The Family Stone may seem like it should fall under one of those "warms your heart on a cold winter's day" theme weeks instead. After all, everyone in the titular small town New England family all come back to be at home for the holiday, one even with the intention of proposing to his girlfriend with a family heirloom. So how could that all go so wrong, right??
Well, for starters, the man (Dermot Mulroney) who was going to propose to his girlfriend (Sarah Jessica Parker) finds himself attracted to her younger sister (Claire Danes). And if that wasn't complicated enough, she, too, has a change of heart and finds herself "slumming it" with his stoner brother (Luke Wilson). It's a regular old "switch-a-roo," which, during the holidays, just feels extra wrong...even if the original couple was never truly right together in the first place.
Furthermore, none of the other siblings like Parker's character when she comes home with their brother. She wears stiletto heels and sleek designer clothes that just stand out in their snowy, homey back drop. She is uptight and awkward, saying all of the wrong things, and is even borderline insulting rather than just awkward. Yet, when she suddenly finds herself with the more free-spirited brother, everyone warms to her, even though she, herself, doesn't seem to warm or act anymore free.
What's perhaps worst, though, is that the matriarch of the family (Diane Keaton) is suffering from an unnamed disease (it turns out to be breast cancer), but no one is talking about it, and though the kids may be able to sense some things are not quite right, they have not been confided in. Therefore, what should warm the heart (a family rallying around each other) just really serves to sadden viewers more.
Four Christmases, too, should theoretically put a smile on its audience's face for bringing a young couple (Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn) back together with their somewhat estranged families. But this couple much prefers spending the holidays alone at a tropical resort, toasting to their well-to-do life together while avoiding the squabbling and imperfections of their respective families. Unfortunately for them this one year, though, they get stuck at the airport and outed by a local news crew to their families, cannot avoid going home(s).
Between both of them, they have four Christmas traditions to which to attend because both of the their parents are divorced. And as they get tugged in various directions by various members of their families, they find they are also heading down different paths in their lives. Witherspoon's character, for example, begins to feel her maternal clock ticking as she bonds with the various once-deemed "unruly" children.
But though this time spent with loved ones should serve to teach the couple a lesson about the importance of those in their lives, all it serves to do in the end is bond them together after a brief bump in the snow, so to speak. And as the film ends, a year later (just like in The Family Stone), they have not seemed to learn their lesson, as they are once again attempting to keep a very big secret about their whereabouts on a very special occasion from their families...