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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas (Blu-ray)
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas (Blu-ray)
Fox // Unrated // November 17, 2009 // Region A
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted November 21, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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"You're telling me that Christmas morning, you would not go to your neighbor's house and take their presents?"
"No! No one does that."
"Well, my dad told me that that was the tradition."
"...and your dad is, like, a thief and a murderer who eats people, so he's not really trustworthy."
"This is really dicking with my Christmas spirit."

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Okay, some families stoke the fire, grab a few mugs filled to the brim with hot cocoa, and watch It's a Wonderful Life together for the eight hojillionth time whenever the holidays roll around. C'mon, though, this is It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and it's not gonna be the hap-happiest time of the year in their Christmas special. This direct-to-video special -- clocking in at twice the length of your standard issue ...Sunny... episode -- isn't about learning the true meaning of Christmas so much as...well, exacting revenge. See, every Christmas morning growing up, Frank (Danny DeVito) would torment his not-really-his kids with oversized empty boxes or buying whatever they wanted and keeping 'em for himself. Since Frank's a multimillionaire from ripping off his business partner and all, he has plenty of money to throw around too. Dee and Dennis (Kaitlin Olson and Glenn Howerton) decide after twentyhowevermany years that it's time for vengeance, so they dig up Frank's business partner to do the whole Ghost of Christmas Past thing. I mean, the guy's not actually dead, as it turns out, and he doesn't even hold a grudge against Frank for screwing him over. He does see it as a chance to spread the gospel of our Lord and savior, though, so Euge lets himself be dragged along with that Christmas Carol-ish scheme.

Meanwhile, Mac (Rob McElhenney) and Charlie (Charlie Day) are still reeling from their own childhood holiday traumas. Turns out that swiping presents from sleeping neighbors isn't a South Philly tradition after all, and Mac decides to make amends with a kid from school by bringing back the Omnibot he accidentally-intentionally-whateverly stole twenty years back. I mean, he's not going to give it back to the guy or anything -- c'mon, we're talking about a grown man here -- but an apology's gotta count for something, right? Charlie's just along for the ride, but he eventually starts to clue in that maybe those childhood memories of a parade of Santas coming through the door to visit Mommy upstairs weren't just well-wishers or whatever.

So...yeah. If you missed the title in big, bold letters up there, this is an It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Christmas special, so you get stuff that doesn't usually make the rounds on holiday tee-vee like
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sniffing glue, a mullety home video of a B&E, savagely attacking a mall Santa, prostitution, and elf ass. (If you ignore the clinical definition of Little Person and count Danny DeVito, there are two pint-sized peoples' bare asses scattered around in here too.) There's a too-awesome-for-words gag with Frank and a couch that I'd never forgive myself for spoiling, but that alone is pretty much worth the price of entry. To really set A Very Sunny Christmas apart from just another episode of the series, though, this special cranks up the holiday cheer with a pretty brilliant stop-motion animation sequence, and not only do you get a chance to catch Claymation versions of the entire gang, but it even heaps on some dismemberment and cannibalism. Yeah, so there's that. Oh! And Fred Savage being billed as director. That's always nice to see, and the couple of asses and two scoops of profanity are all uncensored on this Blu-ray disc too.

It kind of goes without saying that this Christmas special is pretty great -- c'mon, it's It's Always Sunny...! -- but it doesn't rank up there with the best episodes from this past season. For whatever it's worth, A Very Sunny Christmas is also kinda friendly to the uninitiated, so I don't think first-timers will be hopelessly lost or anything, although it's not something I'd grab off the shelf to try to convert anyone. I like it, but I don't hey-I'll-fork-over-twenty-bucks-for-a-43-minute-special-and-like-14-minutes-of-extras like it. Because the runtime is pretty much exactly twice the length of a regular episode, I kinda get the sneaking suspicion that it'll air in a slightly censored form on FX at some point too, and that makes the price tag a little tougher to swallow too. I get that It's Always Sunny... fans are rabid enough to buy pretty much anything with the show's name stamped on it -- I don't blame 'em, either -- but this Blu-ray disc is kind of a tough sell with so little content for this sort of price tag. There's also the whole thing with it not actually being in high definition, but I'll gripe about that in a sec. Anyway, with more stuff or a slimmer price point, I'd probably lob out something a little more enthused, but this...? I'll go with Rent It.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is shot in standard definition and...y'know, not even on good standard-def video. That makes this Christmas special one of just a tiny handful of Blu-ray releases that aren't actually in HD, although if you dig through the eighth-of-a-millimeter-high type on the flipside of the case, you'll read that it's at least been upconverted to 1080p. Guess it's a good thing this Blu-ray disc only runs a buck or two more than the DVD release 'cause the smart money says they look pretty much identical. The 1.78:1 image is really soft, kinda noisy, and is marred by plenty of aliasing and shimmering in the background. I don't have the DVD handy to do a direct comparison, but it's a safe bet that the only real difference would be better compression, especially during that blast of snow at the end. Other than that...? I mean, it's a Blu-ray disc, so it's more durable, but I'm kind of drawing dead after that.

So, upconvert...aspect ratio... Oh! Yeah. A Very Sunny Christmas has been compressed with AVC, and it fits on a single-layer Blu-ray disc with plenty of room to spare. With around half the disc unused, you'd think Fox might find something else to cram on there, but...nope.

The tech specs start to look a little more Blu-ray-ish once you wade over to this point, what with A Very Sunny Christmas packing a 24-bit, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track and all. The music scattered around the special actually comes through really well with the lossless audio treatment. The show's dialogue winds up sounding kinda thin, though, and even with a few effects like Frank tearing around in that Countach, bass response is pretty weak too. The surrounds lob out a little light atmosphere like background chatter in the mall and beefs up stuff like glasses being chucked out a window, but this is pretty much a stereo track. It's fine, sure, but probably not worth keeping your fingers crossed for much of a step up over the DVD release or even the way It's Always Sunny... sounds on cable.

A Very Sunny Christmas also belts out a stereo track along with subtitles in English (SDH), French, and Spanish.

  • [click on the thumbnail to enlarge]
    Blu-ray Intro (1 min.; SD): Rob McElhenney pals around with one of It's Always Sunny...'s producer-types for fortysomething seconds to quip about why a show that's not actually shot in HD is being served up on a high-def video format. It's a creative choice!

  • Deleted Scenes (3 min.; SD): The deleted scenes reel for A Very Sunny Christmas crams together three more snippets with Young Charlie and Young Mac: a heart-to-heart before looking for stuff to blow up, Fluffy Bunny discovering fur where there was no fur before, and stumbling onto porn on a Captain Caveman dog-bashing trek.

  • Behind the Scenes Making-Of (7 min.; SD): Hey, now there's a catchy title for a featurette. Anyway, this clip breezes through hammering out a Christmas special in June, Charlie winding up with a bruised rib during the shoot, putting together the music and claymation for the big finalé, and Kaitlin Olson spouting off her most cherished holiday memory.

  • Sunny Sing-a-Long (3 min.; SD): Half holiday cheer and half bad LSD trip, this sing-a-long with the It's Always Sunny... cast crowded around a piano lobs out "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen", and "Silent Night".

The Final Word
It's Always Sunny...'s Christmas special is pretty good, yeah, but still...it clocks in at 43 minutes and has a sticker price anywhere from eighteen to thirty bucks, depending on which store you hit up. Worth scribbling down on a Christmas list? Sure. Worth a couple of clicks on Netflix...? Absolutely. It's Always Sunny... is one of the most deliriously funny shows on TV and all, but maybe I'm just too cheap to want to shell out somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 for less than an hour of stuff, so I'll say "Rent It" instead.
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