Sunday, December 28, 2008

Fred Claus

Fred Claus
Originally uploaded by AsceticMonk
I rented Fred Claus because I wanted to see Vince Vaughn playing with some elves, I really didn’t intend to like it – but I did. I really, really did. Much more than I should like a silly Christmas movie that is all surface and fun. However, it’s in that layer of gloss and frivolity that an entertaining and enjoyable comedy waits, you just have to accept the Christmas roots and mythology that is set up in the film and if you can do that you are good to go.

The precise reason Fred Claus is so enjoyable is because it’s about the mythology behind Christmas, but it is not about Santa Claus, it’s about his older brother Fred and “naughty” children everywhere, because you see by growing up with Nicholas his saintly younger brother Fred became bitter at being overshadowed and thus became naughty himself. Fred is the black sheep, the dirty laundry that the Claus institution cannot afford to air. However, being an actual saint Nicholas has a soft spot for Fred and when Fred calls on Nick for a helping hand Nick offers him a job at the North Pole – this turns out to be the worst timing possible for Nick as Clyde an efficiency expert arrives at the North Pole and threatens to shut Santa down if he can’t meet the impossible goals Clyde sets for him.

I will admit freely that my enjoyment of Fred Claus was partially guaranteed by having Kevin Spacey cast as the villain. My enjoyment of the film was cemented once it was revealed that the final important plot device of the film was a Superman cape and Kevin Spacey declaring that he wore his glasses because Clark Kent wore glasses. David Dobkin and screenwriters thus put two of my favorite things (Spacey & Superman) on screen together and it’s like a disease – part of me is going to love it no matter what (don’t even get me started on my conflicted feeling and constantly changing opinions on Superman Returns).

This film would be nothing though without the believable relationship between Giamatti and Vaughn as Nick and Fred; perhaps I can identify with Fred because I am a middle child who on some level always feels a little upstaged by the siblings on both sides of me, but I felt that Fred and Nick genuinely had a loving, yet conflicting relationship that sums up so perfectly what so many siblings face when they love each other but can’t manage to each exist without somehow injuring the other. Granted this is pumped up in the world of fantasy, but the underpinnings are very real to anyone that has a close sibling.

All in all, Fred Claus is not the holiday classic that Elf is but it is by no means a stupid holiday movie. I quite enjoyed it and I think many other movie goers would as well.

Director: David Dobkin
Writer: Dan Fogleman
Fred Claus: Vince Vaughn
Nick (Santa) Claus: Paul Giamatti
Willie: John Michael Higgins
Annette Claus: Miranda Richardson
Wanda: Rachel Weisz
Mother Claus: Kathy Bates
Charlene: Elizabeth Banks
Clyde Northcut: Kevin Spacey
Slam: Bobb’e J Thompson

Nick 'Santa' Claus: I never realized. You hate me.
Fred Claus: I don't hate you, Nick. I just wish you'd never been born.

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