In his third film with director David Dobkin (Clay Pigeons, The Wedding Crashers) Vince Vaughn trades far too heavily on his familiar wise-guy charms in this cloying Joel The Matrix Silver-produced Christmas offering.
Dysfunctional doofus Fred is on a misguided mission to raise public money for a planned casino when he gets sent to prison. On his release he is forced to move in with his accommodating big brother Nick (Paul Giamatti). But Nick’s no ordinary brother, he’s none other than Father Christmas himself, and although his brother’s messing around with the elves in his North Pole workshop sorely tests Santa’s good humour, the importance of fraternal bonding at Christmas eventually shines through.
Vaughn’s loudmouth persona is always watchable, but the excessive two hour running time is too much for Fred Claus’ target demographic (tiny kids). Set in the airless gingerbread-village familiar from Jeannot Szwarc’s dismal 1985 Santa Claus, Fred Claus gets regularly bogged down in spurious mythologising about the fat man’s backstory, while the lame satire of corporate shenanigans never sits properly with the broad fraternal feuding at the story’s core.
Various real-life misunderstood siblings, including Frank Stallone and Roger Clinton are trotted out to unfunny effect, while Kevin Spacey and Rachel Weisz embarrass themselves as a bespectacled North Pole bureaucrat and a cockney meter maid respectively. Seeing Vaughn and Giamatti labouring with such crude slapstick set-ups is enough to make a Scrooge out of anyone. Bad Santa.
General release from Fri 30 Nov.