Silly and frivolous though it may be, Four Christmases is nevertheless a movie that speaks loudly about the time and place in which it was created. Intentional or not—and, with a movie this unabashedly and straightforwardly fun, it's probably not—it's a film that bears witness to the crisis facing the very institution of family, a movie that surveys a culture in which disunity is becoming more commonplace than familial bonds, in which shallow attraction and infidelity are more popular than real love or commitment. It's not a great work of art—not even close—and it's not a pointed piece of social commentary, but it's a telling and revealing movie just the same.
Its very premise is based in the prevalence of broken families in our society. Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon star as Brad and Kate, an unmarried couple so stubbornly intent on avoiding their fractured, feuding families that, every Christmas, they stage a fake humanitarian crusade to some distant third world country and then hop a plane to the beach, enjoying fun in the sun and forgetting their families altogether. Or at least that's their habit, until one fateful year when bad weather grounds every plane in the city, their families find out about it, and the two are forced to spend Christmas Day visiting each of their four families—his dad, her mom, his mom, her dad.
The movie is funny and cute, but its very story mandates that divorce and brokenheartedness are always lurking somewhere around the edges. And, much to his credit, director Seth Gordon, in his first mainstream film (he also directed the arcade documentary The King of Kong, a minor hit on the indie circuit), shows a keen understanding that even comedy comes with responsibility, ...1
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