Saturday, December 6, 2008


Holiday Movie Category: Festive Flick Full of Fail


Charlie Exposition the Ponderous Narrator, Kathy Bates’ fat-kid-bearing thighs, Doughy Dingle Kringle, a cockney Chicago meter maid, Blacky the Urban Stereotype Kid, the Tubby Saint of Character Actors, a madcap sound effects editor, Mrs. Milfy Claus, Blacky the Urban Stereotype Elf, Lex Luthor the Corporate Prick, and a holly jolly holiday yuckfest.

More details here.


The future St. Nicholas was born to a pair of chubby peasants in a pastoral setting somewhere on the Warner Bros backlot. His older brother Fred is a no-good-nick who’s intensely jealous of all the attention heaped on his goodwill-spreading, gift-giving brother. When Nicholas becomes a saint, he and his family attain immortality and Fred’s resentment of his famous brother intensifies for the next 1400 years. Fast-forward to 2007 when we find Fred working as a Chicago repo-man, the ultimate Grinch. Living in the shadow of his immensely successful brother, he’s a bitter, joyless loser barely scraping by. On the plus side, he’s dating cutie-pie cop Wanda (Rachel Weisz) who’s absolutely smitten by Fred’s douchey sullenness and passive emotional abuse. The pair has a falling out after Fred winds up in jail for a Lemon Drop Kid-esque scam and gets attacked by a mob of vengeful street Santas. Fred needs money for bail and a down payment for a new business, so he calls his gillionaire brother up north for a handout. Hesitant Santa Claus (Paul Giamatti), at the protest of Mrs. Claus (Miranda Richardson), loans him the money on the condition that he spend X-mas at the North Pole for the first time ever. Out of cash, a girlfriend, and options, Fred agrees and is picked up by friendly elf Willie (John Michael Higgins) and heads to Santa’s CGI village at the top of the world. But St. Nick’s got problems of his own. He’s being evaluated by efficiency expert/total asshole Mr. Northcut (Kevin Spacey) after Santa falls behind schedule and is threatened by a shutdown. And so nuttiness ensues when Santa’s dickhead brother comes to fuck up X-mas town with his slacker ways, petty jealously, and wrinkled flannel shirts. By unexplained motivation, evil Clyde tries to sabotage Santa's operation, and the Clauses try to form an intervention for underachiever Fred. Oh, and there are various subplots with an orphan kid, Willie's unrequited love for Santa's leggy assistant (Elizabeth Banks), and Santa's bout with the shits that knocks him out on the 24th. Eventually, Fred gets his head out his ass and takes the reins of the X-mas spirit and Santa's sleigh, and in the end, everything is puppy dogs and ice cream, sweet baby.


True story: last year around this time, Fred Claus was released theatrically. Myself and friends groaned at the cheesy trailers and TV commercials. Also around this time, I had a dream in which I was on the Fred Claus set wandering around and getting my fill of the cinematic X-mas atmosphere. Suddenly, Vince Vaughn appears riding a Big Wheel (see poster at the left) and rides circles around me while tossing confetti and yelling “More wacky, more wacky, more wacky!”. Prophetically, my dream was fulfilled in my viewing of this holiday wreck. The wacky meter is solidly cranked to 11, peppered with moments of sugary sentimentality and forced emotion. Scripted by Cars writer Dan Fogelman, the movie has a fairly inspired premise but little story coherence or comedic direction. Instead of focusing on the must more comedy-ready situation of a dysfunctional family of Clauses, the story meanders around various pointless subplots, clichés, and mind-numbing sentimental boredom. Fred's humorless crudeness and Vaughn-itude for lack of a better word, comes off as purely jerky and unsympathetic. I mean, at one point he wishes Santa dead in one of many serious moments. How can Vaughn be likable, let alone amusing? Giamatti and Higgins turn in the best performances of the movie as Santa and Willie respectively, but the rest of the cast seems to be in robot mode. Santa's elves are little people with big people heads rendered by CG like the hobbits in Lord of the Rings and most of the time the effects are distracting and awkward. The movie has a one-joke note that hardly hits it half the time, however there is an amusing scene where Fred goes to a Siblings Anonymous meeting and various famous real-life loser brothers spout off and play it up for laughs. I'm sure little kids will enjoy the pratfalls and X-mas scenery, but adults will find very little to ho-ho about in this joyless movie. Fred Claus pretty summarizes what’s wrong with X-mas morning: noisy, cluttered, messy, and more often than not, a disappointment.

Vince, next time add more wacky, more wacky, MORE WACKY!

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