There’s no time like the holidays to spend some quality time with those you truly care about. Friends and family are the most important people in our lives no matter how much they may get on our nerves; and when it comes time for the winter holidays, it’s time to forgive and forget. There is always that one sibling, though, who has a knack for never letting you forget that you didn’t quite live up to the same standards that they have in life. Mom and Dad see they’ve accomplished more then you. Your friends wonder how they got so much further in life then you did. Everyone else in the family constantly asks “why can’t you be more like so and so?” Well, I am going to imagine that the pressure must be one hundred times greater and more annoying when your brother is Santa Claus.
Fred Claus (Vince Vaughn) doesn’t really have a lot going for him in his loser-style life in Chicago. He is a repo man that is in serious debt and focuses on things that aren’t nearly as important as the things he should be concerned with. It’s also Christmas time and Fred is getting more and more pissed off with every corner he turns and sees the face of his overly successful brother. It’s not that Fred’s brother is hounding him or following him, but how can he not spot the face of Nicholas in every store window. Nicholas is of course better known to everyone as Santa Claus.
Torn apart from his family and always being quite distant, Fred is desperate for a fifty-thousand dollar loan and knows his only resort is to ask his brother Nicholas for it. Fred wants to start an Off Track Betting site and needs the money to make his dream come true (among other things), but there’s no way he can get it on his own. Nicholas gives in to his brother’s request but puts a condition that Fred must work in his workshop with the elves. Not only will this teach Fred some responsibility by earning it, but Nicholas is also hoping it will teach his brother a little something about family.
Well, I don’t really think this will end up in my revolving cycle of Christmas films that I watch every year. Let’s just say that the idea is there and director David Dobkin really wanted it to be a “feel good” Christmas film, but it fails by trying to be an over the top comedy. Sadly, it fails at being an over the top comedy as well by just trying way too hard. There are a few scenes now and then that will make you laugh, but not too much more then a giggle. That upsets me too because I love Paul Giamatti since he has proven time and again how brilliant of an actor he is in any role. Vince Vaughn has shown me on numerous occasions just how funny he can be. But in Fred Claus, both men’s talent seems wasted and used in the wrong concept.
Fred Claus really has an interesting concept by allowing us to look at Santa Claus as more then just this one human being with no other following except for Mrs. Claus. It’s cool seeing him have different conversations rather then just “Who’s naughty or nice?” and “What would you like for Christmas little girl?” To make the film have more volume then just Santa and his family; a great problem was thrown in by an inspector looking to shut down Santa’s whole operation. It just misses the mark by not making me really have a Christmas feel or giving me a lot of laughter that should come from the quality of actors in the film.
The film is shown in either 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen or Full Screen formats. Both are shown nicely with some great colors that are necessary when trying to depict Christmas and the North Pole.
The film is heard in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and it also comes through very nicely with some awesome sound effects from the elves workshop filling the room and all dialogue being heard clearly. One of the things that come through so prominently is the musical score which got a lot of special attention as you’ll find out from Dobkin in the commentary.
Audio Commentary – Listen in on the commentary track with director David Dobkin. Dobkin does a decent job here and gives a lot of information at what they were going for theme-wise by making it somewhat dark and humorously sinister while also making it very funny and holiday oriented. He does say some funny stuff by a few of the random things he reveals or just says that even cracks him up from time to time. I mean if you listen to the whole thing; you’ll hear him complimenting himself constantly. It’s not bad, but I would have liked to have had Giamatti and Vaughn sitting down with him.
Deleted Scenes – There are thirteen deleted scenes in all, some of which were deleted totally and others which are alternates to those left in the film. Some of them are kind of funny while others not so much. All of them are worth checking out though.
Trailers – Speed Racer, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and Jack Frost
Quite a shame that I had so much hope for this film and it ended up dropping to the ground and shattering like a Christmas ornament. Fred Claus tries way too hard to be a hilarious and a happy-go-lucky Christmas film both at the same time. It’s almost as if Dobkin took 1985’s Santa Claus: The Movie and tried to make it as funny as possible with old-style physical comedy and cartoon sound effects (oh yes, they’re in there). Overall it just isn’t that funny and you don’t get the same feelings of Christmas that you get with It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street. The magic just isn’t there and it’s almost as if it is a Christmas flick that could have been released at any time throughout the year and gotten the same attention that it does near the end of the year. The special features on the DVD aren’t too much either. The deleted scenes are alright, but the commentary track gets old fast. If you really want to see it, then try a rental first but that’s all you should even consider because this is not one to throw into the Christmas collection.
Now excuse while scrounge around for my copies Home Alone, Die Hard, and Enemy of The State?
Warner Home Video presents Fred Claus. Directed by: David Dobkin. Starring: Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti, Miranda Richardson, John Michael Higgins, Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Weisz, Kathy Bates, Kevin Spacey. Written by: Jessie Nelson & Dan Fogelman. Running time: 116 minutes. Rating: PG. Released on DVD: November 25, 2008. Available at Amazon