Hey gang, Valkor here. This next film review was a little tough to write and I debated with myself if I even wanted to do it. Robin Williams was truly one of the greats – great comedian, great actor and just an all around swell guy, for no matter what he did you just couldn’t help but smile whenever you saw him. I took his sudden passing pretty hard but he left behind quite a legacy that can be enjoyed for years to come. One of his final films – Merry Friggin’ Christmas, has come my way. It brought a smile to my face to see his face on the cover, but then I was a little put off to see the words “Phase 4 Films” attached as the film started. Though they’re just the distributors, the company itself doesn’t have the best track record here at TOV – A Talking Cat!?!, Bindlestiffs and Alien Uprising are just a few of the films that get the TOV thumbs down. But maybe it’s time for a Christmas miracle… and maybe, just maybe Robin Williams - along with an amazing cast - are just the bunch to make it happen with this film… Maybe?
Merry Friggin’ Christmas centers on Boyd (Joel McHale), a business man who manages a hedge fund, has a great home and family with wife Luann (Lauren Graham), daughter Vera (Bebe Wood) and son Douglas (Pierce Gagnon); not only are they a swell family but they fully appreciates the holidays and are loaded with Christmas spirit. So much in fact that Boyd still tells his son that Santa Claus is real. One night he receives a phone call from his brother Nelson (Clark Duke) that he’s a father and he wants Boyd and his family to come to the christening. Boyd is reluctant since he’s somewhat estranged from his family, especially his father Mitch (Robin Williams), who wasn’t always the best of dads… he might’ve been a little rough around the edges; as a child, Mitch is the one who took away the belief from Boyd that Santa isn’t real… in the harshest of ways. So yea, Boyd isn’t exactly looking forward to the event. Plus the christening will take place on Christmas Eve, and again this family loves the holidays. However the family decide to make the journey and there’s one thing Boyd is insistent on - no matter where they go, he’ll make sure Douglas never stops believing in Santa. And thus begins the journey from Illinois to Wisconsin, to attend the christening, which goes off without a hitch.
But then the unexpected happens upon arrival - Boyd forgets Douglas’s presents back at his home and now it becomes a race back to his home in Chicago, grab Douglas’s presents and make it back before he awakens to find that he has no gifts and that Santa isn’t really real. Along the way his car breaks down and Mitch goes to pick him up and take him the rest of the way, with Nelson unexpectedly in tow. So not only does it become a race to retrieve those presents left behind, it also becomes something of a bonding experience, revelations from the past and how it affects their present as well as reconciliation, changing their father/son dynamic going forward… with a little help from the big man in red (Oliver Platt) who pops in and out at just the right moments.
Merry Friggin’ Christmas has a rock solid supporting cast to support the main group such Candice Bergen (Murphy Brown),, Tim Heidecker, Matt Jones (Breaking Bad), and Oliver Platt just to name a few. So the big question is: can this film turn out to be an instant holiday hit or does it end up in a huge pile of coal to be chucked in the fires of disappointment??
What I’m about to say, isn’t me giving the film a pass because of Williams passing, but Merry Friggin’ Christmas is pretty friggin’ good! I mean I’ve sat through worse and this one wasn’t that bad. The dysfunctional family who’re brought together through extreme circumstances to save the holiday and a little boy’s belief in Santa, really sets the tone and it ultimately feels like a holiday film. It’s a simple plot that’s been there, done that but it works. I expected a series of mishaps – a lot of mishaps actually, that would impede the guys from reaching their goal and feed into my disappointment I had going in. Thankfully there weren’t that many and how it concludes works for me and makes this 80 minute journey enjoyable. There are some laughs, not a whole lot but just the right amount. The acting is what ultimately makes the film worth watching. And seeing Robin Williams acting like a grizzled, old fart works for me and he seemed to be having fun playing the part; you can see certain areas where he’s supposed to be serious, but he has a smile on his face (no hate). Candice Bergen is pretty awesome and the scene with her and Lauren Graham getting blasted brought most of the laughs. And to the remainder of the cast, I say nice job. Merry Friggin’ Christmas will get lots of shine simply because it’s one of William’s final performances, but I hope many will appreciate it for the fun, family holiday film it intends to be.
It’s predictable but then again aren’t all family films that way? However, from the moment the film starts to the very end you can tell how this one will play out as you watch it. Also the opening narration doesn’t continue throughout and I honestly expected it to. I guess it would have been too much like “A Christmas Story”? Still I think it would have worked.
Merry Friggin’ Christmas is currently having a limited theatrical run and will arrive on stores shelves and digital formats on Nov. 25th (according to Amazon), just in time to jumpstart the holiday season. As one of Robin Williams’ final performances, this one won’t rank as one of his best, but it is memorable and it’s a film the entire family can enjoy. So, out of TOV 5 stars, I give Merry Friggin’ Christmas a 3.5.