But even if the slapstick humor didn't go the whole unfortunate, white-trash route, the dramatic shift in tone from silly to serious also doesn't exactly help the movie's cause either. In fact, it feels downright tacked on.

While having a point is usually a desirable quality in a film, the set-up for the "moral of the story" is forced and even downright laughable. If the clunky dialogue wasn't enough to drive the point home that Kate is having second thoughts about her seemingly perfect life with Brad, the cloyingly overbearing soundtrack beats the viewer over the head. Cue sad, melancholy accompaniment with an overabundance of strings. Get it? Kate's not happy.

Ultimately, it's this multitude of flaws that makes Four Christmases go down like a glass of expired eggnog. In fact, watching may even make you feel like your slightly offbeat family isn't all that bad.
 
CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Social drinking shown plus a reference to "Mom's special brownies" that contain marijuana.
  • Language/Profanity:  A smattering of your standard-issue profanity plus a couple of instances where the Lord's name is taken in vain.
  • Sex/Nudity:  In the opening scene, Brad and Kate act out a role-playing fantasy that results in them having sex in the bathroom—nothing is shown aside from their passionate kissing. There are numerous mentions and innuendos made about sex—both heterosexual and homosexual. There's also graphic discussion of what happens to a woman who breastfeeds and a scene where Kate's young niece is playing keep-away with Kate's pregnancy test in the bouncy castle. Plus the female members of Kate's family, particularly her sister Courtney (Kristin Chenoweth) wear very low-cut tops and have the reputation of being cougars (older women who love to hit on younger men like Brad, for example).
  • Violence:  It's all meant to be of a comedic nature, but there are a few scenes where Brad's brothers Denver (Jon Favreau) and Dallas (Tim McGraw) give Brad a serious beat-down. Fed up after the kids continue to taunt her in the bouncy castle, Witherspoon begins picking up each kid and throwing them out of her way.
  • Religion:  During the Christmas at Kate's Mom's house, her Mom has revealed that they will be giving "spiritual Christmas presents" instead of regular presents because of her new relationship with Pastor Phil (Dwight Yoakam). During the presentation of the "spiritual gifts" Kate's mom talks about the ways she'd like to "pleasure" Pastor Phil, who isn't her husband. Later on, Brad and Kate are forced to accompany Kate's family to church, which happens to be a really over-the-top caricature of a Pentecostal-type church where the sleazy Pastor Phil is treated like a superhero with a pep rally-like introduction and everyone says "Thank you Jesus!" and "Praise the Lord" at the drop of a hat. Then, when it's revealed that the Mary and Joseph cast in the Nativity play are out sick, Kate and Brad are forced to step in. Of course, Brad sees this as an opportunity for comedy, (especially with his particularly short, self-proclaimed man-skirt) much to the horror of Kate, who has stage fright. Later on at the Christmas with Kate's dad (Jon Voight), Christianity actually isn't played for laughs when he offers to say grace before the family meal.

  
Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in St. Paul, Minn., she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog

For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.