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Film / Fred Claus

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Santa's brother is coming to town.

A 2007 comedy directed by David Dobkin about Santa Claus' estranged older brother, Fred. In the opening prologue, we see that Nicholas and Frederick are two happy siblings. Each year, around Christmastime, Nicholas starts getting more and more charitable. He gives away all his own gifts to poorer children. With their parents constantly praising his kindness, Frederick grows more and more resentful. Trying to show off his own selflessness, Fred makes a birdhouse. Unfortunately, as soon as it's hung-up, Nick saws down the tree to decorate the house. That was the final straw for Fred.

Now, what most legends don't tell us (at least according to this movie) is that when a person is declared a Saint, the aging process slows down not just for them, but for their family as well.

Skip ahead two hundred years, Fred (Vince Vaughn) is a small-time hustler living in Chicago who appears to be in his 40s. He lives with his English girlfriend (who grows tired of him never having a stable life) and acts as a father figure to an orphaned boy. When his latest scam finally catches up to him (operating his own personal Salvation Army kettle), the only way he can post bail is by calling Nick (Paul Giamatti) for a favor. Despite his brother's callousness, Nick is more than willing to help, though Mrs. Claus (Miranda Richardson) is skeptical. As a compromise, Fred is willing to come up to the North Pole and do a little helping out. Meanwhile, greedy lawyer Clyde Northcutt (Kevin Spacey) tells Nick that he has three days to save his company from being shut down. It seems this year's Christmas' only hope lies in the irresponsible, chaotic Fred.

Hilarity Ensues.

This film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Actor Allusion: Kevin Spacey plays an antagonistic Obstructive Bureaucrat. Later he does a Heel–Face Turn when Santa gives him the one thing he always wanted when he was a kid — a Superman cape.
  • Artistic License – Religion: The family becomes immortal after Nick is made a saint, despite the fact that one of the key requirements for becoming a saint in the first place is being dead.
  • Big Brother Worship: As kids, Nick adored his older brother.
  • Car Radio Dispute: Fred leaves a taxi because of its playing Christmas music.
  • Christmas Elves: The dwarf variety. Except for one inexplicably human-sized elf played by Dr. Kim Briggs.
  • Close on Title: The title doesn't appear till the start of the credits.
  • Deconstruction: The film deconstructs the concept of the naughty or nice list as the list doesn't judge whether or not the child deserves to be put on the naughty or nice list. It also deconstructs the Santa myth as Santa is overweight and suffers health problems and marital issues.
  • Elderly Immortal: It seems that while his relatives stopped aging when he was sainted, Nick kept getting older for a while longer.
  • Evil Debt Collector: Not only averted (how often does that happen?) but parodied. Fred is a repo man and is shown repossessing a spoiled brat's Christmas present... a big plasma TV.
  • Hanukkah Episode: At one point during the big night Fred drops in on a Jewish family celebrating Hanukkah. He wishes them Happy Hanukkah and they offer him some of their food before sending him on his way.
  • Heel–Face Turn: After Clyde has his Heel Realization, he decides to help Nick run his operation better going forward.
  • Heel Realization: Fred, Clyde, and even Santa Claus himself, get one late in the movie when they realize how their actions have negatively impacted other people, causing all three to try and set things right.
  • Horrible Housing: While working at the North Pole to raise enough money to start an underground casino, Fred is only allotted an elf-sized bed and room to sleep in and the bed doesn't stretch out to fit his legs. Note that Fred had the option to either stay in jail where they have regular sized beds or let Nick only pay for his bail and go home empty-handed.
  • Incessant Music Madness: The elf DJ won't stop taking requests to play "Here Comes Santa Claus", so Fred shoves him into a cabinet so he can play something else. Fred switches the radio to Elvis Presley's "Rubberneckin' that gets the whole elf crew dancing. Unfortunately, it leaves the workshop in total chaos since it also causes the Elves to neglect their jobs just as Santa and efficiency expert Clyde Northcutt walk in.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Sure, Fred is kind of an ill-tempered killjoy with regards to Christmas but a number of his criticisms, such as questioning Nick dropping down a chimney rather than knocking on the door and the uncompromising nature of the naughty/nice list are actually quite logical and reasonable.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Fred's mother is not evil, but she's partly responsible for how he turned out. Unlike Nick, who realized what he did to his brother, she never realizes her own mistakes nor is she ever called out on them.
    • Clyde Northcutt, although it could be argued in his case that karmic retribution would ruin the message of the film.
    • With the way the message is delivered, possibly some kids who have really misbehaved, like that boy who trashed his sister's bedroom and beat her up with a bat.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Clyde Northcutt, in spades. He is determined to find anything that will justify him shutting down Nick's North Pole operation, including his own use of sabotage.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: One of Cracked's 6 Horrifying Implications of Classic Christmas Movies is that Santa Claus's immortal immediate family suffers from what the article calls the "Highlander Complex": "They will have to watch their friends and relatives wither and die right before their callous, eternal eyes."
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Not once, not twice, but three times. Fred realizes that his hatred of his family and the holidays has cost him almost everything plus realizing that his negative words have made Slam sullen and cold-hearted which leads to him getting into fights with the kids at the orphanage he was sent to. Clyde realizes how much of an ass he's been when Nick gives him the present he always wanted as a kid but never got. Then, believe it or not, Santa Claus has probably the biggest of all when he realizes that it was his fault his brother turned out the way he did, even if he didn't mean it, and by proxy he probably judged millions of kids over the years as naughty by only their actions without bothering to ask why they were being naughty in the first place and ruining many a childhood like he did Clyde's.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Really, the only justification for Elizabeth Banks' character being a human-sized elf and having a wardrobe consisting entirely of Sexy Santa Dresses.
  • Nepotism: Despite knowing what an ill-tempered troublemaker Fred is, Nick still decides Fred is qualified to handle the job of judging kids as Naughty or Nice simply on the basis of being his brother.
  • Never My Fault: On top of this, Nick is quick to blame Fred for marking all the remaining kids as nice creating a huge workload impossible to fulfill when Nick was the one who hired Fred for the job.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Nick flat out destroys his brother's spirit and sense of selflessness in their childhood, and it takes several centuries to mend those bridges.
    • Fred, after he accidentally gets Christmas cancelled. However, he quickly realizes what he's done and spends the next few days travelling back to the North Pole to fix it.
  • Not Naughty, Just Misunderstood: The main aesop of the movie focuses on this concept with the Naughty/Nice list. The main "villain" of the movie, Clyde Northcutt, is initially portrayed as an unsympathetic corporate jerk. Eventually it dawns on Santa that Clyde's frustrating childhood was only made that much worse when Santa put him on the naughty list without considering the context of why Clyde acted that way in the first place. As a result, that frustration became a part of who Clyde is as an adult and a reason why he's so gleeful at the prospect of Santa being shut down.
  • Parental Bonus:
    • Fred is placed in charge of monitoring the "Naughty or Nice" list via crystal ball. He asks Nick if he could see if the Swedish Bikini Team is being "naughty".
    • Don't forget Fred's barb to Nick, asking if he's having trouble "getting the sleigh off the ground".
  • Parental Neglect: Fred's mother in particular, she seems as incapable of saying anything nice about Fred as she is incapable of finding fault in Nick. Even at the end when the family is brought back together, all she can say to him is that his girlfriend is too good for him.
  • Parental Favoritism: Obviously their parents towards Nick. When one son is a saint beloved by all the world's children and responsible for rendering you functionally immortal while the other is a grinchy con-man who defined Santa's idea of naughty children, you're going to be a little favoritist.
    • They were favoring Nick long before his sainthood; in several instances in childhood, whenever Fredrick did something his mother was about to positively remark on, Nicolas would top him in an outlandish manner. Then chiding Fred started when he tried applying logic to any of the things Nick did.
  • Recycled Trailer Music: Five cues from Alan Silvestri's MouseHunt score appear in the film (this was due to the film's original score by Rolfe Kent being rejected in post-production and the replacement score by Christophe Beck not being finished before opening, so much of the temp track ended up in the final cut). Silvestri was credited for its use.
  • Subbing for Santa: Fred temporarily takes his brother's mantle.
  • Tropaholics Anonymous: Fred visits "Siblings Anonymous" where the brothers of famous people try to find peace. Among those attending are Frank Stallone, Roger Clinton, and Stephen Baldwin.
  • The Unfavorite: Fred, who ends up despising his brother and parents as a result and had to be forced to spend time with them.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Fred thinks this of Nick when he gives his younger brother a well-thought-out, handmade and very personalised present, only for the future saint to immediately put it in a sack and take it with a bunch of his other belongings to give to another boy. Then when Fred finds fault in giving another boy a book made specifically for his brother (even putting Nicolas on the cover) his mother chides him.
  • Younger Than They Look: Since Santa Claus has white hair and a white beard, he looks older than his brother.