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Fred Claus


Stars: Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti, Rachel Weisz, Miranda Richardson, Kevin Spacey, Kathy Bates, John Michael Higgins, Elizabeth Banks, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges, Trevor Peacock, Stephen Baldwin, Frank Stallone, Allan Corduner

Director: David Dobkin

Deck the halls with boughs of hokum: Vaughn is back to his motormouth best (or worst, depending on your inclination) as the rapscallion older brother of Nick (Santa) Claus (a shaggy, padded-out Giamatti). Both of them have been around for several hundred years, as a saint's family never ages - although grey, grandfatherly Giamatti seems to have overtaken Vaughn somewhere along the centuries.

Well, at any rate, Fred, now a shady repo man, gets into debt and, unable to contact his girlfriend (Weisz - why is it that some British actresses sound more convincing with an American accent than (as here) their own?) gets in touch with Nick, who agrees to bail bro out as long as he comes to the North Pole to work with the elves on Christmas presents. Naturally, Fred brings chaos and anarchy to everything he touches.

An uneasy mix of sentimentality and humour that leaves a vaguely nasty aftertaste, the colourful but technically below-par romp does have a couple of good sequences, notably one in which in which a group of real-life quasi-famous men lament being in the shadow of their better-known brothers (a few more brothers here, though, would have done no harm).

Vaughn is, as usual, like a squib that won't go out, Spacey hams unashamedly as the efficiency expert sent to assess Santa's operation, and the rest of a far-too-distinguished cast look vaguely tense and ill-at-ease, like actors who had signed their contracts before reading the script. And why must all American comedies just now be so long?

One might also ask how, if the elves make all the presents themselves, they cope with puppies and kittens. But maybe Baron Frankenstein was on hand to help with that one.

David Quinlan

USA 2007. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Technicolor.
116 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 01 Dec 2007