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Originally published November 25, 2008 at 12:00 PM | Page modified November 25, 2008 at 12:03 PM

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Movie review

"Four Christmases" too many

Four writers are too many for "Four Christmases," a bad-tempered holiday comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon. Review by Moira Macdonald.

Seattle Times movie critic

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Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn star in "Four Christmases," a bad-tempered — and bad — holiday comedy.

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PHOTO COURTESY OF NEW LINE CINEM / COURTESY NEW LINE CINEMA

Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn star in "Four Christmases," a bad-tempered — and bad — holiday comedy.

Movie review 1.5 stars

"Four Christmases," with Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Duvall, Jon Favreau, Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakam, Tim McGraw, Kristin Chenoweth, Jon Voight, Sissy Spacek. Directed by Seth Gordon, from a screenplay by Matt R. Allen, Caleb Wilson, John Lucas and Scott Moore. 86 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some sexual humor and language. Several theaters.

"When in doubt, bring on the projectile baby vomit" appears to be the guiding comedic principle behind "Four Christmases," a holiday offering with about as much goodwill as a sack of coal. Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon play Brad and Kate, a pair of soulless yuppies who rejoice in their tradition of ignoring their families at Christmastime. When their tropical vacation is abruptly canceled — and a TV interviewer broadcasts their whereabouts — the pair are forced to make holiday visits to their two sets of divorced parents. Hence, four Christmases, and a very long 86 minutes.

Vaughn and Witherspoon, a physical mismatch (their vast height difference results in some awkward shots), have no chemistry here, and the screenplay, credited to four writers, makes them so self-absorbed and unlikable you're more than ready to embrace their families sight unseen. Once seen — well, maybe not. They're all cartoon characters: the gun-toting tough guy (Robert Duvall), the Christian cougar (Mary Steenburgen), the aging hippie (Sissy Spacek), the fertile sister (Kristin Chenoweth), the trashy sister-in-law (Katy Mixon), the digestively challenged babies (whose names I'm withholding, as they have the excuse of not having read the screenplay).

Heartwarming lessons are eventually learned, as required in all holiday movies. But there's no redeeming this predictable mess, and no excuse for so many talented actors to be wasting their time with this script. Director Seth Gordon, a Seattle native making his feature debut after the terrific documentary "King of Kong," can't find a way to make any of it sing. As Kate and Brad learn, there's no place like home for the holidays — and, sitting in the multiplex during "Four Christmases," you might just wish you were there.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725

or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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