'Four Christmases,' And Still Nothing But Coal

Vince Vaughn as Brad and Reese Witherspoon as Kate i i

Home for the holidays: Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon) are forced to spend Christmas with their four divorced parents. John P. Johnson/New Line Cinema hide caption

itoggle caption John P. Johnson/New Line Cinema
Vince Vaughn as Brad and Reese Witherspoon as Kate

Home for the holidays: Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon) are forced to spend Christmas with their four divorced parents.

John P. Johnson/New Line Cinema

Four Christmases

  • Director: Seth Gordon
  • Genre: Holiday Comedy
  • Running Time: 120 minutes

Rated PG-13 for some sexual humor and language.

Robert Duvall as Howard and Kate i i

To Kate's surprise, Brad's real name turns out to be Orlando — his dad (Robert Duvall) having named his offspring after the cities they were conceived in. John P. Johnson/New Line Cinema hide caption

itoggle caption John P. Johnson/New Line Cinema
Robert Duvall as Howard and Kate

To Kate's surprise, Brad's real name turns out to be Orlando — his dad (Robert Duvall) having named his offspring after the cities they were conceived in.

John P. Johnson/New Line Cinema
Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn i i

The gift that keeps on giving: Brad's brother Denver (Jon Favreau) shows off some of his new martial-arts moves. John P. Johnson/New Line Cinema hide caption

itoggle caption John P. Johnson/New Line Cinema
Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn

The gift that keeps on giving: Brad's brother Denver (Jon Favreau) shows off some of his new martial-arts moves.

John P. Johnson/New Line Cinema

Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon play San Francisco's most self-absorbed couple in Four Christmases, a home- (and home- and home- and home-) for-the-holidays sitcom that you'd think would be able to find at least a little com somewhere in all those sits.

Alas, there's scarcely a moment of ingenuity or surprise in this tale of the supremely smug, unmarried-but-made-for- each-other Brad and Kate, who get trapped, through an unlucky and unlikely coincidence, into visiting all four of the divorced parents they've been avoiding for years — all on a single Christmas morning.

Their cell phones start jangling the moment a TV crew shows up at the fogged-in airport where their getaway flight's been grounded, and before you can say "plot contrivance," they're off to see Brad's dyspeptic bumpkin of a dad (Robert Duvall) and the two Neanderthal brothers Kate didn't know he had.

Slapstick ensues, some of it involving the installation of a rooftop satellite dish, some of it just random (wrestling tackles in the living room, an infant's projectile-vomiting). This naturally convinces Kate she should really become a mother.

It's followed by a visit to Brad's cradle-robbing mom (Sissy Spacek), who's shacked up with her son's best friend. After a bit of curiously fierce board-game playing, the couple zips off to see Kate's upper-crusty mother (Mary Steenburgen), who drags them to church, where they get roped into portraying Mary and Joseph in a Christmas pageant.

Finally they head for the home of Kate's laid-back, earnest dad (Jon Voigt) for ... well, for a rest, apparently, as the four screenwriters have by this time reached the bottom of their bag of tricks and are reduced to repeating that uproarious puking-infant gag a second time.

If any of this sounds remotely clever, rest assured I'm just not telling it right. Director Seth Gordon, whose indie arcade-game doc The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters glimmered with promise last year, can't be said to have delivered on it this time out. His stars are charmless, his script cheerless, and his sterling supporting cast (Jon Favreau, Carol Kane, Dwight Yoakam, Kristin Chenowith, and others) can't seem to figure out what they've been brought on board to do.

There is one moment, late in the film's running time (which is barely 82 minutes, astonishingly enough) when Duvall has a quiet moment of bitterness on his front porch, and you realize what he might have contributed if he'd only had a line or three to work with. But Santa was stingy, and that scene's the only one that even semi-resonates.

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