Fred Claus (2007)
Director: David Dobkin
Main Cast: Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti, John Michael Higgins, Miranda Richardson, Rachel Weisz, Kevin Spacey, Elizabeth Banks
There is something rather interesting about this film, Fred Claus. On the surface, it is an attempt to have an “offbeat” christmas movie like Elf, with sort of a bad streak along the lines of Bad Santa and plot elements that recall Office Space. But in the movie Kevin Spacey plays “efficiency expert” Clyde Northcutt sent by “the Board” to inspect Santa Claus’ (Paul Giamatti’s) operation at the North Pole. Northcutt hints strongly that The Board may shut down Santa’s whole operation and outsource it to the South Pole. Santa takes this threat very seriously. Even before the financial meltdown of 2008, and Occupy Wall Street, and the like, this movie portrays a TINA (there is no alternative) view to neoliberal corporate rule, that even magical (immortal) heroes like Santa are powerless against. But as much as that seems to be the case, Santa’s scruffy, ne’er-do-well older brother Fred (Vince Vaughn) provides the antidote. Fred’s curt, snappy vision of “saints” being counterproductive or even evil, turns around the fundamental basis of Santa delivering gifts to children. From his first appearance giving a little girl having her family’s household luxury items repossessed some rather adequate advice about learning the value of self-sufficiency, community and family, he is a discontent whistleblower. Throughout the film Fred relies on tangible goals and the avoidance of myth. Even when Fred recants some of his ways, his shameless good nature, tendency to undermine violently-enforced monopoly (Salvation Army bell ringers), and support of friends and community (a fatherless neighbor kid) allows him to see straight through Spacey’s corporate tricks. In the end of the film, Fred has managed to equalize Santa’s distribution of presents (wealth) on the basis of a more complex view of sociological settings in which kids had been previously judged “naughty or nice” by Santa. Even when Fred seeks to open an off-track betting facility, it’s worth noting that he wants to do so across from a commodity exchange, in essence calling out such facilities as merely another form of horse race betting. The movie is most interesting in the way it tries (and ultimately fails) to present Fred as a misfit and screw-up early in the film, when from another point of view he is from the very beginning the hero (who ironically somewhat loses his way, as the film attempts to legitimize the “board” control as normalcy). If you read this film against its intended point of view, it’s actually quite subversive.