Fred Claus *1/2 (out of ****)

Director: David Dobkin
Writer: Kelly Masterson
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti, Miranda Richardson, Kevin Spacey, Kathy Bates, Rachel Weisz
Rating: PG (mild language and rude humor)
Running Time: 115 min
Release Date: 11/9/07

Fred Claus is this year’s Santa movie. In the prolog we see that Nicholas Claus had an older brother Fred. As Nicolas grew up he excelled at charity and good cheer upstaging Fred at every turn. Eventually Nicholas became a saint and by the contrived plot line of this movie this means that he and his family will live forever. You know like in the Highlander movies!

Now fast forward to contemporary Chicago. We now find a grown up Fred (Vince Vaughn) who is being a very insensitive partner in a relationship with Wanda (Rachel Weisz) a British émigré meter maid. Their romance is suffering as he schemes to raise $50,000 to open a gambling establishment across the street from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. His first idea to raise the money is to put on a Santa suit ask and passersby for money until the Salvation Army Santas find him out and he gets arrested. When Fred can’t reach Wanda, he calls his brother Santa Claus (Paul Giamatti) for bail money. Santa agrees to bail him out if he will come to the North Pole to work off the loan and to earn the $50,000 he needs to start his business.

It seems that Santa is under a lot of pressure this season as the board (huh?) has sent an efficiency expert (Kevin Spacey) with a somewhat satanic appearance to evaluate his operation. Perhaps even outsource the work to the South Pole. Ultimately Santa is too ill from all the stress to make his Christmas run. Fred gets to save the day for all the children.

Vaughn who was great in Wedding Crashers and The Breakup just seems wrong for this role. The production just seems to lack the magic of Christmas. By the time we get to the end of this movie we don’t really care if the kids get their presents or if the North Pole gets shut down. Oh, for the days of Burl Ives!

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