Fred Claus - The Law Actually Review
I freely admit that I’m not a fan of your typical ‘Christmas movie’. At the risk of perpetuating the growing opinion that I’m the reincarnation of Ebeneezer Scrooge, I never really subscribed to the whole ‘magical Christmas movie thing’ even as a kid. Save for Home Alone 1 and 2, of course. When we skulked across to the cinema on a wet and windy December afternoon, I wasn’t sure what I was in for. Given the time of day there were just two film options open to us. We opted for Fred Claus, merely to save waiting around for ‘The Golden Compass’ showtime, a decision which I surprisingly didn’t regret.
Simply getting into the cinema proved more difficult than expected – all the doors were locked. We were left for several minutes with nothing to do but wander aimlessly up and down, stamping our feet and shivering uncontrollably in the near-arctic conditions. After trying all the doors for a final time, and starring awkwardly into the dimly-lit entrance, a female worker behind the counter finally appeared and vigorously gesticulated ‘5 minutes’ to me. Although the cinema is situated right in the city centre, it’s often pretty deserted and this trip proved no exception. Once we were finally granted entrance, we saw no one besides 2 members of staff and some ‘elderly gent’ who came in to complain about something – probably the disgraceful state of the lavatories.
After a somewhat shaky start, the movie soon gets into a swing – well more of a festive jaunt actually. Thankfully, instead of force-feeding the audience the almost-expected annual helping of festive claptrap, the film delivered a more quirky, less self-righteous style of humour.
On the subject of humour, it has to be said that the film itself was not that overtly funny. While not having many true ‘laugh-out-loud’ moments, it was still inherently watchable. Vince Vaughan as Fred was entertaining throughout, as was his on screen brother, Paul Giamatti, who played Santa.
Save for the irritating little elves, particularly the Elf-come-DJ who was satisfyingly locked in a metal cupboard at one point, no one stood out as giving a truly sparkling or lousy performance. The film had an adequate dollop of the requisite corniness, required of any self-respecting Christmas film with the romantic storyline between Fred and Wanda. And talking of Wanda, ably played by Rachel Weisz, I felt the over-done British accent grated a little too much at times in a film that was quintessentially American. The love-conquers-all theme played out between little elf Willy and Santa’s sexy helper, Charlene went down less easily, but hey-ho, this is a Christmas movie after all said and done.
Once I’d got over the somewhat freaky portrayal of Clyde Northcut played by Kevin Spacey, I settled in for the duration with my choux bun with toffee icing to indulge on. My girlfriend opted for a generous-sized Belgian bun, known to her as a t*t-cake. We smuggled our contraband pastry goods into the cinema and luckily, being the only ones in there, we could gorge openly and unashamedly on our sumptuous baker-shop delicacies. Lovely.
So what of the plot? In a nutshell, run-away sibling Fred, brother to Santa is a lovable rogue operating scam after scam in Chicago just to make a buck or two and ‘get along in life’. His antics include setting up a gambling storefront outside the stock exchange as well as cashing-in on the Salvation Army’s collection for Christmas – still, it’s all good stuff. On top of this he finds time to half-heartedly date Wanda – a Londoner who’s moved out to the good ol’ US to work as a … parking meter warden. Go figure. Suffice to say, their relationship is a bit of an 'on-off' thing, as you might imagine.
Fred is struggling with debt and soon calls on the help of little brother Santa for financial assistance. When Santa learns that big bro wants $50,000, he persuades the distanced sibling to come to the North Pole and work for him during the ‘Christmas rush’. Meanwhile, efficiency guru Clyde Northcut has come to inspect Santa’s operations, threatening the shut him down if he doesn’t like what he sees.
Fred, estranged from his parents since an early age, reluctantly visits his little brother’s empire where he is now living with Mom and Pop. Santa tries, bless him, to engineer reunions between Fred and the parents, hoping in vain that they will all settle their differences. Things take a turn for the worse when Santa discovers that Fred’s taken a few shortcuts in filtering the Christmas letters from the nice and naughty children – the precious task he was entrusted with in return for his $50K. After a bitch-slapping in the snow which leaves Santa with a bad back and Fred heading back to Chicago, it’s time for the magical Christmas conscience to kick in. Yeah, you can guess the rest. With Santa laid up and regulations stipulating that only a Claus can deliver presents on Christmas Eve, big bro Fred has a change of heart and saves the day.
In short, then, all comes right in the end, with both Fred and his brother learning those all-important lessons in life. The odious Northcut comes full circle, Willy gets it on with Charlene, despite being less than half her height and weight and the other various loose ends are adequately tied. Overall, this film is well worth watching. It won’t blow you away, nor move you to tears but it might, just might, get you a little more in the holiday mood.
The Michael’s rating: 3/5