Critics Consensus

Critics Consensus: Four Christmases Gets Coal

Plus, Australia falls short of epic status, and Transporter 3 drives in circles.

by | November 25, 2008 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got yuletide yucks (Four Christmases, starring Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon), an epic from Down Under (Australia, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman), and deadly deliveries (Transporter 3, starring Jason Statham). What do the critics have to say?

There’s nothing wrong with misanthropic holiday comedies — as long as they generate laughs. Otherwise, they just seem dispiriting, which is how critics describe Four Christmases. The movie stars Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon as an unmarried couple that tends to spend holidays on vacation (disguised as charity work) to avoid each of their divorced parents’ less-than-festive yuletide celebrations. However, when they’re left stranded at the airport, they decide to suck it up and pay all four of their parents a visit, with embarrassing situations ensuing. The pundits say Four Christmases is a sour, broad collection of stereotypes and clichés, and even if Vaughn and Witherspoon try their best, they don’t have much to work with, script-wise. At 27 percent on the Tomatometer, this Christmas isn’t a gift.

“We loved it. It was much better than Cats. We will see it again and again.”

Baz Luhrmann is not a director known for his restraint. William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge were big, bombastic entertainments that took bold stylistic chances. The critics say his latest, Australia, is similarly audacious, but doesn’t totally cohere, despite some excellent moments. Set just before World War II, Australia stars Nicole Kidman as an English aristocrat who falls for a cattleman (Hugh Jackman) who works on her late husband’s ranch; later, they attempt to care for a half-Aboriginal child, but are stymied by the government’s cruel racial policies. The pundits say Australia is an elegant, genre-hopping romp with much to enjoy; unfortunately, they also note its lurches in tone make the film less than the epic it intends to be. At 50 percent on the Tomatometer, you may not want to say “g’day” to Australia.

If you were ever considering messing with Hugh Jackman, now would not be the time.

The first two Transporter films, while not terribly realistic or character-driven, were efficient, brisk action pictures buoyed considerably by the presence of Jason Statham. However, critics say the third time’s definitely not the charm for this franchise. In Transporter 3, Statham again plays Frank Martin, an expert driver who delivers high-value packages for mysterious clients; this time, it’s the kidnapped daughter of a Ukrainian official. Unfortunately, both Martin and his cargo are wearing bracelets that are set to explode if they venture too many feet away from his Audi. The scribes say the third installment is lacking the sense of zippy fun that Transporter fans have come to expect, and the result is noisy, sometimes morose, and generally uninspired. At 26 percent on the Tomatometer, Transporter 3 is the series’ worst-reviewed entry. (Check out Statham’s five favorite movies here.)

Despite warnings from saftey officials, Jason Statham really doesn’t want to wear a bike helmet.

Also opening this week in limited release is Gus Van Sant‘s Milk, starring Sean Penn as the first openly gay major officeholder in the United States; it currently stands at 97 percent on the Tomatometer.

Recent Vince Vaughn Movies:

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