We are all in need of a good laugh and it is with the anticipation of a new holiday film that we all mentally compose a list of what we so desire: tons of humor, love, good food, presents, and....the big f word: family. And that is exactly what Four Christmases serves, in big-- heaping-- servings.
All Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon) want to do this Christmas Holiday is take a trip to Fuji while their families believe they are helping feed starving children in Zimbabwe or knitting hats for homeless babies in the Alps. Unfortunately this Christmas, due to some serious weather issues, Brad and Kate are forced to visit each parent (both divorced) and take their flight in the morning, thus putting the film and the predetermined worst day of their lives into action.
While at times the film is slightly exaggerated and unrealistic, not only did Kate (Witherspoon) go to "fat" camp but was also picked on from grades K-6, and gets clothes-lined in a moon bounce at her mothers house by 5 year- olds. Vaughn's past and holiday experience is no less dramatic, he re-named himself after finding out he was named for the place he was conceived in--Orlando, readily gives in to getting the crap kicked out of him (and this is no kiddy wrestling match) by his meat head brothers and almost falls off the roof of his father's house installing a satellite dish.
Brad and Kate are surrounded by, what they believe to be, dysfunctional relationships, Kate's sister's husband had a colorful youth while Brad's brother and his wife barely talk. She also spends the entire Christmas in the kitchen with the baby in her arms as he drinks beer. But what they eventually come to realize is how open each individual is with their partner and how unbelievably well they know each other, unlike picture-perfect Brad and Kate.
But unfortunately, the couple strain to compliment the other, with Witherspoon not up to par in comparison to the long-time comedic Vaughn. We are not entirely convinced they love each other even though they are both very “logistical over emotional” people. Glimpse roles played by Sissy Spacek (Vaughn’s mother) and Jon Voight (Reese’s father) add some emotional depth to the simplistic plot where audiences undoubtedly know how much Brad and Kate are loved by the families they hide from.
We all may not like the families we come from but we unconditionally love them for who they are and how they have shaped, for better or worse, the individuals we become. At times we forget what's important in life, and we set up boundaries within our lives to keep within our safe zone. But what films such as Four Christmases do, is remind us that life needs to be lived, to let what happens happen, and that the greatest gift we can give is ourselves.