Vince Vaughn Gives a Hilarious Dose of 'Wedding Crashers' to Average 'Fred Claus'
Overlong, overdone, overproduced.
The actors? Three, count 'em three Oscar-winners.
So, yeah, over-cast.
But, friend, you may find yourself wondering how we ever survived the holidays without a Christmas dose of Vince, a little "Wedding Crashers" for the Holidays.
This PG-rated farce from the director of Wedding Crashers falls just short of "romp," but it isn't Vince Vaughn's fault. He riffs, bops, hustles and charms.
Vaughn plays Santa's long-resentful older brother, Fred, a bitter guy who fled the enchanted forest where saintly Nicolas and almost-as-sweet Fred grew up. Mom (Oscar-winner Kathy Bates) tried her best, but everybody knew who was her favorite. Nick (Paul Giamatti) married, put on weight and was made a saint. Fred moved to Chicago, learned to talk entirely too fast and hustled his way to repo-man mediocrity. What could lovely meter maid Wanda (Oscar-winner Rachel Weisz) see in him?
Fred speed-trashes his sibling every chance he gets, even to little kids.
"He covets the spotlight, man. He's a fame junkie. The guy's a clown, a megalomaniac. Don't drink that Kool-Aid. Don't be a cheerleader for Santa Claus!"
But Fred needs cash and hits his brother up. Santa invites him to the North Pole for a few days, gives him a job reading the "naughty" and "nice" reports for, well, the whole planet. He'd better be careful because an efficiency expert from "the Board" (Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey, goofing on his Lex Luthor turn) is looking over his shoulder, ready to shut this whole operation down.
Sure, it's about "saving Christmas," or at least a secular-Santa version of it. It's about getting out of the shadow of a sibling, settling old family grudges and thinking of others before yourself.
But the comedy comes mostly from that big-mouthed big guy mixing it up with the little people. Two words for you: Ninja elves.
The settings are "Polar Express" elaborate. A few digitally altered full-sized actors (John Michael Higgins of "Best in Show" is sled-driver Willy, Ludacris is the North Pole's DJ) blend in with dwarf actors to fill this toy land. And Elizabeth Banks makes the most fetching Santa's Little Helper ever.
Vaughn does that befuddled insta-rage thing as well as anybody in the movies. But his real gift is in making every line, every strung-together, strung-out riff, feel like an inspired off-the-cuff improvisation, even the "Wedding Crashers" advice to the elves, whom he introduces to the music of Elvis.
"Let's make some bad decisions!"
And if you thought The Rock laid it all out there in a family-friendly way for his early fall hit, "The Game Plan," he's got nothing on Vince, who dances, wrestles little people and just plain works it.
Director David Dobkin cleans up his "Wedding Crashers" act and plays to his star's strengths, staging a terrific Salvation-Army-Santas chase through Chicago in an early scene, hurling Vaughn into a big dance number, pairing him up with Weisz, who slips into an "East Enders" accent and holds her own with the Windy City Windbag.
The energy flags, as it must, in a movie that's basically a hybrid of Tim Allen's "The Santa Clause" with his "Christmas with the Kranks," a movie that panders to the holiday "spirit," but only after mocking it, big time.
So yeah, it's overkill in the extreme, from its impressive sled-flying effects to its big-dollar cast. Did they really need Miranda Richardson as Mrs. Claus, or Banks or Ludacris or even someone of Weisz's caliber in those supporting parts?
No. But as overdone as it all is, the jabs at kids' ever-lengthening wish lists, at judging the "naughty" without understanding why, the realization that Salvation Army Santas may have tempers, too, all make "Fred Claus," excessive as it is, refreshingly overdue.
Get showtimes and movie details for "Fred Claus."