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Four Christmases (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Run Time 82 minutes.

Who are the dumbest, most incompetent people in the world? If you guessed the political media, you are almost right; close, but no cigar. Without question the answer to my question is those who make movie trailers. I had to sit through five trailers this morning before I saw the feature. I went because I needed a review and “Four Christmases” was the shortest. Having seen the trailer, nothing rational could have dragged me within 2 miles of what looked liked one of the biggest turkeys of the year.

But, to get back to the five trailers I had to endure, I remember three of them; “Yes Man” with Jim Carrey, “Marley and Me” with Jennifer Anniston and Owen Wilson, and “Nothing Like the Holidays,” with a B-list cast. What all new trailers do now is show, with very quick cuts, the entire story and all of the gags someone thinks are funny. So my question is, why see the movie? Give me trailers that say, “Gable’s Back and Garson’s Got ‘im.” That’s all I need to know. I’m going. But when you see everything, why would you want to see the movie, especially when you see all the gags? Even if they were funny, which they weren’t in any of these, they won’t be when I see the movie. Once you’ve seen the gag, there’s no surprise and it loses most of the humor.

After seeing the film, I’m convinced that “Four Christmases” has one of the worst trailers I’ve ever seen. It seemingly does all of the above and the gags it shows aren’t the least bit funny. They are awful.

So I wasn’t looking forward to this, short as the running time is. The story line is that Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon) are living together without the benefit of marriage. Their flight for their Christmas vacation is cancelled so they are trapped having to visit both of their parents (both of whom are divorced) for the holiday, all in one day. The trailer showed them visiting Brad’s father, Howard (Robert Duvall), and those scenes in the trailer looked ludicrous, to give them the best of it. In the actual film, however, seen in context, the scenes are a lot more entertaining than they appear in the trailer.

Vaughn and Witherspoon both give exceptional performances, considering the rather loopy premise. There are multiple screenwriting credits. The story credit is given to Matt Allen and Caleb Wilson and they also have a screenwriting credit. But so do John Lucas and Scott Moore, so Allen and Wilson’s script was probably dumped and/or extensively rewritten by Lucas and Moore. Whatever happened, director Seth Gordon made a pretty good story out of it until the end. Short as it is, it would have been better if it had ended 7 minutes sooner, because I really didn’t like the ending.

There is one huge factual gaffe in the film that I can’t let go unmentioned. Kate’s mother, Marilyn (Mary Steenburgen), is dating a Christian preacher, Pastor Phil (Dwight Yoakum). They all go to a Nativity play put on by Pastor Phil. But while the good Pastor is introducing the play, he refers to it as a story of “the Immaculate Conception.” Obviously neither Pastor Phil nor writers Allen, Wilson, Lucas, and Moore, nor director Gordon, nor any of the actors or anybody else connected with these scenes knows anything about Christian theology. The Immaculate Conception has nothing to do with the Virgin Birth. The Immaculate Conception refers to the belief that the Virgin Mary was herself conceived without the stain of Original Sin.

Despite that abysmal display of ignorance, don’t be put off by the horrible trailer. This is an entertaining movie.

November 28, 2008