Saturday, 19 September 2020
Fred Clause
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Wednesday, 14 November 2007 00:00
Along with the first few snowflakes in the sky comes another sign that winter is fast approaching – the slew of holiday movies ready to take over the box office. It’s unfortunate that Christmas movies these days are cobbled together as quickly and thoughtlessly as toys on an elf assembly line. The latest and, well, latest of these films is Fred Claus, a mean-spirited comedy that succeeds at being neither mean nor spirited.

Watching Fred Claus it was hard to believe that such an amazingly talented cast could have signed on to such an amazingly torturous movie. Paul Giamatti; Kevin Spacey; Rachel Weisz; Kathy Bates; the list of credits reads like a list of Oscar nominees but plays like a bad television special. The only excuse I can think of is that the script was far better in pre-production when these fine folks joined the cast.

After all, the concept at least had potential. Santa Claus’s jovial perfection causes sibling rivalry between he and his delinquent older brother. Vince Vaughn plays Fred Claus who can never seem to steal the spotlight away from the do-gooder Nick. But it gets worse! Nicholas becomes a saint, and apparently with sainthood comes immortality for both Santa and his family. This concept raises a lot of questions since there would be enough immortal saints to populate a small country. I wonder where Joan of Arc or John the Baptist would choose to live out eternity on earth? Kind of throws a wrench in the idea of Heaven doesn’t it? But of course none of these issues pop-up, much to relief of parents in the audience I’m sure.

Forced to live out an eternity as big brother to a seasonal icon, Fred becomes increasingly bitter and isolates himself from his family. Debt and a bad business deal force him to take a trip to the North Pole to beg for money from his softhearted sibling. Vince Vaughn tries hard to have fun with this role, but even he can’t inject enough charm to make it work. How many times can one man get attacked by ninja elves and get a laugh? The answer is ZERO – it isn’t funny! Not even once! Maybe it’s due to oversensitivity caused by my own shorter-than-average stature, but elf or midget jokes just aren’t funny!

Paul Giamatti should be nominated for sainthood simply for being the only thing that keeps this movie going. It is amazing what he does with the role of Santa Claus given what little he had to work with. Unfortunately you can tell that he was probably struggling not to break contract and walk off the set. Kevin Spacey probably would have stormed off right behind him and then maybe this ho-ho-horrible mess could have been avoided. Now there’s a real Christmas miracle!

The movie has one saving grace and that is a hilarious scene in which Fred Claus attends a meeting for Recovering Siblings Anonymous. Joining him are Roger Clinton, Frank Stallone and Stephen Baldwin, all brothers living in the shadow of their more famous siblings. This is such a great idea that it could easily be a movie on its own, maybe a “mockumentary”.

I didn’t like Fred Claus because it is too mean spirited to be a good children’s movie, and not mean enough to be a good adult movie. Unlike Elf, which appeals to all ages, or the Grinchy, grown up Bad Santa, this one just straddles the fence and ends up falling off into the yellow snow.

Fred Claus is a disappointing mess of a film that is a bigger waste than all that Christmas wrapping paper. I give it 2 out of 10 stars.