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A Merry Friggin' Christmas (2014)

Directed by Tristram Shapeero

Starring Joel McHale, Lauren Graham, Clark Duke, Robin Williams & Oliver Platt

Christmas film review by Chris Olson

One of the quintessential elements of Christmas, is a Humbug. Known for disliking the holidays, Humbugs are always present during the festive season and regularly represented in Christmas films. From Scrooge to Bad Santa, there is always a person who would rather set fire to a Christmas tree then decorate one. The root for Humbuginess differs; bad childhood, loss of a loved one, or, more commonly, hating the family whom you are forced to be with. And this last reason is the basis for A Merry Friggin’ Christmas.

Boyd (Joel McHale) and his wife (Lauren Graham) and kids are subjected to an unwanted family reunion when Boyd’s brain-damaged brother Nelson (Clark Duke) holds a christening for a baby on Christmas Eve - even though Nelson is not the father, and the real parents have run off to Mexico. The reunion means that Boyd must come face to face with his alcoholic father Virgil (Robin Williams), whom he has not seen in years.

There is an enjoyable mixture at play in A Merry Friggin’ Christmas which few Christmas movies execute as successfully. Right from the title, you can see a potent blend of holiday cheer and sneer, of bauble and bourbon (which Santa loves apparently), that accompanies the whole film. Boyd’s dilemma is coping with his conflicting emotions of trying to avoid his father, whilst creating an amazing Christmas for his son (Pierce Gagnon) - who may very soon stop believing in Santa Claus. At times, there are excellent moments of physical comedy and adult humour, and at others there is a poignancy about the emotional cracks which show during a time like Christmas that adds gravitas.

One scene where Virgil realises just how much his son has hated him is completely moving, with Robin Williams delivering a spectacular display of range.

Without spoiling the plot, there is a road-trip structure to the film which is always an added bonus for a Christmas film (similar in a way to Home Alone), as holiday travelling and a deadline make for a bubbling tension. The score is subtly done, without clanging the same tired tunes.

Aside from a few script misfires, there is a lot to like about A Merry Friggin’ Christmas. Because, whilst the Humbug-element is implied, it does what all good Christmas films do with an Ebenezer - show him the true meaning and crack on with a ripping yarn that in any other genre would be considered awful fantasy.

Come back tomorrow for another Christmas film review.


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