"It will make you long for the subtle artistry of "The Santa Clause 3."
As a Christmas offering, 'Fred Claus' stinks like a two-year-old bottle of eggnog. One wonders what made producer Joel Silver think this bizarre mix of incompatible genres would be a potential hit. Santa may have to skip his house for every winter holiday to come.There are several questions you might ask if a holiday movie isn't working. Here are just a few: * How many performers in the film are slumming Oscar-winners (At my count, three: Rachel Weisz, Kathy Bates and Kevin Spacey) or nominees (Two: Paul Giamatti and Miranda Richardson)? * Why does Fred Claus (Vince Vaughan) look younger than his little brother Nicholas "Santa Claus" (Giamatti) even though the movie is a fantasy? * How can Elizabeth Banks wear revealing miniskirts when she's supposed to be working at the North Pole? * Why don't the songs fit the action very well and what are Elvis Presley, Rolling Stones and Byrds classics doing on an otherwise dull soundtrack? * Why did I receive a watch for Christmas that accurately ticks off every one of the film's 117 sluggish, bloated minutes?
Because of its mix-and-match storyline and smug tone (courtesy of "Wedding Crashers" director David Dobkin), "Fred Claus" leads to more heartburn than heartwarming. Vaughan's Fred is envious of the adoration and success his brother has received, while he toils as a financially-strapped repo man.
When one of his get-rich-quick schemes lands him in the slammer, Santa and Mrs. Claus (Richardson) force Fred to come to the North Pole and work for his bail money.
How an immortal repo man can get an Illinois driver's license, which Fred needs for his trip to Santa's factory, and mingle with mere humans is never really explained. And after a few minutes, it's impossible to care.
The lazy, boorish Fred tries to help the elves lighten up, even if it makes them miss their quota. These don't go well with the efficiency expert (Spacey) a board has hired to improve Santa's operation.
Screenwriter Dan Fogelman (working from a scenario by producer Jessie Nelson) thinks this is funny. Perhaps if he spent more time trying to make the story make sense instead of featuring Vaughan in not one, but two clumsy, protracted dance scenes, the film might entertain. Casting John Michael Higgins, an actor of normal height as a little elf (through the use of shoddy special effects) as Vaughan's dancing partner doesn't help.
The filmmakers attempt to appeal to both children and adults and wind up losing both quickly. Kids aren't probably going to get a sequence where Frank Stallone, Fred Claus, Roger Clinton and Stephen Baldwin (who demonstrates why Alec gets more work) have a support group for less famous siblings. And adults will either wince or laugh through the fulsome scenes where Dobkin ham-fistedly tries to tug on our heart strings.It's a good thing that "Elf" and "A Charlie Brown Christmas" are readily available on home video. Silver and his compatriots would have done better to leave a lump of coal for anyone who pays to see "Fred Claus."