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This week:
Four Christmases

Filthy says:
"Santa's gonna be pissed."

We all need some warmth this Christmas. I don't mean literal warmth from a furnace. Although, it would be pretty damn sweet if our landlord fixed the boiler for our apartment building before any more of the seniors die of frost. It never gets below 45 in our one-bedroom in the basement, though. And he's giving us ten dollars in Wendy's coupons every month the boiler doesn't work. I've saved up twenty bucks worth so far and I think I know where Christmas dinner will be.

What I mean by warmth is that comfortable, fuzzy feeling you get from shared love and joy during the holiday season, or from sniffing mineral spirits in a confined space. Sure, most of the holiday cheer is manufactured horseshit. It only keeps you warm for thirty minutes or an hour, about as long as it takes for everyone to get bored with the fruit punch at the Hancock Fabric Christmas party and start rasslin' among the calico bolts. That warmth usually disappears about the same time someone dry-humps the sewing mannequins.

Or, the warmth fades away when that creepy Rudolph TV special ends and you're left with a handful of important questions about the relevance of your existence. Well, hell that question comes up even during the commercials for Skittles and when waking up every morning. What good, real holiday cheer does is beat back the demons of our miserable and insignificant lives long enough to brighten the season. It has the power to make us buy cheap plastic gadgets for our families and to stop sneaking out in the middle of the night to shit in our asshole neighbor's mailbox. Oh, hell yeah, he still deserves it every fucking day, but when you're warm inside from the power of the birth of Christ you can be generous with your heart and time, but not your feces.

This year more than any I remember, we need a little warmth to bury all the ugly reality so deep we don't find it until January. I want Christmas cheer so powerful it makes us forget that we're falling into the mouth of a gnashing economic apocalypse, that the rich are getting rescued and the poor are getting fucked, that we can't win the wars we start, that people are buying guns at record rates and that the cable company finally realized I was getting a nudie Cinemax channel for free. Okay, it was the one where the girls look like they have have cement in their tits and the simulated sex is as authentic as leather jackets made in Bangalore. Still, it was all I had. This year, We need a Christmas fucking miracle.

Four Christmases fails completely. It just sucks ass: your ass, my ass, the dog's ass. And when it's done, it grabs you by the back of the head and makes you suck a stranger's filthy ass. It's a phony-ass holiday movie with no message, no warmth, no good cheer, just assholes whining and bitching about their families.

Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn are two cartoonishly outsized and self-absorbed consumerist yuppies with a cold, minimalist home and a lot of really nice stuff that lets us know they are rich assholes. The Christmas tradition is that rich assholes are converted into generous, ego-less sweethearts by some miraculous event. It happened to the Grinch, to Scrooge and to Mr. Potter. That's the shit that makes people feel warm. If you're gonna mess with that formula, you better have a damn good reason. Four Christmases doesn't. It's got no reason other than to cram in bickering, bitching, whining and vomit. In the end, Witherspoon and Vaughn keep all their fancy shit, all their money and hate the families they are forced to spend the holidays with. They are two assholes at the start, and three assholes at the end.

The director, Seth Gordon, once made an awesome documentary about the world of competitive classic-video-gaming called The King of Kong. Honest to God, it's as good as a goat that pisses cold beer. In Four Christmases, though, he is as lost as the three-year-old I saw eating greeting cards in the mall. He has nothing to say here, except, Hey, look at these assholes hate their families. Still watching? Well, they're still hating.

I didn't give a dog's nut for Witherspoon or Vaughn. I don't think I was supposed to. We are shown early on how unclever, uninteresting and unlikable they are. Throughout the movie, they are never in trouble. The only conflict comes from a manufactured moment two-thirds of the way in when, after being puked on, Witherspoon decides she doesn't hate kids after all and wants to have bunch. So they break up. Great! Fantastic! That's a warm Christmas message: these fucking yuppies will not procreate.

Sadly, in the end, they have a baby without changing into better, funnier or more interesting people. What the fuck sort of holiday cheer is that? How is that supposed to warm our cockles? If assholes were redeemed by having children, there would be way fewer Britneys, Courtneys and Logans in our schools, no oversized SUVs idling in the no-parking zones outside, and no parents demanding "Intelligent Design" be taught in science class.

At the start of Four Christmases, Witherspoon and Vaughn's annual plan to ditch their families for the holiday and escape to a tropical paradise are ruined by bad weather. Worse, TV cameras capture the couple waiting at the airport, and their families see them. What sort of assholes watch midday local news? Mostly unemployed layabouts who either need training to work in dental offices or a personal injury lawyer. I would avoid them too.

Both Witherspoon and Vaughn have divorced parents, hence the Four Christmases. Three of the families are absolutely miserable stereotypes about as funny as an old ladies' pap smear. I mean the unfunny ones, not the ones with hilarious cell structures. The fourth is just dull. Stuck visiting family, Witherspoon and Vaughn learn about each other's pasts, where they--surprise!--were fat, or not as popular as they pretend. The families are wacky and full of classist cliches such as Vaughn's white trash dad and two UFC wrestling brothers. The trashy children and wives like hors d'oeuvres with mayonnaise and Cheez Whiz. Oh shit, that's what passes for funny? You know, stores still sell Cheez Whiz because people actually like it, and sometimes it's all they can afford. We used to sell shitloads of it at the Family Dollar. When not being classist, Four Christmases relies on meanness and vulgarity. There are repeated incidents of "humorous" vomiting, and one in which Witherspoon beats the shit out of some kids for a reason that, in retrospect, makes almost no sense.

Witherspoon and Vaughn aren't funny. They're just consistently uptight assholes who don't smile and complain a lot. Neither becomes likable and neither is doing more than going through the motions of a hollow existence. Their families never rise to the occasion, either. There isn't a funny cameo or hilarious character in the mess. Mostly, they are just bad outlines of characters that haven't been filled out or punched up. Hell, there's even a "randy" grandmother. I expected her to start rapping.

In one truly sad setting, Gordon exploits one of the stars of his documentary, Steve Wiebe, in a cameo. Wiebe doesn't speak or act. He's just there. Was someone supposed to be thrilled by his appearance? First, Four Christmases is not going to draw much of the same audience. And those who do recognize Wiebe have no reason to be thrilled to see him, given that he does nothing but appear. In fact, it pissed me off. First, Wiebe seems like a decent guy, so why patronize him? Second, it turns him into a Hollywood creation instead of an everyman, and instead of enhancing this movie, sort of fuck up the message and intent of King of Kong. Wiebe is now just Gordon's token. His token of poor judgment and taste.

What a shitty way to start the holiday season. People are losing their jobs, banks are closing, the rich are ripping off the government, and Seth Gordon thinks we give a shit whether two asshole yuppies can be happy bringing another mouth to feed into their rarefied world. Baby, it's cold outside and inside. One Finger.

Want to tell Filthy Something?



Shawn Edwards of Fox-TV

Twilight is "Epic! Sexy, stylish and altogether the coolest movie of the year!"

Four Christmases is "The funniest movie of the year! Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon are terrific. The perfect holiday treat!"

Filthy's Reading
Philip Roth - Indignation

Listening to
Wall of Voodoo - Seven Days in Sammytown


x American Splendor