Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Merry Friggin' Christmas: Movie Review

Has the star power but lacks the comedy.

A Merry Friggin' Christmas stars Joel McHale as Boyd Mitchler, a successful lawyer living in an affluent suburb of Chicago and trying to raise his family as best he can and opposite to how he was raised. Robin Williams stars as Virgil Mitchler, Boyd's hard-drinking, hard-talking father who will never complement his son no matter how well he does. That's because the film is a dysfunctional family dark comedy. 2014

Directed by: Tristram Shapeero

Screenplay by: Michael Brown

Starring: Joel McHale, Robin Williams

The dialogue is very edgy; a lot of scrooge-like jokes about terrible fathers and the importance of Christmas to families with non-terrible fathers. But this edgy dialogue is also very terrible. The audience is more likely to laugh out of frustration than from genuine humour. Joel McHale as the lead was stuck delivering the majority of the lines, and it did not go well. Williams did slightly better but he's also had two decades of experience.

This film is the first of three to be released following the tragic death of Robin Williams. Earlier this year The Angriest Man in Brooklyn was released to tepid results but did an admirable job attempting to balance his stand-up persona with his film career. A Merry Friggin' Christmas is another interesting departure for him because it is a family-based comedy but as far from a family-friendly comedy as you can get.

The plot involves Boyd and wife Luann packing up their kids and gifts to travel to Wisconsin to spend the holidays with Boyd's dysfunctional and disliked family. It's bound to not go well since none of the relatives like one another and they have no problem telling that to each others' faces. It gets worse when Boyd realizes he left his son's gift in Chicago and is going to have to drive all night to get it. Something he would do, but something his father would never do. But of course father and son's relationship is going to have to get repaired and road trip is the perfect time to do it.

Clark Duke plays the second-rate son. One who's happier in life than Boyd but is arguably treated worse by his family. But when the viewer forgets his character's name (Nelson) and then confuses him with the family dog, you know it's not going to get better. The film had a good pairing with Lauren Graham as Boyd's wife and Candace Bergen as Virgil's wife and Boyd's mother, but they're just supporting characters and don't get to provide much comedy.

While the road trip appears to be an unwelcome plot device, it also has the film's few moments of genuine drama and comedy. Oliver Platt can also provide a few laughs as an extremely inebriated and dirty Santa. The lighting is very dark, perhaps to mirror the darkness of the comedy, but considering the cast they assembled, surely there could have been a few more lights installed. A Merry Friggin' Christmas is lacking too much in the comedy to be an actually funny dysfunctional family dark comedy.

Similar Titles:

The Angriest Man in Brooklyn (20124) - The angry routine is dropped along with the comedy in favour of a heartfelt character drama.

Happy Christmas (2014) - A look at the line between immaturity and maturity with charming characters.