Christmas movies are a lot like relatives during said holiday season. They insist on presenting themselves with an ill-deserved fanfare before forcing themselves gratingly upon you and revelling in ruining the festive cheer before buggering off again never to be heard, seen or thought about for another year when, inevitably, they rear the ugly heads again. Suffice to say, Four Christmases does not buck this trend.
Starring expert sell-outs Vince Vaughn and Reece Witherspoon, this downtrodden cinematic pantheon of tedium follows a generic soulless professional couple who every year avoid their families in favour of a smugly expensive holiday. However, “hilarity” ensues as their plane is grounded by fog and they are forced to visit each of their separated parents, all of whom are played by a once-respected Oscar-winner (Jon Voight, Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek and Mary Steenburgen).
This mean-spirited film is the cinematic equivalent of watching Vince Vaughn curb-stomp Santa whilst Reese Witherspoon flicks v-signs at Rudolf. At least Scrooged, for example, was comically acerbic whilst offering characters at least some hope of redemption; Four Christmases is just plain depressing. Characters do not develop, evolve or mature – all this is is an opportunity to see Vaughn and Witherspoon suffer as much as possible, whether it be at the hands of baby vomit, breastfeeding devices or a slippery roof – it’s the tamer Christmas equivalent of a snuff movie.
But what compounds this all is it quite simply isn’t very funny. Despite all the pratfalls and timed reaction shots, the film very rarely raises a titter. A totally out-of-place Vaughn flounders hopelessly, whilst a bored Witherspoon has little else to do than be repeatedly belittled. The veteran supporting cast, meanwhile, receives upsettingly sparse screen time, with Voight’s appearance in particular amounting to little more than a cameo.
Christmas films are supposed to at least leave you in good cheer. Four Christmases may think that it’s being cleverly cynical and satirically biting, but it is not. It is instead a thoroughly miserable, unfunny venture which thrusts you out of the cinema into the cold Exeter night feeling depressed and unfulfilled.