Siblings aren't always easy to live with or up to. But imagine having a real saint for a brother. That's exactly the problem Fred Claus (Vince Vaughn) has. His little brother Nicholas (Paul Giamatti) is the generous man in red.
Unable to put up with his mother's (Kathy Bates) constant comparisons to his younger kin, Fred becomes a sour and disgruntled man who isn't above stealing to come up with some gambling cash. Then one night, the delinquent Claus ends up in the slammer and is forced to turn to Santa for an early Christmas present---jail bail. Against his wife's (Miranda Richardson) wishes, Nick agrees to pay the fine if Fred will come to the North Pole and work in the toy factory for the season.
Reluctantly, Fred agrees. Packing his bags, he is chauffeured to the winter workshop in a reindeer-powered sleigh driven by an elf named Willie (John Michael Higgens). Once there, he takes on the tasks of determining the Naughty and Nice lists. But all the Christmas cheer and family togetherness is more than Fred can swallow.
However, he isn't the only one experiencing a few holiday blues. Santa's shop is under scrutiny from an efficiency expert that is itching to kibosh the winter celebration. With Clyde (Kevin Spacey) tailing his every move, Nick has big worries about making the midnight delivery deadline. And unfortunately Fred's antics on the work floor---hijacking the in-house radio station and instigating a dancing melee on the assembly line---don't assuage Santa's doubts.
Like many Christmas movies over the past few years, this film isn't necessarily fare for the whole family. For instance, young children who've just mailed their wish lists to the North Pole might worry to see Santa being pummeled by his older brother. Moments of rude comedy and some veiled sexual innuendo also make the script less than jolly. Still the movie offers several humorous insights into the difficulty of living in the shadow of a famous sibling. (It's a quandary shared by others in Fred's support group whose real-life siblings include celebrated actors and a former U.S. president.)
Luckily, the brothers' familial bond eventually proves advantageous to both of them. And with a new perspective on things, everyone benefits from this northerly reunion.