Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fred Claus DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Santa’s and Sibling Spar in Holiday Comedy Coming to DVD

This is a sitcom with plenty of failings, from a flawed premise to questionable casting to a dearth of mirth to lasting way too long. The film stars Vince Vaughn in the title role as Santa’s ne’er-do-well elder brother, opposite Paul Giamatti, who looks a little out of his element as St. Nick.

The kid-friendly plotline revolves around Santa’s generously offering his broke brother a job managing his Naughty or Nice Department during the busy holiday season. Fred bids adieu to his practically fed-up girlfriend, Wanda (Rachel Weisz) and to his orphaned next-door neighbor, Slam (Bobb’e J. Thompson), and sets out for the North Pole from Chicago.

But upon his arrival, the slacker throws a monkey wrench in Santa’s streamlined facility by encouraging DJ Donnie (Ludacris) to play distracting dance music instead of holiday hymns and jingles. Soon, the elves are partying instead of making toys, and Santa falls way behind schedule. Then, nosy Mr. Northcutt (Kevin Spacey), a Scrooge-like efficiency expert roaming the grounds, threatens to shut down the operation entirely.

To top it all off, by Christmas Eve, suddenly sick Santa is worried about the prospect of disappointing all the children around the world eagerly-anticipating the impending arrival of their presents. The solution is no surprise, as he asks his brother to deliver the gifts by sleigh for him. Of course, Fred makes the most of this opportunity to overhaul his loser image, stepping in to save the day for a fairytale finale.

Don’t make the mistake of misreading the tacked-on happily-ever-after ending as a stamp of approval for a mean-spirited production, its PG rating notwithstanding. Among the movie’s tasteless moments is when Santa slides down the chimney of a Jewish family but departs without leaving any gifts for the children because they’re of the wrong faith.

Equally insensitive is the picture’s depiction of its two African-American characters as reprobates. DJ Donnie, the only black elf, willfully screws up at his job, while little Slam is so morally-unprincipled that he pickpockets Santa on Christmas Day, as if to suggest a genetic predisposition towards criminality. Ha-ha.

A feel-bad Christmas flick, not exactly the way anybody would want to kickoff the holiday season.

Poor (0 stars)

Rated PG for mild epithets and crude humor.

Running time: 116 minutes

Studio: Warner Home Video

DVD Extras: Director’s commentary and additional scenes.

To see a trailer for Fred Claus, visit:

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