Upscale couple Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon) are forced to spend Christmas with all four divorced parents in one day after their plane is grounded. The duo are interviewed on television about the massive weather snafu and, in doing so, are caught in a lie about their travel plans. What are the odds everyone in their family would happen to be watching the news at that moment? Pretty damn high, apparently!
This is one of my favorite Christmas films and it definitely qualifies as annual viewing at our house. Heck, it even features a cameo by the main alum of one of the most hallowed holiday movies of all time – Peter Billingsley, Ralphie from A Christmas Story! He doesn’t get his eye shot out, but he does get to argue with a cranky Brad at the airport.
Don’t be fooled by the (brief) presence of Ralphie. While it is tame, it’s not exactly a family film. A seemingly skeevy hookup happens before the title credits even roll and some of the best lines would definitely land someone on the Naughty List. (I.e. “I don’t want to speak ill of your mother on Christmas, but she’s a common street whore.”) Bad Santa tops my list, so this is right up my alley. If you like a little whiskey with your warm fuzzies, you’ll be sure to love this film as well.
The pairing of Reese and Vince is an odd one, but they pull off this surprising casting stunt with aplomb and the actors (who also share producer credits) were smart enough to surround themselves with an all-star cast. Brad’s family consists of the outstandingly grouchy Robert Duvall as Howard, Brad’s father and his UFC-trained brothers come in the form of Jon Favreau as Denver and Tim McGraw as Dallas. Denver’s wife, Susan (Katy Mixon), comes close to stealing the show with her hilarious performance. Don’t forget Sissy Spacek as Paula, Brad’s mother and stop number three on Brad and Kate’s holiday tour of duty. Patrick Van Horn is a hoot as Brad’s former friend who’s now married to his mom. How’s that for an “Eww” factor?
Dear Santa, Please give me more Susan and Denver for Christmas. Love, Jenna
Kate’s icy mother Marilyn is played to perfection by Mary Steenburgen, with Broadway alum Kristin Chenoweth as her flirty sister, Courtney. Nutty aunts Sarah (Carol Kane) and Donna (Colleen Camp), along with stalwart father Creighton (Jon Voight) round out her crew. Brad’s family doesn’t corner the “Eww” market – Dwight Yoakam slides into his role as greasy Pastor Phil, who happens to be romancing Kate’s mom.
The movie flows effortlessly as classic holiday tunes sparkle in the background. There are several laugh-out-loud moments, including a wacky sequence in a Jump Jump, which I believe to be the most unique use of a pregnancy pee stick in a film. I also live for the priceless (and appropriately named) Taboo game they play during a scene that goes awry at Paula’s house.
Nice try on the Easter Egg pastels, ladies – but that’s the wrong holiday!
Kate and Brad are happily ensconced in their devil-may-care, affluent, child-free lifestyle, with Brad professing, “If there’s one thing we’ve learned from being forced to be around our families today, it’s the dangers of procreating.” So when the film wrapped up with two becoming parents, I felt disappointed. It would’ve been so refreshing to see the unrepentant hedonists remain true to themselves instead of being swayed by the traditional path. It also seems unbelievable that they would’ve spent all that time finally bonding with their families on Christmas, only to hide Kate’s pregnancy a year later. But, as Brad’s dad is fond of saying, “You can’t spell ‘families’ without ‘lies.’ Go ahead, try it.”
Don’t worry, booze will make it all better!
All in all, it’s an entertainingly fun twist on the usual holiday plot. And you’ll surely be too drunk on brandy-spiked eggnog to care about the minor plot inconsistencies.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Denver and Dallas beat the crap out of Brad. (Real name? Orlando!)
Take a Drink: every time Kate and Brad mumble and falter when they try to explain to their families where they’ve been during previous holidays.
Take a Shot: in honor of Ralphie!
Take a Drink (or several): as you squabble with your own family over choosing the best scene in this awesome flick. Happy Holidays!