Fred Claus (PG)

Comedy 116 November 9th, 2007
By Michelle Orange
Vince Vaughn delves into the preteen demo, hoping that parents will enjoy the added value of seeing their favorite wiseass wreaking havoc in Toyland. Vaughn plays Santa's no-good older brother, Fred, who works as a repo man in Chicago and, in scheming to raise enough money to buy a restaurant, bilks some Salvation Army Santas and winds up in the slammer. Meanwhile, Santa's workshop is having a hard time keeping up with the increased demand of today's greedy kids, so Santa (Paul Giamatti) offers to give Fred seed money if he'll come up to the North Pole and help out with the Christmas rush. The exceptional cast — Vaughn, Giamatti, Kathy Bates, Kevin Spacey, Rachel Weisz — is an embarrassment of riches for a script this thin and this beholden to family-fare protocol, with its mushy-minded moral and slick sentimentality. Lacking the absurdist je ne say what of fellow crank Bill Murray (who tried his hand at Christmas fare with Scrooged), the demonic physical comedy of Ben Stiller (who amassed kid cred with Night at the Museum), or the free-styling innocence of Will Ferrell (Elf), Vaughn brings to the kiddie party the same thing he brings to the adult party: a 6-foot-5 attitude problem. Whether a giant man with an extensive flannel collection and a big mouth will appeal to kids is anyone's guess.
David Dobkin Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti, Miranda Richardson, Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins, Kevin Spacey Dan Fogelman, Jessie Nelson Jessie Nelson, David Dobkin Warner Bros. Pictures