“Fred Claus,” review by Susan Granger
Its like Christmas coming early with this heart-warming gift of a movie, a Santa story youve never heard before.
Since his baby brother, Nicholas, was born, uttering the word, Ho, instead of crying, Fred Claus (Vince Vaughn) has been living in his shadow, hearing his mothers (Kathy Bates) constant refrain: Why cant you be more like your brother?
Indeed, Nicholas was so good that he achieved sainthood meaning neither he nor his family ever aged. And, like many unhappy children, Fred became angry and naughty.
Now living in Chicago, Fred has become a repo man, trying to start his own off-track betting establishment and get back in the good graces of his long-suffering girl-friend, Wanda (Rachel Weisz). When he calls his brother for a loan, Nicholas (Paul Giamatti) agrees to help Fred only if hell come to the North Pole and work in Santas Toy Shop.
Meanwhile, with a month to go, the stress of Christmas is increasing and an evil efficiency expert (Kevin Spacey) has been dispatched to oversee this years preparations. The Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny are endangered and out-sourcing toy production to the South Pole is under consideration, shutting down Santas Workshop permanently.
Set in the Christmas environment, writer Dan Fogelman (Cars) and director David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers) have fashioned an often-amusing sibling rivalry situation, utilizing wry cameos from other underachieving, once-resentful brothers like Frank Stallone, Roger Clinton and Stephen Baldwin.
Vince Vaughn plays the comedy with pathos, and Paul Giamatti shows the depth of Santa Claus vulnerability. While the supporting roles are formulaic, the visual effects are imaginative, particularly the Snow Globe and Naughty/Nice Department. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Fred Claus is a sentimental 7. Its a bright holiday package filled with pure enjoyment.