Four Christmases / Dustin Rowles
Film Reviews | November 26, 2008 | Comments ()
Dear Santa —
You’re still a schmuck.
We talked last year, remember? I said some things maybe I oughtn’t have. And maybe I felt a little bad about it afterward. I’m sorry I told you I hated your mouth-breathing guts. I’m sorry I called you a bastard. I’m sorry I called you the King of losers. And I’m really sorry I prayed that you’d choke on a cookie and die a slow painful death. That was out of line.
But Santa: You keep breaking my heart, you big tub of goo. Every goddamn year, you fat bitch. And nothing changes, does it? I understand you got elves to feed, and that the lead paint restrictions have really put a dent in the North Pole’s wallet. But it is possible to make a big, studio family film that doesn’t make a guy wanna cause serious fucking harm to you. Because I do. I want to stick little tiny explosives in your Santa pants and yank your beard off and feed it to your ass.
You’re a disappointment. A huge goddamn Christmas failure.
Lookit: Last year, you gave me false hope. You cast Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti, Elizabeth Banks, and Rachel Weisz in your film, and brought aboard a more than competent director. I was optimistic — who doesn’t love the idea that Santa has a black sheep brother who is gonna screw up the holiday? I’d even allowed for a big sappy ending, so long as you fulfilled the promise of your premise. But then you shat in my chimney, fat man.
So, this year, I tempered my expectations. I know now that Vince Vaughn can hurt me, too. I assumed the absolute worst of Four Christmases. But there you went again, Kringle. For ten minutes, the old Vince Vaughn was back. Granted, he looked a little worse for wear, like perhaps he’d been overdoing the milk and cookies himself. But he was doing that fast-talking, frat-boy jive that you know I dig. And for ten minutes, I remembered that I actually do like Reese Witherspoon once I get it out of my head that she’s not Tracy Flick. She’s cute, and for ten minutes, she was kind of fierce and sexy with her fuck-me stranger lines and her adamant opposition to marriage and children and her whole hate-my-family spirit. I got sucked in, thinking you were gonna deliver the misanthropic Christmas movie you hinted at last year. A little Bad Santa with a gooey center that doesn’t sucker-punch the gag reflex.
And then you brained me with an Etch-a-Sketch and gutted me with a wooden-toy shank. Butthole. You gave us more Yuletike leavings, you psycho, money-grubbing wretch. How are we supposed to get in the spirit of things when you’re pulling down our pants and doing inappropriate things to our backside? That’s just mean, Santa. And you forgot to use lubrication again.
You can color it up anyway you’d like, Mr. Two-by-Four. Bring along some Oscar worthy actors — Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Jon Voight, and Mary Steenburgen. Throw in the suddenly cool again Jon Favreau and two country stars with decent acting abilities — Dwight Yoakum and Tim McGraw — and you got yourself a fine looking present under the tree, wrapped up in a chintzy little bow of Kristen Chenowith’s cleavage. But open it up, and it’s still motherfucking coal. Black coal extracted from the remains of Tim Allen Christmas movie past. I mean, get real: Baby spit-up? The old fall off the roof trick? A botched Christmas pageant. Cootie jokes? Geriatric sex gags? Uncool.
The idea at least had some merit: Follow a couple as they are forced to visit all four sets of parents. It isn’t an uninteresting premise, and a lot of us have been there, stuck in the car for the better part of Christmas day, eating an unholy amount of food so as to not insult your parent-hosts, and introducing — for the first time — a new boyfriend or girlfriend to several sets of parents, all of whom embarrass you with untold stories of your past and humiliating baby photos. But Four Christmases takes the lazy way out, going for cheap jokes over the humor inherent to the situation. And cheap though the jokes may have been, there weren’t even enough of them to keep the narrative moving along.
Indeed, there’s nothing funny in Four Christmases, save for a few Vaughnian improvised exchanges (where you can almost see Reese Witherspoon’s eyes roll back in her head), and yet you’re a cynical guy, Santa. You know you don’t need to put much effort into your Christmas films — you’re a sneering old coot, sure in the knowledge that — as long as you give your movie a Christmas theme and avoid a much-needed R-rating — you’re going to take home more in that Santa bag than you delivered.
So how about this, Zwarte Piet. Take off a year. There’s a global recession going on, and kids and adults alike will probably understand if you’re not able to fulfill your duties next year. We’ll watch A Christmas Story again. Or Scrooged. Or Christmas Vacation. Besides, there were over 500,000 layoffs last month — what’s a few more elves, you know? Take that year, and work on your image. Hell, work on your scripts. Regroup. Rebrand yourself. And come back in 2010 with something designed to capture the Christmas spirit and not just our dollars. The shitter is full, buddy. Give us some time to drain it in the Griswold’s driveway before you fill it up again.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives withi his wife and son in Portland, Maine You can reach him via email, or leave a comment below.