Review: Fred Claus
PLOT: Fred Claus is Santas older brother who has had issues all his life. Santa is more popular, he does nice thing for people and all Fred does in get into trouble, leaving his mark as black sheep of the family. In Freds latest scheme he finds himself in a heck of a lot of trouble and in order to get a bunch of money to help, Santa asked his bro to help out at the North Pole. Once he arrives, so does some dude out to shut Santa down. Why you ask? Heck if I know.
The biggest problem I have with movies made for children, is that they oftentimes play down to them. If a movie offers up broad comedy and a hopeless script that is played purely to tug at heartstrings and offer up obvious and dumb jokes, it feels almost like an insult to its target audience. Yes, children are less critical when it comes to films, but I think that they are smarter than Hollywood sometimes gives them credit for. Sure theyll probably laugh at the silly moments and maybe even want to see it again, but I guarantee that if you offer them more than a slapstick morality play with little sense, they will feel the same way, perhaps even more so and love it just as much. Or love it even more perhaps.
So where does FRED CLAUS stand? Well, sadly, while not a complete waste, it offers up another dumb comedy made for kids with a bunch of hecks and darns thrown in. You see, back when Santa Claus was born, he had an older brother Fred. Fred loved that kid so much and he did everything for him. But the problem with having the cute and pudgy younger brother, they get more attention. And so Fred begins to resent his baby brother (can you see the morality coming?). And now, several years later and I mean so many years that I dont understand how nobody notices that Fred Claus doesnt age Fred is a down on his luck dude looking to somehow create a name for himself. He ends up having to call his brother Santa and ask for money. And Santa makes a deal that hell give him the money if he comes up to the North Pole to help out.
First off, there are so many things wrong already. As I mentioned, nobody notices that Fred stays looking young? Hes hundreds of years old, because keep in mind, hes Santas older brother. And the series of events that leads Fred to call his bro are so ridiculous. They include a bunch of Santas chasing the poor schmuck after he takes away some Salvation Army business, in a predictable and moronic chase scene. The many continuity errors are so painfully obvious especially when all the baseball bats and hula hoops are delivered, I wont give away the plot but I hardly saw any of those two things passed out on Christmas. And finally, who the hell does Kevin Spacey work for and who shoved a stick up his ass? This guy is such a generic bad guy that it fails to even bring even an iota of suspense (although the SUPERMAN bit was fun). You know that everything is going to work out, but the series of events is so unbelievable, that even if you still believe in Santy Claus, youll have trouble believing in this script.
So you have a bad Christmas movie with an obvious message about love for family and understanding. It is preachy and lacks anything clever but it has one thing going for it. And yes, Vince Vaughn as Fred is very good. Hes a likable guy that is the black sheep of the Claus family, but you kind of root for him. His energy and surprisingly good delivery of bad lines makes for at least a few moments of pleasure. In fact, his best bit offers up a lip-synching dance routine of Elvis Presleys Rubberneckin. Its a fun song and for some reason, the movie finds a bit of life in that moment until it is ruined by the storyline. Im not saying that I think it should have all been Dancing with the Stars but it was a really fun time that Vince looks to be having a blast with.
As for the other actors involved, its not that they are bad, they are just not interesting. Paul Giamatti as Santa Claus, Miranda Richardson as Mrs. Claus, Rachael Weisz as the girlfriend and Kathy Bates as Mom Claus do their best but their characters are so dull and badly written. David Dobkin keeps everything looking good, especially for the sing along, but it all feels telegraphed. He does avoid the schmaltzy trap for the most part, but some of that is just unavoidable with the screenplay. And even though it all looks good, it never looks better than just, eh, thatll work. Yet he seems to know how to work with Vince because that dude is really the only reason to sit through this film with your kids. And if you dont have kids, Id stick to being naughty, and avoid seeing this nice family comedy altogether. Ho, Ho, Hum! But, if you really want to see it, and the Rubberneckin part sounds fun, wait for video. There are a couple of laughs including said scene, and a Famous Brothers Anonymous group with Roger Clinton, Stephen Baldwin and Frank Stallone. And Mr. Vaughn really makes it almost worth a rental.
My rating 4/10 -- JimmyO
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