The recipe for the perfect holiday movie requires a pinch of star power, a dash of humor, and a heaping handful of good old-fashioned family feuds. There are a slew of films that have mastered this combination, namely National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, and, more recently, Elf. Not only have these films perfected the holiday formula, they have since become modern-day classics. What Thanksgiving or Christmas is complete without at least one viewing of the aforementioned movies? And while Fred Claus seems to have all of the ingredients to add it to the list of Christmas classics, it falls short. Or should I say it's a little bland?
One thing Fred Claus certainly is not lacking is that pinch of star power. Vince Vaughn plays Fred, the brother to Paul Giamatti's Nick Claus (AKA Santa). The film focuses on the relationship between these brothers spanning the course of many centuries. At the very beginning we see the brothers quarreling as little boys do. The difference is that the boys aren't fighting over who gets what toy, they're fighting over who Nick gives the toy to. You see, Nick is a do-gooder from birth and as such is the prize possession of the boys' mother, played by Kathy Bates. From there the boys grow older and Nick becomes sainted and as a result he and his family become eternal. Fast forward to present day and the two boys are estranged, Nick lives in the North Pole (naturally) and Fred resides in Chicago. And though they may be separated by location, they're both in predicaments that require the other. To find out why
Fred is a repo man who's unlucky in love with his girlfriend (a badly miscasted Rachel Weisz) and out of money. Nick agrees to lend a heaping handful (sick of the food puns yet?) on the condition that Fred agrees to come work at the North Pole during the busy holiday season. Fred reluctantly agrees. But when he arrives, he finds out that Nick has problems of his own, namely an efficiency expert (Kevin Spacey) who feels that the Santa isn't as speedy as he could be with the growing demands of children across the world. Unsurprisingly, Fred runs amok and ruins Nick's chance of impressing the efficiency expert. Shocker!
The lack of true surprises is the ultimate downfall of the movie. It's all been done before, and better. The only true gem of the movie comes in the form of a siblings anonymous meeting (similar to alcoholics anonymous) where non-famous brothers complain about their famous siblings. It's almost worth the price of admission, but not enough to add this to my short list of holiday classics.
Photos courtesy of Warner Bros.