But their bliss runs out this Christmas, when all four parents command their presence, and the couple wind up having to visit all the parents they’ve been avoiding for years — on a single Christmas morning.
The couple’s cell phones start jangling the moment a TV crew shows up at the fogged-in airport where their getaway flight’s been grounded, and before you can say “plot contrivance,” they’re off to see Brad’s dyspeptic bumpkin of a dad (Robert Duvall) and two Neanderthal brothers Kate didn’t know Brad had.
Slapstick ensues — from the tragic installation of a rooftop satellite dish to random acts of stupidity including wrestling tackles in the living room and an infant’s projectile vomiting. This convinces Kate she should really become a mother, naturally.
The first visit is followed by a trip to see Brad’s cradle-robbing mom (Sissy Spacek), who’s shacked up with her son’s best friend. After a bit of strangely fierce board-game playing, the couple zips off to see Kate’s stiff-upper-crust mother (Mary Steenburgen), who drags them to church where they get roped into portraying Mary and Joseph in a Christmas pageant.
Finally they head for the home of Kate’s laid-back but earnest dad (Jon Voigt) for… well, for a rest, apparently, as the four screenwriters have by this time reached the bottom of their bag of tricks and are reduced to repeating that uproarious puking-infant gag a second time.
4 Christmases, directed by Seth Gordon (The King of Kong) is marginally better than most infantile holiday comedies, with a few offbeat comic ideas, a reliably droll performance from Vaughn. Credit must be given to the four estranged parents played by watchable old troopers like Duvall, Spacek, Voight and Steenburgen.