Before a single joke is told, Seth Gordon
's Four Christmases earns a positive grade for its inspired casting.
I'm not talking about Vince Vaughn
and Reese Witherspoon
, who are asked to do what they've done in previous comedies, and happily oblige. Vaughn, in particular, continues to ride that motor-mouthed ego shtick of his with very humorous results. His condescending personality should have worn out its welcome shortly after Wedding Crashers, yet somehow it still manages to entertain. Article continues below
No, my mind remains boggled by the silver-screen legends, music-business superstars, A-list directors, and one-hit wonders who have agreed to tag along for this formulaic but surprisingly funny holiday comedy about a self-centered California couple (Vaughn, Witherspoon) forced to spend Christmas with their respective families when fog cancels their trip to Fiji.
Oscar winners Robert Duvall
and Sissy Spacek
endure light humiliation as Vaughn's divorced folks. They're joined by fellow Academy Award-winners Mary Steenburgen
and Jon Voight
, equally good sports playing Witherspoon's parents. And let's not forget, Reese has her own golden boy on the mantle at home.
But the hardware hardly stops there. Three-time Grammy winner Tim McGraw
plays Vaughn's brother Dallas, an amateur UFC fighter. Tony Award winner Kristen Chenoweth
pops by as Witherspoon's sex-crazed sister. That's Dwight Yoakam
cast as a boisterous preacher. Oh yeah, and a slimmed-down Jon Favreau sports a muscular build and steals scenes as Vaughn's other brother, Denver. Sure, these two go way back, but Favreau's a made man in Hollywood after directing the mega-hit Iron Man and certainly doesn't need the paycheck.
Vaughn reportedly tapped Gordon to direct Christmases after catching his debut feature The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
, a snarky documentary about a determined suburban dad named Steve Wiebe obsessed with obtaining the highest recorded Donkey Kong score. Gordon's transition to scripted features isn't exactly smooth. His timing is off on the script's physical humor (of which there is plenty). He doesn't go out of his way to visually stimulate the dialogue. He essentially points the camera at his cast and asks them to do the heavy lifting. Lucky for him, they do.
It's worth mentioning that, in keeping with the Christmases theme, Wiebe also cameos in this film as Witherspoon's brother-in-law. It's a nice gesture on Gordon's part, a subtle payback for the success he gleaned off Wiebe's video-game accomplishments. Granted, Wiebe doesn't get a single spoken line. Instead he is holding an Xbox controller in an early scene, a clever nod to the duo's cinematic roots, which are intertwined. It's yet another surreal touch in this offbeat and frequently amusing comedy.