Four Christmases (2008) - Plot Summary Poster


Showing all 4 items
Jump to:


  • Brad and Kate have been together three years, in love, having fun, doing all sorts of things together with no intention of marriage or children. Christmas morning, they're on their way to Fiji, having told their two sets of divorced parents that they're off to do charity work. Through a fluke, they have no choice but to visit each of their four idiosyncratic parents. As the day progresses, Brad and Kate remember growing up, each learns more about the other, and Kate realizes that her life may not be as good as it could be. Do they know each other well enough to weather the storms families bring?

  • Until now, Brad and Kate had always managed to avoid spending Christmas with their family by escaping to exotic lands to enjoy heavenly vacations. But this year, they failed. When they arrive at the airport, all the flights have been canceled. Even worse, a television news crew interviews them, revealing to their family where they are. This time, there's no way out and no excuses. Brad's father is waiting for them at his house. So is Kate's mother. And Brad's mother and Kate's father. Four family Christmases, the same day! Brad and Kate expect the worse... and they won't be disappointed. They will be spared of nothing. In between humiliations, the secrets each one of them had carefully kept from the other, the hard feelings and impossible situations, the couple will live through a day that might be the last their relationship can stand.

  • A couple struggles to visit all four of their divorced parents on Christmas.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The movie opens in a bar near Christmas, where a geeky Brad (Vince Vaughn) tries to hit on a confident and bitchy Kate (Reese Witherspoon), who blows him off...until she's called a bitch. After a short fierce exchange the two are having sex in the bathroom, and running off to the San Francisco trolley to their house, where we find that they are roleplaying, and have been happily together for 3 years. Both are wealthy, and successful. They are happy with the relationship as is and have no plans for marriage or children. They simply want to enjoy life while being with each other, even telling so with glee to a married and engaged couple. During the conversation, both Brad and Kate reveal that they are both from broken homes, and don't want to repeat that, or bring a child into it either.

    At a later company Christmas party two of their coworkers dread their Christmases with family, while Brad and Kate happily discuss their plans to leave the country. They lie to their parents each year, saying they go do civil service like helping starving children in China, so that they can escape Scott free. While the coworkers are appalled Brad reminds them that "You can't spell lies without families." This year they plan to go to Fiji.

    On Christmas Day Brad and Kate prepare for the trip as they tell their parents that they are going to inoculate children in Burma, and head for the airport as the San Francisco fog rolls in extra thick. By the time they arrive at the airport all flights have been canceled due to fog. Before they can make plants to stay at the hotel and wait for the fog to lift the local news comes and interviews the couple, live. They both stumble for answers, dressed in full knowing there's a good chance their families are watching and unable to lie about their true destination...and sure enough, right after they're interviewed they start to receive phone calls. They end up making plans to visit all their parents within one day.

    BRAD'S DAD As Brad and Kate pull up to the farm where Brad's father lives Brad and Kate agree to a safe word of "Mistletoe" to signal that they should get out, but it's clear Brad doesn't want to go in at all. As they step in Brad's father Howard (Robert Duvall) greets them warmly. Also there are Brad's brothers, Dallas (Tim McGraw) and his two children, and Denver (Jon Favreau) and his wife and baby. Dallas and Denver start to beat on Brad, calling him Orlando. When Kate asks, Brad's brothers reveal that they were named after the cities they were conceived in: Kate is appalled that Brad never told her his real name, and Brad tries to explain that his brothers are like MMA fighters that just brawl in backyards and upload the footage to YouTube.

    Kate convinces Brad that he's a grown man, and can demand his space from his brothers. Brad has a talk with his brothers about boundaries and respect. The two answer by beating him again, with even Dallas' children getting into the act. Howard breaks the fight by asking to have the presents handed out. Just as Denver's wife mentions the $10 cap that everyone agreed to Brad hands Dallas' kids a brand new Xbox 360. His brothers are appalled, not only because they feel that Brad is showing off just how much he makes but that it makes their own presents look horrible (Dallas got one of his kids a cheap flashlight). Brad ruins it further by accidently revealing that there's no Santa Claus. Screaming that nobody loves him one of Dallas' kids strips off his clothes and runs out the window (As someone mentions, when he can't express himself he goes streaking. He'll be back.) Howard's gift is a new satellite dish, which he takes up to the roof to install with his boys.

    Kate waits with Denver's wife in the kitchen, who asks Kate to hold her baby while she cooks. Kate seems uncomfortable with the baby, but slowly grows used to it. Meanwhile Brad is installing the dish while his brothers mock him. Howard mentions his ex-wife calling her a whore. Brad is offended. Howard also mentions the same thing Brad did, about lies in families. He then goes down to check the signal, while Brad tries to point the dish in different directions to get a clear signal. The dish pops off and he falls off the roof dragging the cable wire all along the living room and destroying it, even pulling the TV up into the ceiling before it catches flames. Shocked by all the noise Kate swings and slams the baby's head into an open cabinet door angering the mom. Brad and Kate quickly leave after this.

    KATE'S MOM As they pull up Kate's house has a statue of Jesus on the front lawn. Kate is surprised, and as they go in we meet her mother Marilyn (Mary Steenburgen), her sister, two aunts, and grandmother, all of whom find Brad to be very attractive. We quickly find out that Kate was picked on as a kid. Her nickname was "Cootie Kate" and was tormented, eventually leading to a traumatizing experience in a moon bounce/jumpy jump. Of course, there's one outside for the kids.

    Marilyn's newfound love of religion is based on her current boyfriend Pastor Phil. They give each other the gift of verbal promises (which disappoints the sister's kid) which includes the grandmother promising her husband more sex. As they're sharing Kate is given a baby to hold, who throws up all over her. Brad reacts horribly, the smell making him want to throw up too. Kate goes to change in the bathroom, having to wear an old sweater and jeans. She finds a pregnancy test and decides to try it but before the results could come in her niece runs in and steals it. She runs into the moon bounce where Kate tries to follow.

    As this happens Kate's family is showing Brad their photo album, which shows Kate was once so fat she went to fat camp and that she had a lesbian friend in high school. The kids torment Kate in the moon bounce and even drop kick her out of it before she snaps, closing the door to the moon bounce and flinging kids left and right to get her test. When the niece puts it in her mouth Kate happily tells her that she peed on it, making the kids stop cheering and start to look sick. She looks at the test, sighing, before trying to talk to her mom. However Marilyn is too obsessed with making sure everyone is ready for Pastor Phil's sermon. Kate changes back to her now clean regular clothes but Brad is laughing at her. He mentions how he's not as fazed by her large weight as a kid or her lesbian friend (whom Kate herself didn't even realize was lesbian, until she thinks about it), so Kate shouldn't be so mad about the Orlando thing.

    We find out Pastor Phil (Dwight Yoakam) runs a very flashy church and needs volunteers to star in the play of the birth of Christ. Wanting to impress him Marilyn "volunteers" Kate who gets Brad to go up with her. On stage Kate gets stage fright and can't remember her lines or actions while Brad hams it up and mocks Kate much to the crowd's delight. The two leave. Kate is upset that Brad threw her to the wolves but Brad doesn't understand what was so bad about it.

    BRAD'S MOM In a short visit they come to visit Brad's hippie mom (Sissy Spacek). Things quickly turn sour as we meet Brad's stepdad, who tells Brad that he knows he can't be a father but he just wants to be a friend. Brad answers "You were my friend. You were my best friend growing up, and then you married my mom," to which he answers "To be fair I didn't have a sexual attraction to your mom until I was 30." Turns out that they are incredibly sexually active, which disgusts Brad. Kate has brought board games though, and they decide to try Taboo.

    Denver is there with his wife, still giving Brad a death glare over the incident at their dad's. The couples start to play, with one person trying to tell the other to say a key word without using any words from a short list. They try by using their personal experiences with each other. Brad's mom and stepdad do well, but all their clues are sexual. Denver and his wife play like professionals, knocking out word after word. But when Kate tries to tell Brad clues based on her life Brad gets angry wanting more specific clues. He clearly has no clue about anything involving Kate outside of what he's done with her.

    As they leave Kate is upset and Brad tries to comfort her by forgiving Kate for the bad clues. Kate mentions that she took the pregnancy test and Brad freaks out. She reveals that the test was negative but it made her think of wanting something more than the "friendship" that she and Brad have. Brad will have none of it. He's happy the way they've been and he wants to stay that way.

    KATE'S DAD As they pull up Kate tells Brad that he doesn't have to come in. He insists but she doesn't want to lie to her parents anymore about their relationship. If Brad doesn't want to go further then she's done. Brad leaves and her father (Jon Voight) comes out to greet his daughter. Upon going in Kate is shocked. Marilyn and Pastor Phil are there too, and getting along well with everyone. Kate asks her sister, saying she thought that their mom and dad hated each other, but they stopped and started gathering when their granddaughter was born. Kate goes upstairs to be alone for a bit when her father comes in and reveals that he always knew his daughter was lying about leaving for Christmas. He isn't upset, but warns her that he used to make lies to avoid his family, and many divorces later now wishes he had that time back.

    Brad goes back to see his dad, who is drinking on the porch. When Brad tells him that Kate offered to make a family with him and he said no his dad finally seems happy. He tells Brad that he's the smart one, not falling for getting married, and says how they're alike. This frightens Brad, knowing that he has become his father. He ends up going upstairs to his old room, where all his old toys and awards (All in his birth name Orlando) are still arranged. He goes back to see Kate, who at first doesn't want to see him. He does convince her that he is there to talk to her about having kids and getting married "sometime, not right now but sometime." And the two talk about the advantages and tax breaks that being married and having kids would bring. But for the future.

    ONE YEAR LATER It's New Years Day, just after midnight, and Brad and Kate are amazed that they just had a baby. The nurse comes in and tells them that if family is waiting they're now allowed to come in and visit. Brad and Kate look at each other before revealing that they never even told their parents that Kate was pregnant. The nurse gives them a funny look and leaves, just as a live news crew comes into their room to interview them about having the first baby of the new year. As they stare nervously, just before Kate can answer the baby throws up all over her and Brad, and Brad jumps up gagging.

See also

Taglines | Synopsis | Plot Keywords | Parents Guide

Contribute to This Page