Holiday movie pick: Fred Claus (2007)
I've always been a fan of Vince Vaughn's -- ever since I saw him in Swingers. He seems to have the gift to create empathy for the characters he plays -- even the ones who aren't so nice. In Fred Claus, he plays Fred -- Santa Claus's brother. Early in life -- before his little brother became known as St. Nick -- Fred grew tired of trying to compete with his little brother's kindness and goodness. "Why can't you be more like your little brother?" Fred's parents ask him. Most of us can understand Fred's bitterness after that kind of upbringing.
So Fred becomes a bad kid, who, as an adult, becomes a fast-talking con-artist, who repos TVs and other items from people who can't pay for them anymore (and then stashes them in his own apartment). When Fred calls Nicholas to bail him out of jail, he's not content with the $5000 his brother is willing to pay; he tells him he actually needs $50,000. This sets up the second act, where Nicholas tells him he has to come to the North Pole to get the money.
What I like about this setup is we've never seen it before -- at least in a holiday movie. Paul Giamatti, with his neurotic, almost pained portrayal of Santa, helps us understand how difficult it would be to carry the world on your shoulders. He's also contending with an efficiency expert played by Kevin Spacey (who's name is Clyde Northcutt) who wants to take down the North Pole.
But probably my favorite scene takes place at "Siblings Anonymous," where we see brothers of famous people commiserating together, including Roger Clinton (Bill's half-brother) and Stephen Baldwin (Alec's brother).