|Written by Noah Fleming|
|Tuesday, 25 November 2008|
This is one of David Dobkin's first attempts at directing. Hopefully he will improve for the upcoming release of "The Flash" in 2010. "Fred Claus" is a silly film that resembles many of the made-for-TV films out there. It contains many of the thematic elements presents in Jenny McCarthy's "Santa Baby" from 2005. Mainly, it is about family struggles in a time of crisis.
Fred Claus (Vince Vaughn) is the older brother of Nick "Santa" Claus (Paul Giamatti). The film opens with the birth of Nick in a cottage several hundred years prior to present day. Nick is auspicious from the start – able to speak moments after birth and one of the fattest babies ever. Fred makes a promise to be the best big brother in the whole world. Unfortunately for Fred, Nick does not make that easy for him. Fred is constantly overshadowed by Nick's goodness toward man. Even his parents begin to rag on Fred for not being like Nick. This annoyance grows into hatred. Eventually, Nick becomes a Saint, and the eternal life spreads to everyone in the Claus family. As such, fast-forward to present day.
Fred now lives in Chicago. He is a bitter and cynical man. Naturally, since his brother Nick gives to everyone on Christmas, Fred works as a Repo Man, taking back that which Santa gave. He is a typical con man, always trying to find the easy way out, and lying his pants off to get out of trouble (only to dig himself deeper into a hole). His girlfriend, Wanda (Rachel Weisz) is tired of feeling rejected by Fred. Trying to con people out of money by posing as a street corner money collector. Once in jail, with Wanda not talking to him, he calls his brother for help.
Fred and Santa make an arrangement in which Santa will post Fred's bail and pay Fred to remaining money he needs if Fred comes to the North Pole to work, as they have fallen behind in the production of toys. At the same time, the board sends an efficiency expert to the North Pole, Clyde Northcut (Kevin Spacey). He is there with an evil plot to shut down the North Pole and Christmas forever. Three strikes, and Santa is out. Why you may ask. Well simply because Santa denied him a gift when he was a little boy, and he has held the grudge ever since. Didn't see that one coming.
The film starts out really slow, with seemingly no plot. It does, thankfully, get better as the film progresses. Still, with a nearly two-hour runtime, the film is just too long. Much more could have been cut from the film.
The acting is decent for a comedy film. Considering the caliber of the cast I expected just a bit more. If you are a fan of Vince Vaughn's humor then you will probably like this film.
Warner presents "Fred Claus" on a BD-25 disc with a 1080p/VC-1 encode. The video quality has wonderful colors. They are not always accurate, but they are rich and vibrant, suitable for the fantasy aspect of the film. Details suffer a bit from the hot contrast of the image. The black levels are decent but not exemplary. Skintones fluctuate. For the most part they are biased to the yellow-orange spectrum. Scattered yellow spots can be found in the faces of the actors, mainly due to the production lighting's effects on the actor's makeup. There is a bit of film grain present on the image. Most of it has been smeared with digital noise reduction. This also creates a lack of details. Lastly, there are some compression artifacts present as the two-hour film and bonus materials have all been squeezed onto the BD-25 disc. They are minor and not completely distracting, but they are present.
Warner automatically gets dinged in the audio department for only including a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. The soundtrack does not call for much (until the last portion of the film). Still, it would be nice to hear a high-res audio track. The audio transfer is a bit muffled. The dialogue is clear enough, but lacks that extra crispness. The sound effects are where the really muffled sounds are noticeable. The surround channels are fairly empty. There are some discrete effects in the last portion of the film.
The extras for this film are a bit overkill. "Fred Claus" is given a three-disc treatment. There is one Blu-ray disc. It contains the main feature and some of the bonus materials. First, there is an audio commentary with director David Dobkin. This commentary is pretty standard. It is full of information but a little boring. There are 13 deleted scenes. This is surprising as the film is already two hours long. It is hard to imagine that there is 25 minutes of deleted material. "Pause For Claus: Elves Tell All" contains some behind-the-scenes footage. "Sibling Rivalry" contains interviews with the famous brothers of the Siblings Anonymous scene. "Vince and Paul Fireside Chats" contains interviews with Paul and Vince on their favorite Christmas moments – five in total. Last on the disc is the "Ludacrismas" music video. There are also two standard DVDs. The first contains a Digital Copy of the film. The other contains a "Fred Claus" DVD Game.
This is a so-so film with decent video and audio quality. However, unless you are a Vince or Paul fanatic, or a sucker for Christmas movies, I would be hard pressed to recommend this film.