Four Christmases sort of follows along the same lines as any holiday movie these days -- dysfunctional families being dysfunctional until they realize how warm and fuzzy it is being dysfunctional. Yawn. In this case unmarried yuppie couple Brad (Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon) have successfully avoided their crazy families during the holidays for a few years now concocting some cockamamie goodwill story about saving babies in a third-world country while they really go on an island adventure. But uh-oh plans go awry this Christmas and they are forced to indulge in a little family good cheer. Guess what though? Brad and Kate learn something from their ordeal. They realize a) they love each other and might want a family of their own but they need to get to know each other better and b) they still don’t want to spend the holidays with their families. Ever again. While Witherspoon is no slouch in the comedy department and definitely holds her own with her co-star -- even though he looks freakishly tall next to her tiny frame -- Vaughn is the one who keeps things afloat for the most part. Honestly he could read from the phone book in that quick-paced stream of consciousness way he’s perfected and we’d still laugh. It’s Four Christmases long list of supporting players however that is rather alarming starting with Robert Duvall as Brad’s no-nonsense dad to Sissy Spacek as Brad’s hippie mom. Sure Mary Steenburgen and Jon Voight who play Kate’s divorced parents would do a movie like this but Duvall and Spacek? They must have needed a paycheck. The one standout is Jon Favreau as Brad’s brother a buffed out Mohawk-ed extreme fighter. Old buddies Favreau and Vaughn may have needed to work out a little aggression. Newbie director Seth Gordon whose claim to fame is the little-seen but hilarious documentary King of Kong unfortunately shows his lack of experience with Four Christmases. But maybe it isn’t Gordon’s fault -- not completely. The real culprit may be the way this film follows the same tired Christmas cookie cutter plot holiday movies seem to be about these days -- in which the families are SO dysfunctional the antics SO over the top it makes you want to run out of the theater so you can get to your own defective family for a little normalcy. I’m not saying we can return to the It's a Wonderful Life-type sugary fare but it would be nice to see a holiday comedy about familial ties that isn’t always so mean spirited.
Even if you’re one of the 19 other people in a competitive internship at Dean Witter with Chris Gardner (Will Smith) you gotta root for the guy. Life’s beaten him up but not got him down. He lugs his computer-monitor-sized bone density scanner all over San Francisco hoping to sell just one to make ends meet for his family—but nobody’s buying. As his wife’s (Thandie Newton) discontentment nears a boiling point Chris accepts an internship at financial institution Dean Witter—six months without pay and only one of the 20 applicants will ultimately get a job out of it. This sends her packing. She leaves Chris and their son Christopher (Jaden Smith) to fend for themselves at which point they get evicted. It’s the tip of the iceberg because over the course of Chris’ penniless pursuit of the Dean Witter job (and “happyness”) he and Christopher will get by sleeping in homeless shelter--and even in train-station bathrooms. Chris had always vowed to never leave his son and he keeps his promise but there’s no guarantee that his perseverance will pay off. Except for the fact that Happyness is “INSPIRED BY A TRUE STORY”! Will Smith is getting all the awards buzz but it’s his real-life son Jaden who transcends all expectations in Happyness. Jaden’s never acted in a movie before and it’s safe to assume that because of his father's long-running movie stardom he could not have grown up in a more different environment than that of his character. Which makes it all the more amazing for this 8-year-old Hollywood tyke to grasp even if coincidentally the plight of a nomadic urban child. The best part about little Jaden is that his performance doesn’t seem robotic like so many child actors who are already too "seasoned" for their own good. Aside from the expected cutesy laughs there’s genuine spontaneity in Jaden’s performance obviously thanks to the fact that he’s acting opposite his dad. Papa Smith gives what’s probably his best performance to date although he's had a career of primarily action roles that weren't exactly conducive to a skills showcase. He delivers the goods here—as seen in the tear-rific trailer—as a man whose whole life is his child but frankly the tears evoked might be too few for Oscar’s liking. Newton (Crash) in a small role is terribly miscast but Mr. and Mr. Smith dominate the screen anyway. Even with the studio flaunting the movie’s "Inspired by a true story..." tagline like a badge of honor—as studios tend to do—and this being the holiday season and all Italian director Gabriele Muccino expends way too much effort into the crowd-pleasing/feel-good aspects of Happyness. The happy ending everyone already knows about should be saccharine enough. Granted this is why a studio loves true stories—one that begins on a low note ends on a really high note and fluctuates all over the radar in between—and it may make the film more pleasing to its targeted mainstream audiences but Muccino and writer Steve Conrad (The Weather Man) really take the gloss factor much too far. In this case they essentially try to tell us a mostly sad story but will not let us feel sad. For instance during what could be very dark reflective scenes potentially connecting with viewers who have struggled through similar problems music befitting a children’s tale overtakes the would-be drama so we don’t ever feel too badly for Chris. It’s nice that the director cares so much for us but oftentimes the best directors are the ones who show an audience tough love.
DJ Jam Master Jay, one of the members of the rap group Run-DMC, was shot and killed Wednesday in a New York recording studio, a spokesman for the group told Reuters. Jam Master Jay, whose real name was Jason Mizell, was apparently gunned down along with another man inside the studio around 7:30 p.m. Mizell, 37, died of a gunshot wound to the head on the scene, while the other man, Urieco Rincon, was shot in the leg and taken to the Mary Immaculate Hospital in Queens. Police have made no arrests at this time. Run-DMC, which also includes founding members Run (Joseph Simmons) and DMC (Darryl McDaniels), recently finished a concert tour with Kid Rock and Aerosmith.
Jennifer Lopez admits she and beau Ben Affleck have talked about marriage and kids. According to People.com, Lopez told MTV News she and Ben Affleck have tried to keep their relationship private, but "some times it's easier than others," she said. J. Lo is still not saying whether they are indeed tying the knot but continues to sport a rather large diamond ring on her finger, People.com reports.
Actor Kevin Costner is resting comfortably in his Los Angeles area home after having his appendix removed last week. "He is recovering at his home in Los Angeles for two weeks. He has another week at home," publicist Paul Bloch told the Associated Press Wednesday.
Actor Kam Fong Chun, best known as Detective Chin Ho Kelly on the hit TV series Hawaii Five-O, died in Honolulu Oct. 18 from inoperable lung cancer. His family only just announced Kam Fong's death Wednesday to allow time for their own privacy. He was 84.
A veteran stuntman filming a scene for the Bruce Willis actioner Tears of the Sun is presumed dead after parachuting out of plane over the Pacific Ocean. Variety reports the Coast Guard was still searching for Michael Barber, 39, on Wednesday, a day after he and seven other parachutists shot a scene in which they were to land on California's Pismo Beach. The film centers on a rescue operation in the Nigerian jungle where Willis, as a Special Ops commander, is sent in to retrieve a doctor (Monica Bellucci). No details about the accident have been released.
One American Idol judge down. Rapper/disc jockey Angie Martinez has decided not to join the trio of returning judges--Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson--in the second Idol installment, after sitting through the first few auditions. AP reports Martinez said in a statement that it was "too uncomfortable for me to tell someone else to give up on their dream, especially when I realized that many of them have supported my musical career."
According to The Hollywood Reporter, VH1 has scrapped its new reality series featuring Liza Minnelli at home, citing difficulties with Minnelli's husband and co-star David Gest. "We're not moving forward with the show," a spokeswoman with the network confirmed. "We weren't given the cooperation and access we needed." VH1 production staffers of the show Liza & David claim Gest was a "control freak," who kept his wife and the production tightly under wraps.
Rocker Joan Jett is suing the producers of the low-budget film Prey for Rock & Roll, claiming she hasn't been completely paid for providing music for the film's soundtrack. Reuters reports the producers have told Jett if they pay her the full $100,000 she is owed, it will break the movie.