Review in a Hurry: This'll never be a holiday classic, but its carefree mix of vulgar slapstick, gooey life lessons and a boatload of talent (five Oscar winners, kids!) might fill the seats this season.
The Bigger Picture: Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon) are kids of divorce, and every Christmas they avoid family confrontation by slipping off to a tropical locale. A canceled flight disrupts their plans, and it's off to see family—his dad, her mom, his mom and her dad.
Upper class urbanites, the couple eschews marriage and kids, ooze affection and never fight. And any truly committed couple knows that when you never fight, you just don't know each other that well.
Kate slowly figures this out as she and Brad encounter one horrific, secret-spilling run-in after another. Clichés abound, from bullying brothers to a hippie mom, and the "big lessons" are incessant. These morals do ring true when doled out by class-A actors like Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek, and it's satisfying to see a smug couple like Brad and Kate get a taste of reality. It's the crazy slapstick and obvious sex jokes that aren't so realistic.
The movie tries to be a feel-good holiday movie, but it's too vulgar to take the whole family to and too silly to charm sophisticates. Four Christmases is merely an obvious romantic comedy. It might be light and funny enough, though, to bring in recessionista crowds eager for an easy laugh.
The 180—a Second Opinion: There is an infectious spirit of fun, with all these fantastic actors with prestigious résumés throwing themselves into the funny. Mary Steenburgen crushing on a preacher, Spacek playing Taboo—these are Christmas gifts to treasure, indeed.