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Fred Claus (2007)
Fred Claus is a 2007 American Christmas comedy film produced and directed by David Dobkin, written by Dan Fogelman and Jessie Nelson, and starring Vince Vaughn and Paul Giamatti. The film begins in Middle Age Europe, where a woman gives birth to a baby. Within a few minutes of his birth, the baby starts saying: "Ho, ho, ho!". Mother Claus (Kathy Bates) calls her son, Frederick (Vince Vaughn) over to meet his new brother, whom she has decided to name him Nicholas (Paul Giamatti). Mother Claus lovingly refers to the new baby as her little Saint Nick, while Fred promises to be the best big brother ever. During Christmas, when Nick opens his gifts including Fred's, he decides to give them away to orphans which angers Fred. Mother Claus advises Fred to be a better person; this in turn causes Fred to resent Nick. Feeling isolated, Fred often meets a bird to confide about his problems. On one occasion, Nick cuts off the tree causing the bird to leave; this causes a permanent rift between Fred and Nick. In the present-day, it is explained that when Nick eventually becomes a saint due to all his good deeds, he, Mrs.
Fred Claus needed two or three more thinking-outside-the-box scenes like this to help it become more than what it actually is: a fragile premise stuffed with hollow Christmas jokes that would collapse in a holiday heap if not for Vaughn's demonstrated charms.
The disgruntled older brother of jolly old St. Nick (played with warmth and patience by Paul Giamatti) isn't a character so much as the Vaughn persona we've seen in Wedding Crashers, The Break-Up, Old School, and Swingers. Dan Fogelman's script imagines an excuse to get Fred to the North Pole -- he needs $50,000 to open a bar, but Santa refuses the loan unless Fred works a few shifts in the family toy factory. Once in the winter wonderland, Fred avoids his judgmental mother (Kathy Bates), coaches an elf (John Michael Higgins) on how to woo one of Santa's beautiful helpers (Elizabeth Banks), and makes life difficult for an efficiency expert (Kevin Spacey) who is threatening to shut Santa's operation down.
Fred falters because director David Dobkin never definitively chooses between making a kid-friendly money maker or an edgy comedy aimed at our inner teenage boy. The PG rating suggests the former, with tall Vaughn looming over pint-sized co-stars and sleeping in undersized beds (too bad his buddy, Jon Favreau, already milked similar visuals with Will Ferrell in the superior Elf). But the concept of sibling rivalry, the outsourcing of elfin labor, and the need for an intervention will fly over the heads of young ones like Santa's sleigh above snow-covered rooftops on Christmas Eve. Ho, ho, oh well. Maybe next time.
The DVD includes copious deleted scenes an a commentary track from Dobkin.
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