DVD Release Date:  November 24, 2009
Theatrical Release Date:  November 26, 2008
Rating:  PG-13 (for some sexual humor and language)
Genre:  Comedy, Holiday
Run Time:  82 min.
Director:  Seth Gordon
Actors:  Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Duvall, Jon Favreau, Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakam, Tim McGraw, Kristin Chenoweth, Jon Voight, Sissy Spacek

Unless you're one those rare, extremely fortunate people with a flawless family that behaves impeccably on every social occasion, almost everyone else can relate to the inevitable craziness that results when relatives get together for the holidays.

After all, for every seemingly "normal" family member, there's always an eccentric Aunt Mildred who believes a pink bunny suit is an appropriate gift for a nine-year-old boy (see A Christmas Story). Or the slightly tipsy uncle who manages to ask about a singleton's non-existent love life at exactly the wrong moment—not that there's ever a right one (see Bridget Jones's Diary).

And while yuletide flicks like Home Alone, The Family StoneFred Claus and even Elf have all covered this well-tread territory to varying degrees of success in the past, there's always room for four more dysfunctional families around Christmas, right?

Well, yes, but maybe not these particular ones.

With two of the most bankable Hollywood stars onboard (Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon starring as Brad and Kate, respectively) and a couple of truly funny moments that extend beyond those already served up in the movie's trailer, Four Christmases seems to have all the right ingredients to be fun, ‘tis-the-season escapist entertainment. Yet for all the effort the protagonists make to be likeable (especially Vaughn who does that witty, fast-talking thing he's known for oh-so-well here) and the carefully staged gags, the movie still falls horribly flat.

Unfortunately, it's a lack of good taste and a truckload of clichés that end up being the biggest culprits here. While certainly in direct opposition to a Christian worldview, there is an outlandish, slightly tart cynicism that makes Brad and Kate a real hoot in the beginning. So happy in their cohabitating relationship that they don't want to spoil it with (gasp!) marriage, children or anything remotely conventional like dropping in on their respective divorced families at Christmas, the worst thing that happens to these two is actually deciding to visit them after their planned flight to Fiji has been postponed. A far better movie, given these actors' palpable chemistry, would've made them partners in crime a la Fun with Dick and Jane or Mr. and Mrs. Smith and not a couple slugging it through four horrible Christmases in a mere 24-hour span. But I digress. …

Once Brad and Kate ring the doorbells of their loved ones' homes, however, the bar is lowered considerably because their families are way too ridiculous to be believable. Whether it's the hypocrisy of Kate's newly "religious" mother (Mary Steenburgen) in all her short skirt-wearing, hitting-on-her-daughter's-boyfriend glory, Brad's dad (Robert Duvall) who does nothing all day but sit in his La-Z-Boy, drink beer and call his ex-wife the sort of hideous things that should never be said in front of your son, or Brad's mom (Sissy Spacek) who is now dating Brad's former best friend (yes, he's even Brad's age) and pontificates on how great their sex life is (ewwh!), these scenarios are all a little too Jerry Springer. It's amazing that two people as successful as Brad (we're told he's a lawyer) and sensible as Kate (we're told she's always the planning type) had a fighting chance for any sort of a normal life, given where they came from.