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Monday, January 14, 2008

Fred Claus

*** Fred Claus. Comedy.

Directed by: David Dobkin.
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti, Kevin Spacey

We saw this with the boys (yes, before Christmas--I did mention I was behind, didn't I?) at the Hercules.

I like Vince Vaughn (and Rachel Weisz, who plays his girlfriend, and Kevin Spacey). I like comedy, even silly comedy. I like Christmas movies. But this one fell rather flat.

Don't get me wrong--it has some fun moments, and some serious ones, and some emotional ones, and some laugh-aloud ones. Vince Vaughn is the title character, Santa's (Paul Giamatti) older brother, who's taken on the role of the bad brother since it was more or less forced on him as a child--what choice did he have, when his little brother was a literal saint?

Fred needs money, and as a last resort, he turns to his brother, who puts him to work in an effort to help him. You've seen the results in the previews. Everything goes haywire: their mother (Kathy Bates) criticizes Fred; his girlfriend is leaving him; the little boy next door (Bobb'e J. Thompson) he's taken under his wing ends up in an orphanage. Still, Fred tries, but he doesn't have a chance against the sabotage of Clyde Northcut (Kevin Spacey), who wants to shut Santa down.

There's a very, very funny scene at a support group Fred attends for people with famous brothers including Roger Clinton, Stephen Baldwin, and Frank Stallone. And the elf (John Michael Higgins) who falls in love with Santa's assistant (Elizabeth Banks) is sweet, and provides an excuse for a cute scene where Fred teaches him to dance.

But too much doesn't make sense. And before you say it doesn't have to make sense, I'm going to argue that it does. At least within the story world, it has to make sense. Otherwise, it's just a bunch of random scenes. In the order in which they occurred to me:
I also got very irritated at the over-long sequence at the end showing kids all over the world opening their bats & hula-hoops. It was supposed to be touching--I started wishing one of the little boys would start beating somebody with his bat.

Fred and Santa's mom made me angry, but it also made me hope that parents who compare their kids get the message. (Isn't that Parenting 101?)

I did like Fred's message that all the kids deserved to be on the "nice" list, and the demonstrations of why some kids seemed bad. Sappy, but I'm a mom, and it was Christmas, so I liked that.

Overall, Fred Claus wasn't horrible--hence the 3 stars instead of fewer--but it could have been so much better. Note to Hollywood, though: please, please, please stop insulting your audiences.

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