Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fred Claus

Everyone gets a second chance.

Santa Claus isn't perfect. He may be a saint, but he's not perfect.

In Fred Claus, a light-hearted holiday movie with Vince Vaughn as the titular character, the older brother of Santa (played by Paul Giamatti).

We learn that Fred, a Chicago repo man, lives a sad life, angry to live in the shadow of his infamous brother since the time the two were kids growing up long ago. But despite his imperfections, Fred possesses great wisdom - some even greater than Santa himself.

When we catch up with Fred in this movie, he has been thrown in jail for stealing money from the Salvation Army Santa on Michigan Avenue; his relationship with girlfriend and meter maid Wanda (Rachel Weisz) is down the tubes; and he's desperate for money. Santa says he'll bail out his brother and get him some cash if he just comes up for a visit to the North Pole.

When we arrive at Santa's village, we learn of the black-and-white world of "naughty" and "nice." Fred is put in charge of stamping letters as one or the other; the "nice" get presents while the "naughty" get nothing (and just where does Santa draw the line between the two?... it's a philosophical question, don't you think?).

Philosophy aside, Fred simply can't take it. He stamps all the kids "nice" so that everyone gets a gift; unfortunately that haults production at the North Pole and due to this backlog, the sniveling efficiency manager Clyde (Kevin Spacey) shuts down the whole Christmas operation altogether.

But there is great wisdom in what Fred has done. While he hasn't excused the bad deeds of the "naughty" kids, he has given them a second chance. What Fred understands and what Santa doesn't is that sometimes kids need to be loved, to be told they're special in someone's eyes, to be given a second chance. Even Santa repents, and ends up giving long-ago "naughty" kid Clyde his Superman cape, showing him that love and compassion is the perfect answer to jealousy and hate.

Fred reminds Santa that the world is not black-and-white. "Nice" kids can sometimes be naughty, and "naughty" kids have the potential to be really nice.

Santa wasn't perfect, but thanks to his big brother (who needed a second chance himself), he was able to treat all children as he treated family.

At Thanksgiving and Christmas, let's vow to love our enemies and any "naughty," unlikable people we know. Perhaps that love might be the second chance that might turn their lives around. Jesus told us (in a rough translation), "If someone wants to battle you over what you deserve, give them half your stuff anyway" (Matt. 5:40).

Give freely to all people, even the "naughty" ones - this is the gospel message that Fred Claus gave his brother, and that Jesus gave to us. Let's pray we will be able to follow it.


Anonymous said...

I can think of an experience or two where I have been given "second chances" and it just makes me feel so cared for and accepted. I hope that I am able to carry that message out into the world and help someone else, like I have been offered second chances.
Sounds like this movie has a great plot and theme to it.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes the best things in life come in packages that can't be wrapped or bought. As Thanksgiving approaches, it just makes me think of how blessed I am. Just something I was thinking about today.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Anonymous said...

If you get a chance, check out the story, "Santa's Secret Wish" on my blog. It's a cute little Christmas story.