Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti
is the perfect example of how a great idea can be ruined by the most competent filmmakers. Let’s start with the idea: Santa has an estranged, underachieving older brother named Fred who comes to stay at the North Pole during the holiday crunch time. That’s comedy gold. Next, the filmmakers: We’ve got director David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers
) and actors Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti, Kevin Spacey and Rachel Weisz. Seriously, that’s an all-star lineup that spells funny in bold type. Put them together, however, and somehow you get a formulaic Christmas exploitation movie that takes all the highlights of our pop-culture-saturated childhoods, from stop-motion cartoons to Norman Rockwell paintings, and basically says, “Sucker. You should’ve stayed at home and watched the good stuff on the ABC Family Channel.” Vaughn is the worst offender; as the titular character, he’s the same self-centered motormouth he seems to play exclusively these days. The movie’s saving grace is Giamatti; as a Santa who eats his stress away, the actor deserves a whole movie to himself – specifically, one that doesn’t miss the opportunity to actually be funny or at least heartwarming every chance it gets.