I’m writing this on the 16th day of December, which means we’re on the 16th day of advent. This means I’ve just watched my 16th Christmas film this month. I’ll be honest, I’m starting to get a bit tired of festive movies. It doesn’t exactly help that the majority of them have been terrible. This is mostly because I just went with whatever was available on Netflix or free on Prime. Also, time was a factor. I’ve had to go for shorter films this week in order to fit everything in. Regardless of the reason, I’ve been subjected to a fair few dreadful films. Admittedly, there have been some high points but, I’ll be honest, Fred Claus wasn’t one of them.
Back in 2013, long before this blog moved to WordPress, I constructed a list of my 10 least favourite Christmas films. It was a ragtag bunch of films that I assume many people will find controversial. This film was number 6 on the list, so you can imagine how little I was looking forward to watching this. However, after Noelle, I felt that I had to watch it. A film that deals with Santa’s sibling but without the saccharine Disney vibes. Something that means we don’t have to endure Vince Vaughn singing out of a widow to summon a CGI reindeer.
Instead, Fred Claus is Santa’s overlooked and cynical older brother. From a young age, Nicholas was a good kid and was clearly the favourite of their parents. Fred is, understandably, jealous and grows up to resent his brother. Whilst his brother only becomes more and more popular thanks to the whole Christmas thing, Fred lives a more cynical life as repo man. After asking his brother for money, Fred is summoned to the North Pole to work for it. Unfortunately, this also coincides with the arrival of an efficient agent who is overseeing the running of Santa’s operations. Will Santa be able to reconnect with his brother and prevent Fred from ruining Christmas for everyone?
Looking at the cast list of this film, you’d think it was something absolutely incredible. Well, at least for the year that it was made. Looking at it now, Kevin Spacey doesn’t seem like the amazing score that he would have in 2007. Although, I don’t want to get into that right now. The fact is, there is nothing about this film that warrants this group of people signing up for it. Well except money, of course. Fred Claus has a lot of potential in the sibling rivalry side of the plot. There’s a fun moment when Fred joins a Siblings Anonymous meeting with various famous siblings. It’s something that could have been expanded on instead of the fairly standard Christmas storyline at the heart of the film.
The problem is, this is a film that doesn’t really succeed on any level. It’s not as cynical as it wanted to be and the ending is not as heartfelt as it believes it is. Fred Claus tries to make a point about not child being naughty but just being misunderstood. However, it kind of forgets that during vital moments and starts banging on about something else. This is a messy and overly complicated film. It certainly doesn’t fill me with joyful Christmas feelings. Fred Claus might be trying to convince us that there is no such thing as a naughty child but definitely doesn’t get close to teaching us that there is no such thing as a bad Christmas film.