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Two for four

Movies | Vaughn and Witherspoon shine in Four Christmases

Issue: "2008 Daniel of the Year," Dec. 13, 2008

It's not officially the holiday season until Hollywood starts releasing disgruntled Christmas fare. This year, Vince Vaughn tries his hand at another addition to the genre with Four Christmases, rated PG-13 for some sexual language and humor.

Fresh off of his turn in Fred Claus last year, Vaughn here plays a man named Brad (né Orlando), who together with his girlfriend Kate (Reese Witherspoon), does everything in his power to avoid all the pesky familial obligations of the Christmas season, choosing instead to run off on tropical vacations under the guise of doing charitable work.

This year, Brad and Kate's trip to Fiji gets cut off by fog in the Bay area and an unfortunately timed appearance on local television. Spotted by family members so that the Christmas jig is decidedly up, the happy couple gets roped into festivities at all four of their parents' homes on the big day. Soon, Kate and Brad are knee deep in brotherly wrestling, jumping castles, baby spew, and all the grand traditions of familial shaming.

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The film's plot tries to address the now commonplace pattern of divorced parents. The four Christmases that Brad and Kate encounter hit on nearly every familial stereotype-and create some new ones along the way. While the film's incessant satirizing of family interactions begins to grate, the two stars manage to maintain a levity throughout the trip.

Despite, or perhaps because of, their over 14-inch height difference, Vaughn and Witherspoon make an endearing onscreen couple. Both stars do well with rapid-fire dialogue, and Witherspoon helps bring a warmth to some of Vaughn's harsher personality quirks.

While Brad and Kate try to Scrooge their way through a modern, four family dysfunctional holiday, they don't last long. Their dedication to a noncommittal, nonmatrimonial relationship can't stand the test of four Christmas dinners, three screaming babies, two oversexed moms, and a satellite dish falling out of a tree.

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