Critics Consensus

Critical Consensus: Fred Claus Fails to Spread Cheer; Lions Is Tame, P2 is Average Genre Fare

What are the critics saying about this week's movie crop?

by | November 8, 2007 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got Santa’s not-so-little helper (Fred
Claus
, starring
Vince Vaughn and
Paul Giamatti), geopolitics (Lions for
Lambs
, starring
Robert Redford,
Tom Cruise, and
Meryl Streep), and one scary
parking garage (P2, starring
Rachel Nichols
and Wes Bentley). What do the critics have to
say?

Fred
Claus
hit theaters two weeks before Thanksgiving, hoping to spread
some early Yuletide cheer. Unfortunately, the critics have made a list, checked
it twice, and determined this one’s a lump of coal.
Vince Vaughn stars as
Santa’s no-good brother, a repo man who’s lived in the shadow of St. Nick (Paul Giamatti); after a run-in with the law, Santa agrees to help his bro on the
condition that he do some hard labor at the North Pole to help with the
seasonal demand for toys. It’s a pretty funny premise, and the cast includes
such able thespians as
Miranda Richardson,
Kevin Spacey,
Chris "Ludacris"
Bridges
, and Rachel Weisz. But the pundits say Fred never settles on a
workable tone, awkwardly vacillating between wacky slapstick and sappy
sentiment. At 32 percent on the Tomatometer, ’tis not the season for Fred
Claus
.
 



Vaughn trains for the upcoming Breaking Away prequel.
 

Lions for
Lambs
is an ambitious attempt to look at the complexities of
our current political landscape from a number of different angles. It stars
Robert Redford (who also directed),
Tom Cruise, and
Meryl Streep. But despite
such impressive pedigree, pundits say the film falls flat. Lions looks at
the war on terror from the perspectives of two young enlistees, a college
professor, a senator and TV reporter. Critics say Redford’s heart is in the
right place in wanting greater engagement in politics from the general public;
it’s just that Lions is weighted down with too much talk, and ends up
coming across as a civics lesson rather than a compelling drama. At 30 percent,
on the Tomatometer, Lions for Lambs is the worst-reviewed film of
Redford’s directorial career. (Check out our interview with Lambs
screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan
here.)



"You’re a jerk!"

Fred Claus isn’t the only Christmas-themed movie in theaters this week.
P2
is the story of a woman who’s late to Christmas Eve dinner because she’s tied up
— literally. In order to see what Santa has delivered for her this year, she
must escape the clutches of an evil security guard. Some critics say P2 is
much better than it sounds, a game of cinematic cat and mouse with a dark sense
of humor. However, others say it’s still essentially a genre exercise, and pretty gory to
boot. P2 currently stands at 46 percent on the Tomatometer.



The latest Olympic event: Formal Wear Garage Relay.

Also opening this week in limited release: the documentary
Steal a Pencil for
Me
, about a strange love affair during the Holocaust, is at 100 percent on
the Tomatometer;
No Country for
Old Men
, a dark, tense crime film from
the Coen Brothers, is at 89 percent (check out our review from Cannes
here, and
our feature on the Coens’ filmography
here);
Holly,
a drama about child
prostitution in Vietnam, is at 86 percent;
Note By Note
, a documentary
detailing the manufacture of a Steinway piano, is at 80 percent;
War/Dance
,
a doc about a music festival in the midst of war-torn Uganda, is at 67 percent;
and Nightmare Man, a horror flick about a woman being attacked by an evil
spirit, is at 50 percent.



I say, war can dance, war can dance.

Recent Vince Vaughn Movies:
————————————
82% — Into the Wild (2007)
33% — The Break-Up (2006)
69% — Thumbsucker (2005)
74% — Wedding Crashers (2005)
29% — Be Cool (2005)

Robert Redford-Directed Movies:
—————————————–
41% — The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
71% — The Horse Whisperer (1998)
96% — Quiz Show (1994)
78% — A River Runs Through It (1992)
58% — The Milagro Beanfield War (1988)
89% — Ordinary People (1980)

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