Thursday, December 4, 2008

Four Christmases for Christmas

Let me begin by saying that Four Christmases is not the worst Christmas movie ever made. However, it certainly does not get into the upper half in terms of quality either. It is filled with pretty people doing silly things that are sometimes amusing. There are mishaps all around, everyone gets to spend the holiday together (whether they want to or not), and by the end a lesson is learned. It will not spoil the movie one whit if I reveal that everyone lives happily ever after. That's what's supposed to happen in Christmas movies, after all.

The film is not lacking for star power. In fact, there are rarely movies made with this many Oscar and Tony winning actors. Every scene reveals a new superstar.

The story centers around Reese Witherspoon as Kate, and Vince Vaughn as Brad. Kate and Brad are two very successful and good looking people who have worked very hard to have fun in life and to meet their own needs. Each year, rather than facing their dreaded families, they plan a vacation together. That is until this Christmas. This year the airport was fogged in and they couldn't leave. They were going to be stuck having Christmas with all four parents- in four different homes.

First there is Robert Duvall as Brad's father. If you can imagine a redneck family, this is where Brad came from. His two brothers are ultimate fighters and take great pleasure in beating up and humiliating Brad. They are jealous of his success, but no one seems to see this and they all are miserable.

Then Brad and Kate move on to Kate's mother's house. Mary Steenburgen has this role. She is self-absorbed and currently infatuated with her pastor. Kate has to endure one embarrassment after another at the hands of her family. Kate and Brad wind up playing parts in the church's nativity play which only bothers Kate more.

Next they move on to Brad's mother, played by Sissy Spacek. She is a new-age airhead who has taken up with Brad's best friend from high school. Brad is appropriately repulsed by their relationship and all their efforts to seem "normal."

Finally, they move to Kate's father's home on Christmas night. Kate's father, played by Jon Voight, seems to be the only normal relative in the family. He is calm, sensible and has even included his ex-wife and Pastor Phil to the celebration.

It is hard to believe that all this could happen in one day, but it is a movie after all. Things do not have to be realistic. But here is the real issue for me. Kate and Brad are so embarrassed by their families that they completely reject them emotionally. They do not want to spend time with them, nor be influenced by them. In the process, they miss out on many of the positive aspects of family life.

Many people I know are just like this. They want to run away from their homes, their families, their backgrounds. They want to invent new "cool" identities so they will not be saddled with the humiliation that is family.

Here is my suggestion. Rather than be embarrassed by and reject your family we all should embrace and redeem our families. There are good things in each family member. Let's focus on those. And even if there are not good things in our families, we should work toward creating good in them. And that's not a bad plan for this Christmas.

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