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.
Top Story: Septuagenarian Sues Dick Clark for Age Discrimination
Ralph Andrews, a 76-year-old game show producer, sued Dick Clark's production company Monday for age discrimination, claiming he was "embarrassed, humiliated and aggravated" when he was passed up for a job, Reuters reports. Andrews claims in his Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit that Clark, 74, sent him a letter in May of 2003 saying he was too old for a job with his production company. "People our age are considered dinosaurs. The business is being run by 'the next generation,' Clark allegedly wrote. "I've known Dick for 40 years. He misled me to believe he would happily give me a job doing what I do best--creating, developing or producing television shows," Andrews said in a statement. "If Dick's not too old then why am I?" A representative for Dick Clark Productions declined to comment, Reuters reports.
Blake Hires Lawyer No. 4
Robert Blake, charged with killing his wife three years ago, has hired his fourth lawyer since the case began, attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach, to represent him, The Associated Press reports. Schwartzbach, 59, has practiced criminal law for more than 35 years. "I'm convinced of Robert Blake's innocence. I'm confident he's going to be acquitted at trial," Schwartzbach said outside court. Blake's first two attorneys resigned after clashing with the actor over conducting media interviews and a third attorney stepped down Feb. 5, on the eve of Blake's original trial date, because of "irreconcilable differences" with his client. The trial is now scheduled to begin Sept. 9, AP reports.
Phony Movie Critic Brouhaha May Go To Court
Remember David Manning, the fake movie critic invented by Sony Pictures whose positive comments about crummy films were used in ads to promote them? Well, the class-action lawsuit moviegoers filed against the studio, whose faux critic paid high compliments to such films as Hollow Man and The Animal in ads that ran in U.S. newspapers in 2000 and 2001, might actually reach a jury. A California appeals court ruled on Thursday that suit could actually go to trial, Reuters reports, saying, "Although the films themselves enjoy full First Amendment protection, Sony's film advertisements do not." Still, Justice Reuben Ortega called the lawsuit "a farce" and "the most frivolous case with which I have ever had to deal."
Oscar is Lord of the Ratings
Although the 76th Academy Awards ceremony Sunday night held few, if any, surprises, the show saw its highest ratings in four years, drawing in 43.5 million viewers, Reuters reports. It was a 31 percent jump for last year's record low of 33.1 million.
McCartney Goes Back to the Drawing Board
After the success of his animated short Rupert and the Frog Song 20 years ago, former Beatle Paul McCartney will draw again, creating a new short Tropical Island Hum, AP reports. "In animation, it's good to have a bit of a childlike quality about yourself and I certainly have. It's just something that is in me," said McCartney, announcing the imminent DVD release of the new short film. McCartney's Rupert cartoon was the best-selling children's video of 1984. It was accompanied by the chart hit "We All Stand Together."
Lowe is Dr. Vegas, Baby!
Rob Lowe, whose NBC series The Lyon's Den was axed earlier in the season, is trying his hand on the small screen again with the CBS drama pilot Dr. Vegas. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the West Wing alum plays an in-house physician at a Las Vegas casino.
Time Warner Seals Deal With Music Division
Time Warner Inc. has sold its Warner Music division to an investor group led by Universal media conglomerate chief Edgar Bronfman for a cool $2.6 billion, AP reports. In a statement announcing the completion of the purchase from Time Warner, Bronfman said the company would "move quickly" to implement a strategy to meet its business challenges. Stepping down were Atlantic Records co-chairman Val Azzoli, president Ron Shapiro and Elektra Records chief executive Sylvia Rhone.
Role Call: Timberlake Investigates Reporter Role, Disney Fantasizes Over Narnia Chronicles
Justin Timberlake is set to tackle his first feature film role alongside Kevin Spacey, Morgan Freeman and LL Cool J in Edison. AP reports Timberlake will play a reporter who uncovers an elite team of corrupt police…Walt Disney Studios has set its sights on adapting all seven books in the C.S. Lewis' children fantasy classic The Chronicles of Narnia, beginning with The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Variety reports the studio will co-produce with Philip Anschutz's Walden Media with shooting expected to begin in late June or early July in New Zealand and Czechoslovakia for a Christmas 2005 release. No cast or director has been attached as yet.