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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Fred Claus

Q: What’s the movie about?

A: It turns out that Santa (Paul Giamatti) has an older brother, named Fred (Vince Vaughn). Fred is bitter about being in Santa’s shadow his whole life (eternity), and as a result has grown up to be something of a huckster. When Fred asks his brother to give him $50,000 for his latest scam, Santa decides to make him earn it by working at the North Pole. But bringing Fred to the North Pole turns out to be Santa’s biggest mistake.

Q: Who’s in the movie?

A: Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti, John Michael Higgins, Miranda Richardson, Rachel Weisz, Kevin Spacey, Kathy Bates, Elizabeth Banks, Bobb’e J. Thompson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Trevor Peacock

Q: Is this movie worth the price of admission?

A: Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketProceed with Caution. If you’re one of those people who loves a new Christmas movie every holiday season, this one will do the trick. While the director and star of Wedding Crashers seem like an unlikely duo to bring you your year-end feel-good Santa Claus movie, there’s nothing raunchy to beware of here, and the more mature jokes are hidden in innuendo. Vince Vaughn and David Dobkin do bring their signature styles to the look and feel of this film, so it has a tad more edge than your average Christmas fare—in other words it’s not all sweet and corny. In the end, it probably won’t make any “Top 10 Christmas movies ever made” lists, but it’s good enough to get played, viewed and enjoyed on TV every holiday season.

Q: Will this movie make me laugh?

A: Yes, thanks to Vince Vaughn’s classic fast-talking rants and rambles, which sometimes make interesting and innovative points you may never have thought of yourself, and other times don’t make any sense at all, but are nonetheless amusing thanks to Vaughn’s commitment to idea that they do make sense. Don’t expect his usual R-rated level of humor, but considering the PG restrictions, it’s not bad at all. Also notable are some great cameos they got for a self-help group that Fred attends.

Q: Will this movie make me cry?

A: It almost had a chance at the end, when the sappy conclusion kicks in, but you’d have to be a real sucker to get taken off guard by this one.

Q: Will this movie be up for any awards?

A: Vaughn is always good for an MTV Popcorn award nomination. I’m thinking for the “Best Fight” category, for his fight with Ludacris, the elf.

Q: How is the Acting?

A: Very professional.

Q: How is the Directing?

A: In my opinion broad comedy is the hardest genre to master as a director, and David Dobkin has it down. If he had shot the physical comedy wrong, he could’ve missed what’s funny about the pratfalls. If he had cut to the dialogue wrong, he could’ve ruined the jokes. And if he had lit the scenes wrong, he could’ve made it look like a big, fake situation, instead of convincing the audience that this ridiculous scenario could actually happen in some remote fantasyland. In this film he is also faced with the challenge of creating three visually distinct worlds, and making them feel like they are all part of the same movie. The transition from the distant past, when Santa and Fred were kids, to the modern world, where Fred lives now, to Santa’s home at the North Pole actually help suck you into the movie. Also, most of the special effects where seamless, rather than distracting, as I find special effects often can be.

Q: How is the story/script?

A: I appreciate that they tried to do something original with Christmas by inventing a brother for Santa Claus and creating a sibling rivalry. Aside from that very fresh concept, all the originality in the script seems to come from Vince Vaughn’s improvisations, and not so much from the screenwriters. Also, it is kind of strange to sees Santa as the antagonist. Santa is never mean—after all, he’s a Saint—but you can’t help but resent him a little bit, because he’s the bane of our hero’s existence, and the reason that Fred is so bitter. How could Santa know so much about so many, and not see that it’s kind of his fault that Fred turned out the way he did?

Q: Is there anything else outstanding about the movie?

A: The North Pole has been done so many times, that it’s always fun to see a new stylistic take on it. I enjoyed the scenic design in this case, as they depicted it as grandiose and classy, rather than kitchy, like some renditions I’ve seen of the North Pole. (Okay, I’ll give, I’m referring to The Santa Clause 3—yes, I’ve seen all of them).

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