Saturday, December 08, 2007

FRED CLAUS - great cast undone by lazy script

You're all fired, in the morning you'll all be on a bus back to Elfistan!I think Vince Vaughn is really funny. I've thought this ever since my best friend at college, James "Fast Jimmy" Gibbons introduced me to SWINGERS. Suddenly it became clear where Jimbo's fast-talking, charming, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants routine came from. Since then, Vaughn's career has been hit and miss. He's been hired as the light relief in a bunch of genre movies (such as MR AND MRS SMITH) and made a disastrous lead in the horrible PSYCHO remake. I think the problem is that he's usually cast rather lazily: film-makers think his innate charm will enliven weak, derivative scripts. What this means is that Vaughn, like Ryan Reynolds, is usually the only saving grace in the mediocre movies he stars in. Up till now, the one exception to this rule was DODGEBALL - a truly hillarious movie.

I'm afraid that FRED CLAUS falls solidly into that cumbersome middle ground of weak comedies in which Vaughn fans find themselves scratching their heads wondering why he didn't demand a re-write. In general, the plot is predictable and derivative, the characters are two-dimensional, and the movie is painfully thin on laughs. Worst of all, the movie is way too long for a kid-friendly Christmas flick, no matter what the quality of the picture.

Just to fulfil the basic requirements, I should clue you into the big Concept. Fred Claus is a nice kid who becomes embittered when his brother Nicholas gets all the attention. Eventually, Nick becomes Santa Claus, and as part of the deal, he and his family become immortal. Fast forward several hundred years and Fred (Vaughn) is forced to go cap in hand to the North Pole and make up with his brother Santa (Giamatti). He teaches the elves to loosen up, they fall behind on their schedule, and the big bad corporate man (Spacey) threatens to close them down. As one might expect, it all turns out for the best for the characters, which is more than can be said for the honest ticket-buying public. One can only wonder why the producers spent so much money on a high-octane cast and so little on the script.

FRED CLAUS is on release in the US, Canada, Australia, Italy, Singapore, Japan, the Philippines, Germany, South Korea, Denmark, Italy, the UK and Japan. It opens next week in Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands, Iceland, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. It opens in Christmas week in Russia, Slovenia, Estonia, France and Bulgaria. Finally, it rolls into Egypt on January 16th.

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