DIRECTED BY David Dobkin
PG-13, 115 mins., 2007
** (out of ****)
This is one of those flicks where you just have to realize you’re about to watch something dumb in which you’re going to know everything that will transpire for the next 120 minutes, shrug, and simply resign yourself to enjoying the show ‘cuz you damn well feel like it. Fred Claus offers nothing in the venue of originality, nor is it really all that great of a movie, but it is blessed with a cast that can – at the very least – pass off this redundant material as endurable. Starring the once great Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers) as Frederick Claus - a bitter middle-aged man who received very little attention in light of his brother Saint Nicholas (Giamatti) during the adolescent years – the two brothers (reluctantly) reunite days before Christmas, as matters are becoming complicated at the North Pole. Fred’s presence further endangers Christmas as his actions negatively affect the working environment and those around him. Will Fred forgive his brother for being the Golden Child for years? Will Christmas be saved with only 24 hours to go and gazillions of toys yet unmade? And what is the true purpose of Kevin Spacey’s shady character?
The highlight for me was finding out that the beautiful Rachel Weisz (The Mummy Returns) and the sizzling Elizabeth Banks (Zach and Miri Make a Porno) were in the movie, although both had very little to do, regrettably. However, we must endure Banks in a cleavage-friendly North Pole outfit – so that’s a hurdle. Spacey is still at his malevolent best, channeling a little of his fantastic Lex Luthor persona from Superman Returns; and Paul Giamatti – who I respect to no end after Shoot ‘Em Up – is a fantastic Santa Claus, and he’s at his best towards the film’s last twenty as Fred and Nicholas are at each other’s throats. Those were some good family sequences, such as when there is an ‘intervention’ on Fred’s behalf. Vaughn doesn’t seem to be at his best, unfortunately, and merely paychecks a role. It is unfortunate that the once powerful Vaughn has only been seen in holiday flicks in the past two years.
Overall, Fred Claus offers a different Christmas movie to watch in lieu of the tired classics of Home Alone and A Christmas Story, although it lacks those film’s intelligence and enjoyment. The film picks up speed in its final thirty minutes as you become slightly engaged in what’s going to happen next, even though the answer is as obvious as ‘What does Superman look like?’ (Sorry, I’m not sure why I have the Kryptonian dude on my mind lately), so that’s a nice positive. The movie is lacking in chuckles, but at the very least, you’ll have a good time (even thought it drags here and there, but I digress).
STARRING Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Mary Steenburgen, Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins
WRITTEN BY Adam McKay, Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly
DIRECTED BY Adam McKay
R, 105 mins., 2008
* (out of ****)
I want to start off this tangent with a comment about these type of posters that have become increasingly popular since its first famous usage in The 40-Year Old Virgin: I am sick and tired of them. I can deal with this poster perhaps more then others, but the more commonly used one-sheet of Seth Rogen for Knocked Up is simply lazy on the marketing people's behalf, and the recent Rainn Wilson flick The Rocker ridiculously used this same formula. At least Drillbit Taylor and Superbad spiced things up - albeit, ever so slightly. Now, concerning Step Brothers:
I really don’t like this movie, and I really don’t like saying I don’t like this movie. I feel that I can enjoy even the lamest of comedies, because somehow, there is no way anyone can screw up a comedy so horribly that it’s the worst thing I’ve ever watched. Luckily, Step Brothers doesn’t reach that threshold (unlike Hamlet 2), but it is still quite ridiculously stupid, and not in the enjoyable, laugh-out-loud-I’m-peeing-my-pants type of way. If Stranger than Fiction is the best work Will Ferrell has ever done, then Step Brothers is surely his worst. Never before has this man been as increasingly annoying as he is here – with every word that comes out of his mouth seemingly a childish scream. Which, granted, is the point of the movie – 40-year old men being nothing more than little kids who, under drastic circumstances, are forced to become adults – but aren’t we suppose to care about these characters as well? As it stands, I would much have preferred the two step brothers to be locked inside the house with a serial killer as they attempt to “outsmart” the Boogeyman. Now that would have been quite the enjoyable flick, and I can see Ferrell moderately well perform in it.
George C. Reilly, on the other hand, is a actor I’ve scarcely had the pleasure of watching (and of the ones I have seen, his performance was more serious in nature), but with this movie, of which he also co-wrote with Ferrell and thus is as responsible for this mess, he comes off as even more annoying then Ferrell (a feat I didn't believe possible). Perhaps this is actually a testament to how well they established their characters for the film, but never before had I wanted a movie's main characters to fall in the pits of Mordor as much as I did here.
Perhaps I’m not being clear enough, but why Step Brothers fails in every way imaginable is that there is nothing slightly north of funny in the movie, and the cast – every single one of them, from the main actors to the supporters – is irritating and not remotely interesting, from voice to script. And speaking of the script, it did have one strong suite – the film’s conclusion. Admittedly, I didn’t predict how the entire film was going to end (perhaps I was having an off day), but I ever so slightly enjoyed myself – foolish me.
Apparently many people disagree with my opinion of the flick, as Step Brothers has been selling moderately well since its DVD release earlier this month. (Hell, I'd prefer we sell more copies of House Bunny then this, but I guess I can't win). To each their own - but my tolerance of Mr. Ferrell has officially concluded and I have no intention of watching another John C. Reilly film. And if I see the name Adam McKay anywhere on the poster, forget it, I'm not watching it. (Unless, by some Touched By a Angel miracle, it has a hilarious trailer)