Fred Claus

Fred Claus


Reviewed by: Val Kermode

It’s no fun being Santa’s brother. In fact it’s often no fun being a sibling at all. First you get a raw deal, then you get angry and before you know it you’re on the wrong side of Santa’s naughty and nice list, so it’s no presents for you.

The film begins in a fairytale cottage where Fred Claus witnesses the birth of his brother Nick, a charming six-month-old child who says, “Ho, ho!” At first Fred intends to be a wonderful big brother, but Nick soon turns out to be unbearably good and jolly. All Fred ever hears is “Why can’t you be more like your brother?”

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Nick grows up to be a real saint (we are told) and he and his family will be forever frozen at the same age. While St Nick (Paul Giamatti) works away at the North Pole, the adult Fred (Vince Vaughn) has moved to New York, where he struggles to make a living as a repo man. He has a girlfriend (Rachel Weisz with an irritating Mockney accent) and a cute neighbour kid called Slam who turns out to be an orphan. (Cue tearjerking scene including the word 'puppy'.)

When Fred rings his brother to ask for a loan, Nick decides it’s time for him to come up to the North Pole and earn his money. But when he arrives (by sleigh of course) all is not well at the toy factory. Nasty efficiency expert Kevin Spacey wants to shut down Santa’s operation and transfer the toy making to the South Pole, and he intends to use a three strikes policy. What will become of Santa and the elves? And will all the children get their presents? And do we care?

No one goes to see a film with Claus in the title unless they are ready to suspend disbelief, so let’s not complain about plot holes. But with actors of this calibre one might expect entertainment. Vaughn and Spacey seem to be on cruise control, Weisz is just wasted and Giamatti looks downright miserable.

If this is a film aimed at children, there is far too much talk and not enough action. Kids will enjoy the slapstick of the snowball fight, and there’s a promise of magic the first time Santa’s sleigh takes off over Manhattan, but Santa’s workshop turns out to be a very dull place and those elves are just creepy.

There is one mildly amusing scene when Fred goes to “Siblings Anonymous” which is full of nearly lookalikes and we can enjoy spotting the various brothers of the famous, Frank Stallone, Stephen Baldwin, and was that Mr Eastwood? Sadly, there is not nearly enough in this moralistic tale to appeal to adults and not enough excitement for children.

Someone must have thought this would make a heartwarming Christmas movie. Believe me, it doesn’t.

Reviewed on: 28 Nov 2007
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Santa's older brother is asked to help out at the North Pole, and everyone gets more than they bargained for.
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Read more Fred Claus reviews:

Jennie Kermode **1/2

Director: David Dobkin

Writer: Dan Fogelman, Jessie Nelson

Starring: Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti, John Michael Higgins, Miranda Richardson, Rachel Weisz, Kathy Bates, Kevin Spacey, Elizabeth Banks

Year: 2007

Runtime: 116 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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