Monday, November 19, 2007

Review: Fred Claus

No, I need this money...didn't you see The Break-Up???

Fred Claus

Directed By: David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers)

Starring: Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti, Kevin Spacey


Do you remember when you were 5 and Christmas was on the way? (Yes this is another one of those 'why I love movies' type stories) Well I always liked the Christmas movies the most. Ernest Saves Christmas, A Christmas Story ("You'll shoot your EYE out"...), Jingle All the Way, Santa Claus: The Movie, Charlie Brown Christmas, stop-motion animated Rudolph and Frosty, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (cartoon of course), The Santa Clause and even Gremlins! I couldn't get enough. Each year not only brought the classics and the favourites, but also the parade of new movies set to melt your hearts and rape your wallets. Sadly, they aren't all as grand as they'd lead you to believe...

This year, in the great cinematic tradition of Sugar-coated Holiday goodness, comes Fred Claus. Not quite "Bad Santa" and nowhere near "Miracle on 34th St." this film is full of surprises. We all know what Vince Vaughn can do, and in this movie he brings his A-game as Santa's older, and a bit lost, brother. The story isn't that deep...Fred needs cash fast and Santa wants his brother home for Christmas after many years away, so they make a deal. Kevin Spacey comes along for the ride as the creepy corporate villain that is dying to shut Santa down. Grab a bowl, throw in pretty lights, cute elves, a hot girl or two, some comedy and a bit of with cheese and hit frappe. Sure this recipe has been used, with variations, tons of times before.

What's different about Fred Claus is that the humor is actually funny, the sentimentality is realistic and the simple story ends up being more layered than you'd expect. There are tons of messages in this for kids AND adults...corporate greed, how to treat others, jealousy is bad and confidence. Well, this is a Christmas movie...if it didn't have messages, it wouldn't really be that kind of movie.

There is a downside to the film, with poor CG making Ludacris (rapper and actor) look like a bobble-head along with some of the other Elves. Didn't they see Lord of the Rings? Hobbits looked like Hobbits with clever camera work not silly animations. This is one of my big criticisms on film-making today and here is an example I constantly use. Did you see the original Star Wars films and love them??? Well how did you HONESTLY feel about the new ones? Yah, well those who know what I'm talking about will get me...everyone else has been successfully hypnotised by Lucas Corp.

SO ANYWAY...Fred Claus had another effect on me besides grabbing me with the all encompassing "Christmas Spirit". The thing I realised as I was walking to my car after the film was, I am 28 years old and I still REALLY love movies. I still want to believe in Santa after seeing him on the big screen, even knowing it was just an actor. I can feel joy just sitting in a cinema. I know that watching movies makes me a better person. That feeling, above all, is going to make this movie one that I will have to put on my yearly "NICE" list for holiday flicks and cherish as long as I still love movies and they still love me.

Take someone you care about to Fred Claus, be prepared for Sugar and Cheese, but believe this combo tastes better than you might expect.

3.5/5 Big Fat Red instant holiday classic.

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