One of Robin Williams' last films, A Merry Friggin' Christmas got a limited release in 2014 so you shouldn't be too surprised if you missed it. Unfortunately, good Christmas movies are hard to come by so let's see if this one is worth checking out.
The film sees Boyd Mitchler (Joel McHale) and his wife Luann (Lauren Graham) having to spend Christmas with Boyd's father Virgil (Williams), who doesn't get along with his son, and the rest of the family. Boyd's primary goal, to keep the magic of Christmas alive for his young son, is soon put in jeopardy when he realises he forgot the kid's presents back home. He jumps in his car and sets off to recover them but he faces several setbacks along the way. In the vein of Bad Santa, this is a black comedy with a dash of Christmas spirit and it's a refreshing change from the sappy releases this season tends to churn out. This one isn't too focused on gross-out humour and, instead, it prioritises the thorny relationships between the main characters and how those evolve.
Robin Williams isn't given too many opportunities to go all out but he does a reliably good job, especially with the more emotional moments, once again effortlessly juggling comedy and drama. The story could have probably been fleshed-out a tad more as neither the National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation-style set-up or the road trip plot thread deliver completely. Bigger, more unexpected things needed to happen to Boyd and his dad to make their eventual reconciliation worth it and it's unclear why we had to spend this much time with the rest of the family when they really offer little by the end. Having said that, a sharp script and a lively cast which also includes Tim Heidecker, Mark Proksch, Jeffrey Tambor and Oliver Platt make this movie entertaining throughout.
While never quite as hilarious, dark or unpredictable as it could have been, A Merry Friggin' Christmas is nevertheless an underrated comedy with lots of funny moments and just the right amount of Christmas spirit to make it worth a watch, especially during the holidays.
Grinches need not apply.