Fred? OK, maybe not Fred. Not yet at least, but if the makers of the latest yuletide film Fred Claus get their way, that may soon change!
Based on a story by Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam, Corrina Corrina), writer Dan Fogelman (Cars) takes us on a journey with Vince Vaughn as Fred Claus; the overshadowed, older brother of Santa Claus (Paul Giamatti) himself. Fred just can’t seem to get a break.
A few weeks before Christmas, Fred is down on his luck and as a last resort, reaches out to his baby brother for a loan. Much to the chagrin of Mrs. Claus (Miranda Richardson), he is forced to come to Santa’s workshop and earn the money he seeks.
Fred hits the North Pole like a blizzard. He eventually crosses paths with Santa’s new nemesis Clyde Northcutt (Kevin Spacey) and has to stop and re-assess the dynamic that has kept him away from his family and on the outskirts of the family business.
Fred introduces the idea that there is no such thing as a naughty child. The concept, at first, threatens to bring the whole holiday to its knees, but in reality ends up saving and improving the day.
“Christmas is a big, important American holiday so I thought that we could make the best use of that story with these characters,” says producer Joel Silver (The Matrix, Lethal Weapon). “We got together, and we thought we could make a really fun movie. I think that it worked, and I think people will enjoy it.”
“I think the kids love the great theme that there’s no naughty kids,” says Vaughn. “I think [Jessie Nelson] found a really different kind of way of looking at the genre of Christmas films.”
“I guess the true essence as to why it works so well is because Fred Claus was originally as simple as a bedtime story from a mother to her daughter.” Nelson recounts, “My daughter asked me one night if Santa Claus had a family. I thought, oh my God, of course he did and what would it have been like to be Santa Claus’s brother?”
A stellar cast of remarkably big talent that includes Kathy Bates, Rachel Weisz, John Michael Higgins, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Elizabeth Banks supports the story line.
Though you might think of a Vince Vaughn vehicle being more on the risqué side of the spectrum, Fred Claus is fun holiday fare indeed. Adults and children alike will find something to enjoy in this story.
“It’s a PG movie,” explains Silver. “I mean, it’s not adult. We made a point of having Vince not be too bland for the [adult] audience. You still get Vince. You get a PG version of Vince.”
Nelson adds, “We always slightly had Vince in our mind as we were working on the script because we always felt he could bring so much heart to the sort of naughty kid story of Christmas.”
Director David Dobkin, who also worked with Vince on Wedding Crashers and Clay Pigeons elaborates, “When [the story] came, I actually read it because I know how much Vince loves Christmas movies.”
“The movie has such a huge emotional impact,” says Vaughn, “but it’s all those great feelings that you want to feel at Christmas. [It’s] the kind of impact that makes you feel, afterwards, kind of optimistic; almost freed of some stuff. I think that’s Santa Claus.”
I screened this film on a day when the temperature reached 93 degrees, and the sun glared harshly through thick clouds of soot from the recent fires. Yet I still spent the day smiling and humming Christmas songs.
Fred Claus releases in theaters Nov. 9.