Warner Bros. Pictures/Silver Pictures
Starring Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti, Kevin Spacey, Rachel Weisz, and Kathy Bates
Rated PG for Mild Language and Some Rude Humor
Running Time = 115 minutes
Christmas movies are a special breed of animal. Certain things are expected in a Christmas film in order to make it effective and enjoyable. We all are familiar with the classics: It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and A Charlie Brown Christmas.
More recently, however, movies like Home Alone, Jingle All the Way, Christmas with the Kranks, Surviving Christmas, Deck the Halls, The Santa Clause, and the recent Four Christmases have come and gone in multiplexes throughout the world. (Oh, and I am aware that a few of the films listed in this paragraph sucked, so no comments about me praising them.)
So, what makes a Christmas movie work? Santa Claus? Family gatherings gone awry? A message of togetherness and hope? Love and faith? Commercialism vs. Spirituality? In the case of Fred Claus, many of these concepts apply. And as a result a decent family film emerges.
Vince Vaughn plays himself as always under the character name Fred Claus, brother of Santa Clause played by Sideways’ Paul Giamatti. When Fred gets into trouble, he turns to his estranged brother Nick (as in Saint Nick) to help him out. So it’s off to the North Pole where Fred’s antics cause more harm than good, but at the same time teach everyone a little lesson in understanding.
Fred Claus hits all the right notes for a Christmas movie aimed at kids, but also targeted for adults. Vaughn and Giamatti are quite good in their roles as siblings-at-odds. It’s interesting to see two actors who are associated with R-rated comedies do a kiddie film. Yes, Giamatti co-starred with Frankie Muniz in Big Fat Liar, but is most well-known for his role as Miles in Sideways.
Also along for this holiday sleigh ride are Kevin Spacey (American Beauty), and Kathy Bates (who seems to have taken a turn into character actor recently). Spacey plays an efficiency expert sent to make sure Santa and his elves are doing their jobs effectively. Bates is Mama Claus, a small role that she does quite a lot with.
Throw in Ludacris as an Elf DJ, Elizabeth Banks (Zak and Miri Make a Porno, W), as Santa’s personal assistant, and Miranda Richardson (Sleepy Hollow) as Mrs. Claus, and the film becomes a who’s who of celebrities past and present.
Rachel Weisz, best known for The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, plays Fred’s love interest. It’s a small role that, much like Bates, Weisz utilizes well. It’s interesting to see such a beautiful and talented actress in such a small role. I hope she didn’t choose this over The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Although, if she did, I think this was a wiser choice.
Aside from audio commentary by director David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers), and 25 minutes of deleted scenes, there’s not much in the way of special features.
Fred Claus may not remain a classic holiday staple like Miracle on 34th Street or even Home Alone, but it is worth watching when the Christmas mood strikes. Fred Claus wraps itself in a big bow that makes an A. Safe for the family, amusing for adults.
What’s your favorite Christmas movie? Send us a comment!