The Vaughan Clause 

Fred Claus: A Holiday Variation

As is the case with nearly every film he's made since he stopped giving a fuck about his integrity, your capacity to sit through the madcappish holiday extravaganza of Fred Claus can likely be extrapolated from your answer to the following question: Are you totally sick Vince Vaughn yet?

It's no big secret that for the past 11 years Vince Vaughn has, off and (mostly) on, performed only a very slight variation of the role that made him famous—back before he gained all that weight and his eyes turned into the sunken, eerily soulless voids that now rest below his brow. And who would have imagined, back in those "Macarena" salad days, that the hunky guy who said "money" a lot in Swingers would have carved out such a financially viable niche for himself—exclusively playing a role that, we're led to assume, basically amounts to Vaughn himself? But here we are, a decade later, and Vince has something of a cottage industry built up around himself: you got your wacky buddy pictures (Wedding Crashers), your romantic dramedies (The Break-Up), your action movies (Mr. & Mrs. Smith), your hair-brained satires (Anchorman, Dodgeball, etc.)—just set up your rote premise, toss ol' Vince "plug and play" Vaughn in the middle, and BAM! Everybody walks away with a comfortable paycheck.

Fred Claus, then, is the PG-rated Christmas variation on the theme, and though he looks more tired than ever, I gotta admit that I'm still not totally sick of the guy. Sure, it probably won't go down as a classic of the generally questionable genre (Kevin Spacey's villain is painfully phoned in, and a digitally miniaturized Ludacris is especially unsettling), but the strangely highbrow cast (Paul Giamatti, Miranda Richardson, Kathy Bates, et al.) helps to make Fred considerably more tolerable than most seasonal cash-ins. That is to say, unless you answered "yes" to our introductory question—in which case, save your "money." (Wah. Wah).

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