Movies You Aught Not Watch is Nick Rogers’ weekly, alphabetical look back at the 52 worst films of 2000 to 2009.
Calling 2008’s Four Christmases a lump of coal demeans that fossil fuel’s many uses. Besides, if estimates hold, coal’s noxious chemical aftereffects could be gone by 2025. Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon can only hope the stink of their rancid, shrill, toothless, senseless disaster dissipates by then.
Rooting for them in a romantic sense was like being asked to cheer Todd and Margo’s joyless yuppie relationship in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
They’re Brad and Kate, a coupled pair of selfish San Franciscans unmarried for fear of turning out like their own parents — separated and estranged. Each Christmas, they fib about flying away for international charity work while escaping to Fiji. Once a stranded flight lands them on the TV news, their families phone them to visit.
It’s easy to pick out what director Seth Gordon saw, aside from a star vehicle, in this material. Four Christmases wants to dig into the same bleakly funny morass of American social expectations as Gordon’s flawless video-game documentary, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.
But Gordon seems visibly lost amid “zany” camera zooms, lighting that even Fox sitcoms wouldn’t dare employ, cheap sight gags and one of the decade’s most rambling and ridiculous romantic-comedy reconciliations.
If it’s cheer through jeer you want, watch The Ref, Bad Santa or even the unfairly maligned Surviving Christmas. Forget the fictional fractured families with which Brad and Kate contend. Four Christmases creates its own holiday hell from which there is seemingly no escape.