Movie Review: A Merry Friggin’ Christmas
Starring: Joel McHale, Clark Duke, and Robin Williams
Plot: Boyd Mitcheler and his family spend the first Christmas in a long time with his estranged trouble-making father.
There’s part of me that misses good Christmas movies. I grew up with Home Alone and Christmas Vacation. Yearly marathons of A Christmas Story. That magical year that I discovered Die Hard and Lethal Weapon during the same holiday season. Maybe it is just because I’m older, and Christmas movies don’t usually target older audiences. I think that is why I was so looking forward to this crude Christmas family reunion starring Joel McHale (“Community”), Clark Duke (Hot Tub Time Machine) and the late Robin Williams (as if you need an example).
Joel McHale plays Boyd Mitchler, an over-zealous father in love with Christmas. He is over-compensating for his not so ideal childhood with a drunk, grumpy father who ruined Christmas for him. Robin Williams plays that father, an unapologetic asshole. They are brought together when Boyd’s younger brother, Nelson, played by Clark Duke, invites him home for Christmas Eve. Nelson is getting his new baby christened on Christmas Eve and wants his brother to be the godfather. When he realizes he left his son’s gifts from Santa at home, he and his dad hit the road to save Christmas.
The chemistry between these guys is just ok, which is sad to say because I like these guys. McHale has gotten a lot of mileage out of his snarky wiseass persona, but he never feels comfortable as this super-nice guy. It isn’t until he can verbally spar with Williams that he really starts to get good. Meanwhile, Williams overdoes it a little bit with the jerkwad behavior. In a way, these guys have reverse their usual roles, but the specifics stop mattering when they can just battle their wits. Unfortunately, it is too little too late. Duke is the real MVP here. Suffering from some PTSD he received during basic training, Duke acts like a space case landing every joke he is given, which isn’t enough. He accidentally stows away on his brother and father’s trip.
There are some really great comedies about bonding during a misadventure road trip. The original Vacation comes to mind, plus Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and Dutch. This roadtrip movie forgot the roadtrip. The 8-hour roundtrip goes by in a flash, leaving more time for the 3 leads to screw around at their destinations intercut with the family they left behind bonding over late night antics, characters that are either ill-defined or over-the-top.
As nice as it is to see Robin Williams one last time, A Merry Friggin’ Christmas has very little to offer otherwise.