Sometimes a good romantic Christmas comedy is nice and manages to fill a sort of missing piece to my marathons ('Love Actually' is thus far my personal favourite). They may not usually be my cup of tea, but they don't generally bother me either. They are often nice, heartwarming stories, especially when centered on the Christmas season, as so much of it has to do with the simple theme of love. This though... sorry to its fans, but I thought it was mostly just painful, with but ONE redeeming quality (which I'll get to in a second).
Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon) are a kinda out-there couple, who perpetually lie to their families in order to avoid them on the Christmas holidays. Instead, they take vacations far away from home for some peace, quiet, and maybe a bit of romance along the way. However, this year, their trip to Fiji is botched when all flights are cancelled, and they're caught on live TV, pretending to take a trip to help the less fortunate.
As a result of the flight being cancelled, they begrudgingly face their stressful family Christmases - four separate ones in just one day. They agree to use the word "mistletoe" as their "escape word" for when they really need to get away from their horrible families. What follows is a star-studded cast representing their families, the best of which has to be Jon Favreau as Brad's UFC fighting brother. He provided pretty much the only real laughs I got from this, and his character is a far cry from the MCU's Happy Hogan.
This cast also features some great names like Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek as Brad's parents, John Voight and Mary Steenburgen as Kate's parents, Dwight Yoakam, Tim McGraw, and perhaps a few more. However this great cast isn't quite enough to save it from just being a little too over the top silly with a seemingly very forced issue to overcome. During their visits, Brad and Kate end up bickering more and more, leading them to realize that maybe they're not as in love with each other as they might think. But this is a romantic comedy Christmas movie, so the whole thing turns out too predictable.
The real heart of this movie comes from showing us the all too familiar disfunctional family at Christmas. Brad's Dad's side is a bunch of psycho, rough and tumble brothers, Kate's Mom and her sister are a bunch of hot-for-Brad Golden Girl types, and things get pretty extreme in this case. But its all been done before and done much better, 'Christmas Vacation' being the peak of the dysfunctional family Christmas movie.
For me, this just seemed a little too slapped together and rushed to provide audiences with some sort of Christmas comedy for the year, 2008, which was not a big year for Christmas movies at all. Fans tend to sort of meet this one in the middle, and I can see it being remotely enjoyable for a toss-your-brain-out-the-door Christmas comedy. But I just can't do that with this. I felt that even 'Bad Santa' had more actual heart in it than this. This was just a little too typical as far as the love story side of things go. To each their own, but it's not one I'll be revisiting any time soon.