Fred Claus (Vince Vaughn) has an enormous cross to bear; he has always had to live in the shadow of his younger brother Nicholas (Paul Giamatti), who has become the saintly St Nicholas, living in the North Pole, tirelessly running his workshop. Fred is a sharp-shooting con-man whose luck has run out. Even his girlfriend Wanda (Rachel Weisz) has given up on him. When Fred ends up in gaol owing money, Nicholas agrees to help him, on the condition he comes to the North Pole to help. Fred is quickly irked by the wholesome atmosphere in Santa's workshop and causes chaos, jeopardizing the upcoming Christmas season. To top it off, a sour Efficiency Expert (Kevin Spacey) is checking the books with a view to closing down Christmas forever.
Review by Louise Keller:
With not even its excellent cast to recommend it, Fred Claus is an ill-conceived, charm-less film that will delight neither youngsters nor their parents. Why actors of the calibre of Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti, Kathy Bates, Rachel Weisz and Kevin Spacey took roles in this lack-lustre green and gold foray into Christmas entertainment is a mystery, but let's hope the fat man in the red suit at least fills their Hollywood stockings with plenty of green dosh. From tedium to schmalz, the film tries to be all things to everyone, and succeeds in none.
It begins long, long ago in the middle of a forest, when the fattest, most saintly baby ever seen is born. Nick doesn't cry, but says ho-ho and pretty soon his older brother Fred gets pretty annoyed playing second fiddle to his saintly brother. The next leap takes us to present day Chicago, where Vaughn's irresponsible, angry ratbag Fred can't make an honest living or maintain his relationship to lovely meter-maid Wanda (Rachel Weisz). To cast Vaughn and Giamatti as brothers requires a great leap of faith, but to cast Vaughn as Giamatti's older brother is even more incredible (Vaughn and director David Dobkin previously worked together in The Wedding Crashers). Dan Fogelman's script cannot make sense of anything, and even ideas that might have been cute (Siblings Anonymous group therapy and a Superman cape for Kevin Spacey's bitter and twisted Efficiency Expert) fall flat.
The only subplot that has a smidgeon of credibility is the relationship between Fred and 11 year old Bobb'e J. Thompson's black street-kid Slam; the romance between Head Elf Willie (John Michael Higgins) and Santa's sassy Little Helper Charlene (Elizabeth Banks) is silly, and it is hard to understand what Wanda could possibly see in Fred. As to the central relationship between the two brothers ('The best brother in the world,' is the promise that Fred makes to Nick), we unfortunately don't care for them, or the fact that Kathy Bates' Mother Claus expects him to be 'more like his brother' .
The production design is derivative (Santa's workshop looks as though it is a dead ringer for Tim Allen's set in the Santa Claus series), there's not enough slapstick to amuse the kids and the story is, well, boring. 'The world is what you make it' may be the film's moral, but this cinematic fantasy world is a big yawn.
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FRED CLAUS (PG)
CAST: Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti, Kevin Spacey, John Michael Higgins, Miranda Richardson, Rachel Weisz, Kathy Bates
PRODUCER: David Dobkin, Jessie Nelson, Joel Silver
DIRECTOR: David Dobkin
SCRIPT: Dan Fogelman
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Remi Adefarasin
EDITOR: Mark Livolsi
MUSIC: Christophe Beck
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Allan Cameron
RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 15, 2007