by Laura Tucker
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After watching Four Christmases in the theater this week, I can’t figure out why the rest of us never thought of the great plan Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn came up with for avoiding their families they didn’t want to spend time with. Just so there’s no confusion, I want to let my mom and mother-in-law know I’m not talking about them, but you are probably well aware of which relatives I am talking about. I just never even considered there was a way to avoid it all.
Witherspoon and Vaughn play Kate and Brad, dating and living together for the past three years. They despise the thought of spending the Christmas holiday traveling between their four different families, and really don’t want to see them too much anyway, so they avoid the whole mess by going on an exotic vacation, but lying to their families, telling them they’re doing charity work overseas. As Brad says, you can’t spell “families” without “lies.”
When all the flights out are grounded because of fog, Kate and Brad are trying to figure out how to get out of the country one way or another, and they are approached by a camera crew for an interview about missing their flight. No sooner is the interview done than their cell phones are ringing with their parents on the other end wondering why they aren’t in Burma. To save face, Kate and Brad decide their only choice is to visit all four families before their rescheduled flight the next morning.
With a pre-agreed upon plan for an exit word of “mistletoe,” Kate and Brad visit his dad’s house first, where they encounter not just his dad (Robert Duvall), but Brad’s UFC fighting brothers (Tim McGraw and Jon Favreau), his nephews that take after their dad and uncle, and his pregnant sister-in-law that appears to be making a casserole with spam for Christmas dinner while she bounces a baby on her lap. Of course things don’t go well, and Kate even finds out Brad’s real first name is Orlando, since he and his brothers, Dallas and Denver, were all named for the cities where they were conceived, and she can’t believe he kept that from her.
He wasn’t the only one hiding a name, as once they visit her mom (Mary Steenburgen), sister (Kristen Chenoweth), grandma, and aunt, Brad learns that Kate had a nickname of Cootie Kate when she was growing up. He’s also treated to her pictures from Fat Camp. Traveling to Brad’s mother’s (Sissy Spacek) house, brings yet more surprises (I don’t want to ruin to much for you), and traveling to Kate’s dad’s (Jon Voigt) house somehow brings the most sanity.
Witherspoon and Vaughn are the obvious draws in Four Christmases, and they pull off their roles expertly with perfect comedic timing and a connection I didn’t expect to see between them. Despite the presence of Duvall, Steenburgen, and Spacek, the real third star of this film is the screenplay, written by a couple of first time writers, Matt Allen and Caleb Wilson. This romantic comedy does have a predictable ending, but you’ll have so much fun getting there, you really won’t mind.
Laura Tucker is the webmaster of Reality Shack and its accompanying Reality Shack Blog, provides reviews at Viewpoints, and provides entertainment news pieces at Gather. She is also an Associate Instructor and 2nd dan black belt in tae kwon do with South Elgin Martial Arts. Laura can be reached at LauraBelle@realityshack.com.
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