Fred Claus’ pouts and I’m telling you why

Aaron Helfferich and Aaron Helfferich

It’s that time of year when the jingle of Christmas gets in everyones spirits. That is true unless you name is Fred Claus. Ever since he was a child, Fred has forever lived in the shadow of his younger brother Nick. To the world, Nick is known as Santa Claus and no one knows Fred.

Oddly enough, the director of “Wedding Crashers” has decided to jolly our spirits with this untold Christmas tale. Wrapped and packaged in what looks to be gold paper and a scarlet bow, the film “Fred Claus” unfolds with an ensemble cast that seems lost and incapable of telling what should be an uplifting emotional tale.

Wise-cracking Vince Vaughn stars as Fred. With Paul Giamatti as the famous younger brother, and Kevin Spacey as the villainous businessman putting Santa’s operation under termination watch, it seems that we should expect much more than another carbon copy Christmas film. As it turns out, assumptions far exceed the integrity of this film.

For starters, the showcase acting talent goes embarrassingly wasted. Giamatti’s performance is hidden under the image of a jolly face and a fat suit, while Spacey seems to be re-enacting his enormously stellar Lex Luthor role from “Superman Returns” in a very pitiful manner. On an equal balance, Vaughn, as the bitter big brother, remains as predictable as usual, while reciting lines that feed to the laughs rather than his character. In this case, it was wrong to assume the humor from films like “Wedding Crashers” or “The Break Up” would prevail in a genial holiday tale.

For a film that works off of cheap cutesy gags, it is a pleasant surprise to see a last-minute theme that tugs on the emotions of the holiday spirit. Only when it wants to, “Fred Claus” has the ability to leave a sweet and simple message with its clever idea. Sadly, after an overstayed welcome, it seems long overdue by the time it rolls around to it.

The Review

Grade: C-

Rated PG for mild language and some rude humor.

Runtime: 116 min.

Starring Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti, Kevin Spacey, and Rachel Weisz.

Directed by David Dobkin