What parents need to know
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.
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 -- call it Families 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.
Families can talk 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)?