Santa, merry elves, snow, reindeer and a trouble-maker stirring things up – what more could you ask for in a Christmas movie? Well, a little bit more entertainment would be nice.
Nick Claus (Giamatti) is a busy man. It's December and his elves are working overtime to get all the toys made for the children before Christmas Eve. He's full of the Christmas spirit and is hoping that everything runs smoothly on the big night.
Far from the North Pole his lazy brother Fred (Vaughn) is being a scrooge. He's spending the festive season bad-mouthing Santa to his young neighbour Slam (Thompson), ripping people off and generally getting himself into trouble.
So when Fred calls his brother to bail him out of jail, Nick feels he has to set a condition: Fred must work at the toy factory at the North Pole to earn his bail money plus a loan - a prospect he isn't looking forward to.
At the North Pole Fred teaches head elf Willie (Higgins) a thing or two about the ladies, slates DJ Donnie (Ludacris) for his musical taste and manages to mess up Santa's naughty and nice list. But his mistakes at work don't go unnoticed when inspector Clyde Northcut (Spacey) arrives at the North Pole, intent on shutting down Santa's toy-making operation.
You need to see at least one of these silly Christmas movies every year but 'Fred Claus' is one of the more disappointing festive offerings. Younger children will undoubtedly enjoy the comic capers of Fred Claus and the elves but this movie won't appeal to a wide audience. The gags aren't all that funny and the storyline is never pacey enough to make you care about Santa's dilemma.
For what it's worth, Paul Giamatti is the perfect Santa and really gets stuck into the role but the script lets him down. His co-star Vince Vaughn plays grumpy 'bah-humbug' character Fred with ease but is slightly upstaged by Kevin Spacey, as the straight-laced Christmas-hating inspector. Child actor Bobb'e J Thompson is criminally underused considering the fact that he provides most of the biggest laughs of the movie in the first 15 minutes or so.
'Fred Claus' is not the worst Christmas movie that you'll ever see but it lacks that magical sparkle that would have made it appeal to all ages.