With the award winning cast we expect Fred Claus to be somewhat profound and classic. What we get is a simple sometimes silly film more suited to Vince Vaughn than Kevin Spacey. The story has its moments and follows the Christmas hope of everything coming out just right at the end.
Fred (Vaughn) is the older brother of Nick who can't compete with the accomplishments of his younger sibling; who could compete with Santa. But mom (Kathy Bates) constantly expresses her wish that Fred were more like his brother. The trauma of competing with Nick has Fred floundering as an adult who can't keep up his relation with Wanda (Rachel Weisz), as he puts together a deal to open a new eating establishment. What Wanda sees in Fred is not at all clear, he's a loser. But the script is designed to bring Fred along and heal the rifts in the Claus family.
Nick at the North Pole has his work cut out for him, he is being reviewed by the Scrooge efficiency expert, Clyde (Kevin Spacey). Supported warmly by wife, Annette (Miranda Richardson) who resents Fred's request for a fifty thousand dollar gift to open that restaurant, but Santa can't refuse his brother as long as Fred heads north to help with the work of preparing toys for Christmas.
A romantic side story appears between Charlene (Elizabeth Banks) who is standard height and Willie (John Michael Higgins) one of the elves who gains confidence following the urging of Fred - who is beginning to learn how to lead a successful life. Ludacris plays the DJ at Santa's workshop who keeps the Christmas tunes filling the soundtrack.
It's all a pattern which we have all seen many times, but so what, having fun at the movies with a film that works just enough for a family to share laughter is not that bad.