Playing second fiddle to a more famous sibling can be rough. Just ask Fred Claus (Vaughn) a regular guy who has had to grow up under the shadow of his little brother Nicholas Claus (Paul Giamatti) aka Santa. That’s a big shadow to say the least both figuratively and literally. As an adult Fred has pretty much steered clear of his family but when he finds himself in dire need of some fast cash he calls his brother. Pleased as punch to hear from him Nicholas nonetheless makes him a deal: If he comes up to the North Pole for a visit and to help out the few days before Christmas then Fred can have the money. Fred reluctantly agrees and soon he’s being whisked off in Santa’s sleigh by head elf Willie (John Michael Higgins). But once Fred gets to the North Pole nothing seems to go right and soon he is the cause of much chaos--which unbeknownst to Fred causes Nicholas even more stress since his North Pole operation is one step away from being shut down by a cold-hearted efficiency expert (Kevin Spacey). Can Fred quit being bitter in time to save his brother’s livelihood? Of course he can. Hmmm Vince Vaughn minus the R-rated Wedding Crashers/Old School irreverence? It’s a stretch. Seeing the comic actor playing it PG is a little weird but you might enjoy how Vaughn infuses his unique energy into Fred Claus. From getting all the elves to boogie down in Santa’s workshop to going on one rant after another (on his brother: “He’s a clown a megalomaniac a fame junkie!”) to pilfering money on the street and then being chased by Salvation Army Santas it’s all good. Giamatti too seems a little out of his comfort zone as the saintly St. Nick. The actor who usually plays such endearing sad sacks has already played against type to great effect this year as the maniacal bad guy in Shoot ‘Em Up but he isn't nearly as successful in doing the flipside of that in Fred Claus. And what the hell is Kevin Spacey doing in this? As the villain of the film he fills the shoes nicely but he is almost too good at it (natch) for such a feel-good family film. Even Higgins--a character actor who is usually so hilarious in films such as The Break Up and all of Christopher Guest’s movies—has to shed the cheekiness and sugar himself up for Fred Claus. There’s also Rachel Weisz as Fred’s beleaguered girlfriend (you heard right) and Kathy Bates as the Claus boys’ mother who always sees Fred as inferior to her other son to fill out a cast of big names doing family fare. Director David Dobkin is a Vince Vaughn favorite having directed him in Wedding Crashers and Clay Pigeons but like his muse Dobkin seems a little out of place guiding this material. Granted Dobkin creates a pretty magical North Pole complete with an entire city of little dwellings a Frosty Tavern and a huge domed Santa’s Workshop. The montage of Fred delivering presents on Christmas Eve—falling down chimneys stuffing cookies in his face zooming around in the sleigh—is also well done. But overall Fred Claus is a Vaughn vehicle—even as sugary sweet and family-friendly as it is--and all Dobkin really does is turn the camera on and let the man do his stuff. Dan Fogelman's script is also so very bland full of any number of holes and only picks up once Vaughn starts to improvise. Bottom line: If you’re looking to take the kids to a sweet Christmas movie and are a Vince Vaughn fan then Fred Claus is for you.
Who made off with Sharon Stone's stones?
A 48-year-old ex-housekeeper of the "Basic Instinct" star was due to be arraigned in a Los Angeles court today on charges she purloined more than $300,000 in jewelry and other items from the actress' West L.A. home, authorities said.
Socorro Del Carmen Membrano faces one count of grand theft. She was arrested Tuesday following a police investigation, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said.
Membrano worked for Stone for three years, prosecutors said. It was not known what was allegedly stolen -- or when.
Stone's camp declined comment.
SEEING RED? The Halle Berry hit-and-run saga unfolds, as Los Angeles deputies now believe the actress ran a red light before striking a 1996 Pontiac Sunfire Feb. 23 and fleeing the scene in West Hollywood.
On the heels of this update comes news that Berry was involved in a similar incident three years ago in which no charges were filed. Berry and the other driver "worked out a settlement on their own," Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Rob Kenessey said of the prior incident.
Berry's case has been turned over to prosecutors, who are reviewing 911 tapes. Investigators reportedly have recommended the filing of criminal charges.
CRABBY APPLE: Singer Fiona Apple gave New York fans quite a show Tuesday when she stormed off the stage 40 minutes into her concert.
According to MTV, the 22-year-old, who recently contributed music to boyfriend Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia," was plagued by sound-equipment problems and couldn't hear herself sing. After complaining and apologizing for the poor quality, she began to cry. The cry snowballed into a meltdown, and the singer reportedly yelled, "All you critics out there better not [expletive] tear me apart or I'll [expletive] kill you."
Finally, Apple announced that the band was leaving for five minutes so the monitors could be fixed. But after 20 minutes, a representative appeared and said Apple would not finish the show and asked fans to save their ticket stubs, saying another -- and better -- New York show would be scheduled.
Apple, whose latest album title, "When the Pawn ..." is longer than a Barbra Streisand acceptance speech, appeared on David Letterman's CBS show the night after the incident. We're happy to say the sound was working fine, and she made it through without incident.
MUSIC BEAT: Surprise, surprise -- Santana's multiple-Grammy-winning "Supernatural" stayed at the top of the Billboard charts this week, hitting the nine-times-platinum mark. It's followed by Dr. Dre's "Dr. Dre 2001." Christina Aguilera's self-titled album also received a Grammy boost to No. 3; Kid Rock's "Devil Without a Cause" and Eiffel 65's "Europop" rounded out the Top Five.
The Top Five singles in the country are as follows: 1. "Amazed," Lonestar; 2. "Maria Maria," Santana featuring The Product G&B; "Breathe," Faith Hill; "I Knew I Loved You," Savage Garden; 5. "Get it on Tonite," Montell Jordan.
OBITS: The Oscar-nominated composer for such films as "From Here to Eternity" died Sunday in a San Diego hospital of cardiovascular disease. George Duning was 92. Duning picked up five career Academy Award nominations. He never won. ...
... David Levy, a former network executive who helped birth the TV version of "The Addams Family," died Jan. 25 in Los Angeles following a lengthy illness, it has been learned. He was 87. During his run as an NBC programming exec, Levy was also instrumental in bringing "Dr. Kildare" and "Bonanza" to the Peacock network ...
... Begona Palacios, actress and widow of director Sam Peckinpah, died Wednesday of a liver disorder. She was 58. Palacios was best known in Mexico for action movies such as "The Saint Against the Strangler" in 1963. Peckinpah died in 1984 ...
QUICK TAKES: Is it over for The Cure? It might be. The alt-rock band's 13th studio album, "Bloodflowers," deals with finality, and lead singer Robert Smith -- a k a the Well-Lipsticked One -- says the song "Maybe Someday" is a specific farewell. "I just feel that it would be good to stop while we're still good," Smith told Reuters ...
... Pee Wee King, the singer, bandleader and songwriter who co-wrote "Tennessee Waltz," is in guarded condition after suffering a heart attack, a spokeswoman for Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Ky., told Reuters. King is 86 ...
... Cameron Diaz, who went frumpy in "Being John Malkovich," will return to glam (hopefully) as a presenter for the 72nd Academy Awards, to be held March 26 at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium ...
... "Go" director Doug Liman has lost his dog, Jackson, and is offering a combined reward of $1,000 and a part in his next film to whoever finds the Australian shepherd, last seen Feb. 18 in Washington. Liman tells the New York Post: "I keep hearing from actors who are out there looking."
--With additional reporting by Joal Ryan.