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Merry Friggin Christmas

Peace Arch Entertainment // Unrated // November 25, 2014
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Oktay Ege Kozak | posted December 12, 2014 | E-mail the Author

The Movie:

I don't remember feeling so sad upon the death of any artist or celebrity than I felt after I heard of Robin Williams' death. Even when my comedy heroes George Carlin and Richard Pryor died, I don't remember feeling numb for days as if a distant yet beloved family member passed away.

Maybe it's because I can revisit specific memories from my life via Williams' work. During the 80s home video rental boom in Turkey, I used to rent every movie with Williams' face on it. Yes, even Club Paradise. Perhaps going to see Dead Poets Society in theatres when I was ten made me realize that I could derive pleasure from genres other than goofy comedies.

Seeing Williams in a perfectly realized dramatic role, a man I had associated with comedies up until that point, provided me with that bridge. Watching films like Awakenings and The Fisher King with my father, who passed away more than a decade ago, are some of the most surprisingly profound memories of my adolescence.

When I first came to San Francisco to earn my MFA in film, feeling lonely and isolated, I found solace in his hilarious HBO special Live on Broadway. Later on when I made friends during my first semester, that special provided the perfect social glue.

However, It's beyond a doubt that Williams was part of some pretty horrendous movies during his long and impressive career. The aforementioned Club Paradise, Flubber, RV, the list goes on and on. But even among his bad films, A Merry Friggin' Christmas holds a special place as a particularly awful, joyless and unfunny experience. Even though the impulse to grab onto whatever footage Williams shot before his demise is palpable, we should probably let this one die and remember his better or even more memorable roles.

Williams looks asleep at the wheel as Virgil, a stereotypical cranky old-fashioned Midwestern dad who looks down at his snobby and rich son Boyd (Joel McHale). Having to spend Christmas at Virgil's house is already a pain in the neck for Boyd, but when he forgets his son's presents at his house, him and Virgil are stuck together chasing against time in order to deliver the presents before the boy wakes up on Christmas morning so he will still believe in Santa.

During the long trip, will the father and son on the opposite ends of every cultural and generational spectrum possible finally bond? If this sounds like a hackneyed sit-com premise that would feel dated in the 90s, that's because it is. Yet the biggest issue here is the wild discrepancy in tone.

There's an attempt at an edgy Christmas dysfunctional family comedy that Christmas Vacation pulled off way better more than twenty years ago. Also, the way the dialogue is edited gives the distinct feeling that the final product was deflated down to PG-13 from R. Most of the lines used feel like the "clean" takes most actors hate to participate in after a long day so kids don't learn naughty words from the in-flight movie.

Halfway through the thankfully short 80-minute running time, the filmmakers realize that they need to insert some Christmas schmaltz into the production, so Williams' irredeemably bitter character immediately turns into a remorseful and loving father via the one of the shortest and most baffling character arcs ever committed to film.

Other than a couple of very unfunny and predictable attempts at edgy humor (One that involves a possible hit and run is especially tasteless), A Very Friggin' Christmas dares an unadvised 180 turn in tone and stuffs a cynically handled message about the importance of family during Christmastime down our throats.

The DVD:


A Merry Friggin' Christmas' standard definition presentation is a very clear one with a healthy amount of contrast and detail. Because of the film's short running time and lack of comprehensive extras, the bit rate is pretty high. Even though the film's cinematography shows its digital roots from time to time, it's a solid transfer overall.


There is only one track offered, a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround presentation. Even though we're dealing with a comedy, there's a fair amount of forced physical humor embedded within it, so some dynamic-sounding sfx appear every now and then. Otherwise, this is a track that's mostly devoid of a surround presence and won't give your sound system much of a workout.


Interviews With The Cast: You can watch these interviews per individual cast member, or play them all together, which runs at almost half an hour. This is typical EPK stuff where the cast is supposed to market how wonderful the film is. Even then, it's easy to see that pretty much no one took it very seriously as a possible cornerstone on their resumes, so they thankfully goof around a bit. Robin Williams and Joel McHale improvising for a couple of minutes is funnier than anything found in the actual feature.

Final Thoughts:

A Merry Friggin' Christmas would have been a depressing experience even without Williams' tragic death attached to it. With it, it's a downright torturous watch. My advice is to remember this great man via our favorite films of his and even though it's one of his final roles released after his passing, let this one disappear gracefully.

Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and

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