Fred Claus

By Mark Ramsey | 2007/11/15

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: What a holiday family comedy needs is the actor who masturbated to Anne Heche in Psycho.

Yes, Vince Vaughn had a history before Wedding Crashers that even included the stray role that didn’t depend on a glib, fast-talking, jolly joker persona. But a joker without jokes? That’s plain inexcusable, and it’s why Fred Claus is a despicable mess.


Aren’t comedies supposed to be funny? Because something tells me the writers on Fred Claus were walking a picket line around their laptops long before the strike and just in time for the final draft of what is easily one of the crappiest movies of 2007.

Vince is the also-ran brother of Santa Claus, a.k.a. “Saint Nick.” And while it’s tough being brother to a Saint, it’s even tougher being brother to a Snark.

Witness the birth of Santa Claus. As a newborn he murmurs “ho, ho, ho” – even though, as any newborn will tell you, childbirth is no laughing matter.

Is the most magical transformation the one that carries young Nick into adulthood as the bringer of toys to me-centered, consumption-obsessed children worldwide? No, it’s the one that carries a good looking young lad with a British accent into an un-accented adult Paul Giamatti, whose hangdog look of glum is as trademarked as the Coca-Cola logo his Santa image usually poses with at this time of year.

Vince is the older brother, Paul’s the younger one. But Santa looks way older than Vince. How can this be? Is it the trans-fatty cookies and milk Santa eats – or the trans-carcinogenic unfiltered Camels Santa smokes between takes?

It turns out that when you become a Saint you freeze in time as does the rest of your family and everything above Faye Dunaway’s neck. For many families, of course, it would be best if they froze in time and in some other place, but that’s another story.

Ah, the comedy flies fast and furiously: Check out the dozen Santas chasing Vince down the street. Stop me from laughing! The little elf dude can’t lift Vince’s bag. Beware my bowl full of jelly belly! Watch those Ninja elves – because if all other modern comedy cliches fail, just bring out the Ninjas. Look! It’s the inevitable dance sequence where Vince teaches all the elves the lessons of Footloose, because if there’s one thing you need on the toy assembly line, it’s “jazz hands.”


It’s enough to make me want to put a finger aside my nose and up the chimney I rose and up the putrid stench of Fred Claus rose with me.

You know there’s a writer somebody inside this mess because only a real Hollywood scribe would infuse a family flick with numerous references to addiction and treatment. This subtext climaxes – if such it can be called – in a “Siblings Anonymous” meeting where the brothers of Sly Stallone, Bill Clinton, and Alec Baldwin are in a circle or circle-jerk or circle of jerks. Who can tell?

There’s a fine line between a movie the whole family should see and one no family wants to see, and this time the line is striped like a candy cane. Unfortunately the striped line should surround the cineplex like Police Tape, because Fred Claus is most definitely the scene of a crime.

The credits are festooned with holly, but for you and me is a big lump of coal.

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