Thursday, November 20, 2008

If my family was this nuts I'd stay away too

When upscale, happily unmarried San Francisco couple Kate (Reese Witherspoon) and Brad (Vince Vaughn) find themselves socked in by fog on Christmas morning, their exotic vacation plans morph into the family-centric holiday they had, until now, gleefully avoided in Four Christmases. Out of obligation—and unable to escape—they trudge to not one, not two, but four relative-choked festivities, increasingly mortified to find childhood fears raised, adolescent wounds reopened…and their very future together uncertain. As Brad counts the hours to when he can get away from their parents, step-parents, siblings and an assortment of nieces and nephews, Kate is starting to hear the ticking of a different kind of clock. And by the end of the day, she is beginning to wonder if their crazy families’ choices are not so crazy after all.

Kate (Witherspoon) and Brad (Vaughn) have a good life. They love each other without having the need to get married. They role play at bars to keep the relationship exciting and they avoid their families as much as possible (because you can't spell families without lies). Like at Christmastime they lie to their families about doing charity work in order to not have to spend time with them. They plan vacations to Fiji and mail their gifts. On the third year of doing this nothing goes as planned when a heavy fog rolls in preventing them from traveling. To make matters worse there is a TV news station reporting on the flight delays and the newscaster picks Kate and Brad to interview prompting calls from their families. Both of their parents are divorced which means spending the day with each parent. First stop, Brad's father, Howard (Robert Duvall). Howard shares his house with his other sons Dallas (Tim McGraw) and Denver (Jon Favreau) and their families. Dallas and Denver are trained UFC fighters and love attacking Brad for fun. Once things calm down we soon find out that Brad changed his name from Orlando (each son was named after the city that they were conceived in). Kate is a little upset by this because after three years they should know these things. To make the visit even more upsetting the family had set a ten dollar limit on gifts which Brad didn't know about so when Dallas' son Connor is surprised with an XBox from his Uncle Brad and then accidentally told by Brad that there is no Santa Claus he upsets his brothers. Brad also bought a satellite dish for his father which then Howard insists on installing together. This goes so badly that in the end the satellite ends up broken along with half of the living room being trashed. All the while Kate is getting to know Denver's wife Susan (Katy Mixon) and her child. While they converse in the kitchen Kate is asked to hold Susan's nine month old daughter who at first doesn't stop crying. Once she stops crying Kate discovers that she may just like the idea of kids. Next stop is Kate's mothers (Mary Steenburgen) house where Kate is teased for not wanting children by her sisters. In one of the funniest scenes Kate is holding her niece who then proceeds to throw up Exorcist-style on her black blouse. Brad, sitting nearby at the time, retches and suddenly gets sick saying " You gotta get outta here. I can't breathe. I'm gonna do it too!" While she cleans up she finds a pregnancy test and decides to take it, but when her niece bursts into the bathroom and takes the test after thinking its a magic marker she's forced to take drastic measures to get it back when her niece leads her to the Jump Jump in the backyard where the kids play keep away. At the same time in the house Brad is learning about how Kate went to fat camp when she was younger and how she may have had lesbian tendencies high school because she hung out with a butch girl named Jo (Sue Fletcher). Kate's mom is a devout Christian and they go to a church service lead by Pastor Phil (Dwight Yoakam), who she is also dating. When Pastor Phil announces that the people who were scheduled to play Joesph and Mary in the church pageant have the flu, Kate and Brad become unwilling volunteers. When Kate gets stage fright, Brad takes the lead by doing his and her lines then throwing in a little improvisation, which in turn upsets Kate. Next up is Brad's mom (Sissy Spaceck) . She's a little neurotic and she's dating Brad's ex-best friend promting Brad to say "We used to be friends. We used to be best friends, but now you're sleeping with my mom and it's a little bit weird for me." Things then get a little strange when the family plays Taboo and it seems that Denver and Susan know more about each other and score the most points. On the way to see Kate's father (Jon Voight), Kate expresses her feelings that she may want more out their relationship, but Brad likes things as they are and they decide to go their separate ways. While Kate talks to her father and her sisters about what she's feeling Brad goes back to his dads house and decides that maybe wanting more wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Finding a little balance and compromising is the end result here. Loving someone means really getting to know them. While Vaughn and Witherspoon are the stars here, you can't help but love the supporting cast. Vaughn and Witherspoon work well together as the couple that seems to have it all figured out. It's got little chuckles and laugh out loud scenes and it's one of those movies that'd make you appreciate your own family. I laughed. I loved it. Go see it and laugh too. This movie is perfect for the holiday season. A jolly 4 on my "Go See" scale.

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