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Nov. 12, 2007

"Fred Claus" deserves a Christmas cheer

by Maya Calabrese, Online Managing Editor
With Christmas fast approaching, everyone is focused on finding the perfect tree, buying presents and writing their letters to dear Santa Claus. Amidst the chaos of a season dedicated to jolly ol' St. Nick, everyone seems to forget about his brother, Fred. But after watching "Fred Claus," it will be hard for anyone to forget about him, especially with the film's impeccable casting and integration of humor for all ages.

Fred Claus (Vince Vaughn) has always lived in the shadow of his younger brother Nicholas "Santa" Claus (Paul Giamatti). Since childhood, Nick has managed to always show up his brother by giving his birthday gifts to orphans, making his own clothes and always putting others before himself. Nick attains saintly hood and Mother Claus (Kathy Bates) constantly asks Fred the dreaded question, "Why can't you be more like your brother?"

Now a grown man, Fred is still jealous of brother Nick's accomplishments and recognition. But when faced with a financial problem, Fred quickly calls Nick, who says the only way he will help is if Fred agrees to come visit him at the North Pole. During his time there Fred learns to love his brother and helps him when his workshop is on the verge of getting shut down. Complete with additional heart-warming side plots, the story portrays the true meaning of Christmas with a humorous twist.

The highlight of the movie is the superb acting. Vaughn is a natural at playing Fred. His classic rambling and nonchalant demeanor work perfectly for the smooth-talking and more confident Claus. Giamatti plays a stressed Santa convincingly with troubled facial expressions and exasperated tone. And Miranda Richardson (Annette Claus) depicts the concerned, controlling Mrs. Claus superbly through her sharp tenor and attitude. The interaction of these characters creates dynamic dialogue which strengthens flow of the plot.

With flawless acting comes the ability to sneak in some adult content that parents will appreciate. Santa is known for his catch phrase "ho, ho, ho," but when the phrase is shortened it has a whole other meaning. The movie also straddles the line of propriety with Charlene (Elizabeth Banks), Santa's attractive helper who wears short skirts and low cut shirts throughout, much to the approval of the workshop employees.

While racy jokes provide comic relief for older audience members, viewers of all ages will be amused by the frequent discussion of Santa's weight problem, which makes for witty jokes and comical interaction between Nick, Annette and Fred. The best scene observes Fred and Nick exchanging insults centered on Nick's weight, which escalates to a snow ball fight and then, full out brawl.

When they are not laughing, the audience will enjoy singing along to the familiar Christmas tunes played throughout the movie. A favorite in Santa's workshop is "Here Comes Santa Claus," which keeps the elves focused on making toys. But when Fred takes over the radio he plays upbeat rock and roll that initially has the elves covering the ears, but soon has them crowd surfing and jumping around the shop.

Despite some questionable content, "Fred Claus" is a great family movie. Children will be entertained by the Christmas based story and witty jokes, while adults can laugh at the more mature humor.

Fred Claus is rated PG for mild language and some rude humor and playing in local theatres.



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