The Sibling Rivalry Claus
When Nick (Paul Giamatti - Shoot 'Em Up) was born older brother Fred (Vince Vaughn - Into the Wild) tried to be the best big brother he could. But as they grew up it soon became apparent to him that Nick was just too good and whatever he did was not good enough in the eyes of his mother. To make matters worse Nick became Santa Claus causing Fred to hate everything about Christmas, moving to Chicago to live his own life. When Fred gets arrested the only person he can call upon to help is his brother Nick and soon finds himself up at the North Pole trying to help Nick get ready for the Christmas deliveries. But Fred is still bitter towards him and problem after problem arises between them. If that wasn't bad enough an over officious official is looking to close Santa down and will do anything he can to make his life a misery.
There is no way that "Fred Claus" is a great Christmas movie, in fact it has a whole wad of issues which brings it up well short of greatness but it did bring a smile to my face. The smile comes from a few clever scenes which punctuate what could be classed as a mediocre and predictable story which seems to recycle elements from various other Christmas movies. But credit where it is due and I liked the idea that Santa has a brother and there is sibling rivarly going on between the brothers Claus. It means that whilst "Fred Claus" is technically a Christmas movie it is also one about the comedy and emotion of sibling rivalry.
The Christmas side of "Fred Claus" is to be honest a bit dull, with Santa in trouble and unlikely to complete this years deliveries and so faces termination. It is rather unoriginal and small parts for the likes of Kevin Spacey as an over officious official at the North Pole does little to make it any more original. But the back drop to all of this, the North Pole with all the glorious old houses and Santa's workshop is just wonderful even magical just like you would imagine it would be.
As for the other side of "Fred Claus", the sibling rivalry, well again it's all a bit dull, predictable and for the most unoriginal. Every single scene you can imagine gets stuck in with them arguing around the dinner table, going blow for blow in a snowball fight whilst all the time slowly bonding. It is fun at times as Fred and Nick basically argue their way through various scenes but you get a sense that it could have been so much better, a bit more original and amusing.
Part of the trouble is that a lot of the humour in "Fred Claus" is basically lame. Jokes about Fred being too big for his elf bed is as dull as it sounds and those surrounding a combative elf DJ and a trio of elf ninja bodyguards ends up too stupid. But in the midst of all of this lameness there are a few good scenes, ones which will bring a smile to your face. The scene where Fred goes to a sibling rivalry meeting and you get Frank Stallone, Roger Clinton and Stephen Baldwin all sharing their anger and emotions over their more famous siblings is priceless. In fact that the sibling rivalry meeting is the best thing about "Fred Claus".
As for the acting well Vince Vaughn as Fred basically does what he does in most comedies that is talk very fast and smart whilst trying to be cool. The scene where he leads the elves in a dance is probably the funniest part of his performance as everything else we have seen Vaughn do before and to be honest better. On the other hand Paul Giamatti is great fun as Saint Nick, not an obvious choice for such a rotund figure but he makes him certainly amusing as he has to do good even when tough love is what is called for. Together Vaughn and Giamatti work quite well but whether it is due to the story or something else it sometimes feels like they were competing with each other to dominate a scene. Aside from Vaughn and Giamatti, "Fred Claus" has plenty of recognizable faces such as John Michael Higgins, Rachel Weisz, Kathy Bates, Miranda Richardson, Trevor Peacock, Elizabeth Banks and Kevin Spacey all of which bring a few laughs but fail to really deliver laughs through out as their characters are so poorly written.
What this all boils down to is that "Fred Claus" has a lot of issues and the biggest of these is that it feels like you've seen it all before. From the story elements, the characters, performances and jokes it all feels a little too unoriginal. But it does make you smile and entertains in an average sort of a way except for a couple of really good scenes such as the sibling rivalry meeting which really is the best scene in a movie which just short of 2 hours is a little over long.