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A Merry Friggin’ Christmas (2014)

| December 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

If you ever had the intense desire to see what Robin Williams would be like if he played a character that channeled Archie Bunker, then you might have your wish granted by the comedy A Merry Friggin’ Christmas. Yet, before you run off to see this, it might be kind to inform you that the concept is not quite up to its comedic possibilities. This is a dull, mean-spirited comedy about a family that gets together at Christmas, they fight, they scream, they hate each other, and their basic demeanor is about as warm as a jar full of hornets. Yet, we’re supposed to like them.

That idea, in other hands, might make for a great comedy. A Merry Friggin’ Christmas is about as far from a great comedy as one can get, and is further deadened by the realization that this is one of the last films that Robin Williams worked on before he left us. There are only a finite number of his films left unreleased and it’s really heartbreaking to watch him waste his gifts in a performance that has him playing a nasty old crank seated in his favorite chair, chomping on a cigar, sucking back the whiskey and reminding his family for the umpteenth time that HIS name is on the mortgage of this friggin’ house!

His name is Mitch Mitchler. He’s an alcoholic who’s been a constant source of disappointment since his kids were in diapers. In flashbacks, Mitch dispels questionable words of wisdom by telling his kids, “The only road to heaven is to realize there’s no road to heaven.” That’s before his lays the hard truth on them about Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny and The Tooth Fairy. Did you forget that this was a comedy? By this point in the movie, it’s not unreasonable.

Actually (or rather mercifully) Robin is not the center of things. Our focus is given over to comedian Joel McHale in a serviceable performance as Mitch’s son Boyd, a reasonably good-hearted dad whose goal in life is to spend the rest of his life being Mitch’s exact opposite as a father. He has a lovely wife named Luanne and two kids, Vera and Douglas. As Christmas approaches, he makes himself the stated goal that he wants to give his 8 year-old son a Christmas that he will remember for the rest of his life. That’s fine until Boyd drives the family 300 miles to his parent’s house and realizes at the 11th hour that he’s left his son’s presents back at the house. That means that he has a very short window in which to drive back to his house, retrieve the presents, and be back home before the kid wakes up.

Yes, this is a road movie, and yes that means his disapproving father has to travel with him. Why? Because then we wouldn’t have a movie. What follows is not so much a narrative but a long series of wacky episodes involving car chases, slapstick, one-liners and offensive stereotypes. There’s a cringe-worthy subplot about illegal Mexicans and Afhanis. There’s an unfunny running gag about a drunk Santa Claus played by a usually delightful Oliver Platt. And there’s the usual nonsense in which the family screams hateful insults at one another in a manner that, I guess, we’re suppose to find funny. Then the movie moves into a third act in which we’re suppose to feel for the characters because they give each other warm looks and the soundtrack cues our emotions.

You feel bad when this movie is over. You feel bad for the actors. You feel bad for anyone suckered into this movie. You feel bad for being there. Whatever happened to movies in which families like each other? When the warmth of the holidays brought people together with good will and cheer why do we need a movie like this? This is the most wonderful time of the year. So why are we given a movie this friggin’ unpleasant?

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2014) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy, Recent