'Four Christmases' brings no joy to the world

Just minutes into the first of the quartet of holidays promised by Four Christmases , a feeling of dread sets in: What? We've got three more of these things to get through?

As the Official Christmas movie of 2008, it matches the economic realities of the year: desperate, depressing and built on a foundation of junk.

Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon play a self-absorbed yuppie couple in San Francisco who, when we first meet them, are having sex in a public bathroom.

Ah, good times. Nothing says Christmas like sex in a public bathroom.

They don't want to get married or have kids or have anything to do with their families, because all that would interfere with their vacation plans.

Through a painfully unpersuasive plot twist, they have to put off Fiji this year and do drop-in visits at their parents' houses.

Each parent is divorced, so that makes four trips into the inferno.

Off they go in their black Range Rover, which gets almost as much screen time as the stars.

First up is a stop at the house of Mr. Vaughn's white trash dad (Robert Duvall, who must need the money).It's also home to some bratty kids and Mr. Vaughn's brothers, played by Jon Favreau and Tim McGraw.

They're "semi-pro cage wrestlers," so that means they randomly punch/tackle/kick Mr. Vaughn, just for the heck of it. Not funny.

It goes even more downhill from here, dragging in thespians Sissy Spacek, Jon Voight, Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakum and Kristin Chenoweth.

It's a deliberate bad-taste comedy, but the comic scenes are clunky and forgettable. And the sentiment -- you knew it was coming -- is sticky and obvious.

"There's nothing more important than family," Mr. Voight actually says. Remarkably, four screenwriters are given credit for the script.

Reach Matt Soergel at matt.soergel@morris.com.

'FOUR CHRISTMASES'

the verdict: * of ****

MPAA RATING: PG-13, for profanity and some sexual humor

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