhaps one too many, actually) without losing their zeal or charisma. And the supporting cast reads like the Hollywood Walk of Fame (who knew Spacek was good for laughs?).

But the high-wattage cameos end up feeling a bit overdone, given that some of them -- especially Voight -- aren't given very much to do. Plus, comic timing aside, for a couple supposedly madly in love, Vaughn and Witherspoon don't have a whole lot of chemistry. We don't so much hope that they find their way back to each other because we believe in them, but rather because it's what we expect of romantic comedies. Overall, Four Christmases isn't a particularly memorable holiday gift, but they can't all be. At least it's not a fruitcake.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why so many holiday movies focus on dysfunctional family relationships.

  • Are real families really as out there as the ones in movies like this? Does watching their antics make you feel better (or worse) about your own? Do you think that's the point?

  • In this movie, why do you think Brad and Kate are estranged from their families? Is it justified, or are they being selfish?

  • What are your own family celebrations like? Why are holiday get-togethers often fraught with tension (both in the media and in reality)?

Movie details

For kids who love romance and comedy

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate