The all-star supporting cast of Fred Claus boast four Oscars and nine nominations between them. So you have to ask what they're doing playing second fiddle to Vince Vaughn in a charmless festive farce that's the cinematic equivalent of taking a dump underneath a Christmas tree. Maybe they were wooed by the promise of seeing the lanky lead reunited with his Wedding Crashers director David Dobkin in a seasonal comedy pitched squarely at the audience who lapped up Elf. But it’s more likely they were wooed by producer Joel Silver's big fat chequebook - though if Paul Giamatti's Scrooge-like behaviour at last week's UK premiere is anything to go by, it looks as if he's already regretting being bought so cheaply…
Taking its cue from the domestic shenanigans of The Santa Clause, Fred sees Saint Nick's frantic rush to meet his gift quota thrown into disarray by the North Pole arrival of his slobbish sibling, an amoral repo man harbouring centuries of resentment against his big-bearded brother. (Did you know that being Santa means your relatives never age? No, we didn't either.) Newly dumped by his traffic warden girlfriend (Rachel Weisz bewilderingly sporting a broad Lahndahn accent), the subordinate Claus is in town looking to tap his family for the funds he needs to finance his latest business venture. It turns out, however, he's not the only Grinch in the Arctic, Kevin Spacey's mean-spirited boss-man (Father Christmas has a boss?) being more than ready to shut down the production line if Giamatti's hassled reindeer-keeper misses his targets.
Full of bruising slapstick and witless missteps (the 'Brothers Anonymous' meeting that sees Roger Clinton, Frank Stallone and Stephen Baldwin bitch about Bill, Sly and Alec respectively is a particular dud), the end result couldn't be more of a turkey if it laid an egg. Then again it probably does, Dobkin's over-dependence on Vaughn's motor-mouth schtick resulting in the actor's most aggravating performance since, well, the last one.
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More no no no than ho ho ho, Vince Vaughn's crime against cinema is a worthy winner of this year's Deck The Halls prize for least welcome Christmas present. Make no mistake: Fred Claus is the real Bad Santa.