Brad (Vaughn) and Kate (Witherspoon) have all the benefits of a long-term relationship without any of the commitment. They’ve even managed to avoid the annual holiday family festivities. Instead, each Christmas Brad and Kate escape to a different tropical locale in lieu of spending the day with any of their many families. But when inclement weather thwarts their plans, they’re forced to forgo paradise for their parents.
Four Christmases follows the couple as they visit one dysfunctional family after another, with each family revealing some new embarrassing tidbit about their respective progeny. As Brad and Kate learn more about each other’s repressed memories, they realize they don’t know each other as well as they thought. And as their relationship comes under scrutiny, the comedy starts to dwindle.
The film starts out delivering the laughs. Vaughn is a babbling brook of funny with his trademark pell-mell patter. But as Brad’s relationship with Kate starts to suffer, so does the humor. If not for the first-class cast, Christmases would be the equivalent of getting socks for Christmas.
From Robert Duvall as Brad’s white-trash father to Sissy Spacek as his cradle-robbing mother, half the fun of Christmases comes from the parade of noteworthy actors that serve as Brad and Kate’s families. But while it’s fun guessing which comedy veteran will grace the screen next, it’s not enough to save Christmases. Unnecessarily extended stints at the family homes and diminishing second-half humor prove that Four Christmases was about two Christmases too many.