I had zero expectations going into Four Christmases. I don’t seek out Reese Witherspoon or Vince Vaughn movies. But I’m going through a whole Christmas movie/romcom thing, I don’t have any pressing movies on the queue, and I’m picking a lot of flicks nigh randomly at the moment. Four Christmases was advertised as a Christmas romcom on the page of some streaming service. Hence, I clicked.
In this movie, we attend the titular Four Christmases because the protagonists have gotten fogged out of a flight to Fiji. Bear in mind that I wanted these two to go to Fiji instead of family holidays. By the time they ring the first doorbell, we’ve established that this passionate couple has kept busy having fun for three years, and they’re super disinterested in the heteronormative relationship treadmill. Good for you, Reese and Vince*! (*Actor names used to protect my brain from trying to juggle character names. I am talking about the characters though.)
Yet exposure to one another’s families starts to change Reese’s heart. It’s charming to see how authentic the portrayals of families are in Four Christmases. While the humor can get a little slapsticky, it’s grounded through the unfiltered honesty of your weird gross brother, breastfeeding women talking about their nipples, and parents who never grew past their own flaws.
Seeing this family nonsense makes Reese begin to imagine Vince in a fatherly, husbandly context, which is a problem because the two of them have established they are *not* doing that.
It’s the best part of the movie, in fact. Reese and Vince are adults who talk things out. They have agreed explicitly that their free-wheeling life is what they want right now. And when Reese realizes she feels collared by an inability to discuss swaths of their lives together, much less the potential of a future beyond another snorkeling vacation on that lawyer money, she tells Vince immediately.
Their breakup is undramatic and sweet and heartbreaking. They just want different things.
But Vince, whose character can be a dingbat, realizes that he’s made a mistake pretty quickly. It’s affirmed when his father approves of Vince’s decision to break up. “That’s my boy,” says Dad in the ultimate “oh shit” moment. Reese found Vince’s family lovable, but Vince sees his family as a cautionary tale. He wants better. He wants to imagine a future with Reese.
Of course, these two weirdos imagine a future together that is still not quite normal; they have silly ideas about what they might do with children. This is the couple we met by seeing them faking a meet-cute at a bar as foreplay. There’s nothing they won’t do in a cute fun way. That’s just who they are.
The ending almost made me cry because it was so sweet. On one hand, the two of them kinda got stuck on the treadmill of heteronormativity anyway, because biology sometimes has opinions about that too. On the other hand, getting caught on the news a second time had me cackling.
I’m sure there’s a lot to analyze in the movie beyond an enthusiastic recap, but having watched this for the first time tonight, I’m still stuck on my initial reaction–which is glowingly happy, like the two of them together, usually, when they can have healthy boundaries with their weirdo families. Four Christmases got everything right. This is absolutely going into my rotation of holiday movies.
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures