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  Publicity Stills of "Fred Claus"
(Courtesy from Warner Bros)

Genre: Comedy
Director: David Dobkin
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti, Miranda Richardson, Kathy Bates, Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins, Rachel Weisz, Kevin Spacey
RunTime: 1 hr 56 mins
Released By: Warner Bros
Rating: PG
Official Website: www.fredclaus.net

Opening Day: 22 November 2007


Fred Claus (VINCE VAUGHN) has lived almost his entire life in his little brother’s very large shadow. Fred tried, but he could never live up to the example set by the younger Nicholas (PAUL GIAMATTI), who was just a perfect…well…Saint. True to form, Nicholas grew up to be the model of giving, while Fred became the polar opposite: a repo man who then steals what he repossesses. Now Fred’s dirty dealings have landed him in jail. Over his wife’s objections, Nicholas happily agrees to bail his big brother out on one condition: that Fred come to the North Pole and work off his debt making toys. The trouble is that Fred isn’t exactly elf material and, with Christmas fast approaching, this one bad seed could jeopardize the jolliest holiday of the year. Has Fred finally pushed his little brother to the brink? This time, what Fred may have stolen is Christmas itself, and it is going to take more than Rudolph to set things right..

Movie Review:

Santa Claus has a jealous older brother who lives in Chicago? Anybody who is family with a saint will never grow old? Father Christmas may just get retrenched if his workshop doesn’t churn out toys for every single kid around the world? Err, yah right.

These are just some of the convenient excuses the filmmakers came up with so they can roll out this Christmas movie in time for the festive season. And thanks to this obvious attempt at raking money at the box office, stars like Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti, Rachel Weisz and Kevin Spacey can get some quick bucks for Christmas spending.

And they can do better than to star in this slapstick holiday movie, if you ask us.

Vaughn plays Santa’s older brother, Fred, who feels sore because his younger brother has getting all the love in the family since the day he was born. And it doesn’t help that everyone knows Santa for his generosity and jolliness, whilst he is just a loser who has run out of money and luck. When he is forced to visit Santa in the North Pole and be part of the whole gift preparation process, things go terribly wrong.

To be fair, we are giving the writers some credit for coming up with this rather novel idea of Fred messing up Christmas because things haven’t really been going well in the dysfunctional family. We have all been jealous of this well-loved sibling before, haven’t we? But when the 116-minute movie becomes undecided whether it should be wickedly funny (Vaughn setting up his own fund collecting station to compete with Santas from The Salvation Army) or sickly sentimental (a concluding montage of families opening presents edited to “Silent Night” – come on!), the picture results in being a drag instead.

There are some truly funny scenes which made us chuckle quite a bit. A hip-gyrating Vaughn leading elves to rock music instead of the feel-good “Santa Claus is coming to Town” was definitely a sight to behold. A defeated Vaughn sitting in a support group with Frank Stallone, Roger Clinton and Stephen Baldwin (note their last names) talking about overachieving siblings tickled our ribs hard. And an oversized Vaughn sleeping on a small bed with both legs sticking out is kind of silly too.

Vaughn’s fast-talking Fred Claus delivers some hilarious lines, while Giamatti is so covered up with his white hair and beard; it’s really quite difficult to milk out a good performance from him. Elsewhere, the underused Kathy Bates plays their mother to some bland effect, and the radiant Weisz plays Vaughn’s girlfriend with quite limited screen time.

Another highlight of this movie is Spacey, who plays an uptight efficiency quality control officer who is out to ruin Christmas. His spot-on one-liners about the commercialism and phoniness of Christmas are wonderfully spouted by the deadpan actor. And to strip down an Oscar winner’s dignity by making him a sad, angry man who didn’t get his Superman cape when he was a kid gives us cheap thrills.

If that had us sniggering, then the holiday movie has done its job of making us jolly.

Movie Rating:

(Don’t be a Scrooge – go buy a ticket and laugh at this holiday movie this festive season)

Review by John Li


. Deck The Halls (2006)

. The Nightmare Before Christmas 3D (2006)

. Christmas With The Kranks (2004)

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