Warning: The Following Contains Pictures of Danny DeVito’s Ass: A Very Sunny Christmas
Note–this is a review of the straight-to-DVD movie that came out on Tuesday, November 17.
It’s Christmas in Philly, and to the Paddy’s Pub gang, that means it’s time to break out the holiday traditions, which is to say, relive the traumas of Christmases past and revisit some others that only become traumatic in retrospect.
While Mac and Charlie eagerly await passing out from eggnog, decorating the bar at the last minute (now with their recently purchased snowblower), and throwing rocks at trains on Christmas morning, Dee and Dennis aren’t quite so upbeat. The reason is because the tradition in the Reynolds’ household is for Frank to buy whatever Dennis and Dee want for himself while his kids look helplessly on a-wantingly.
But this year Frank’s really outdone himself, scoring a Sergio Georgianni (or whatever) designer purse (“I use it to keep in my cheesy loops and chocolate-covered malted milk balls”) to torment Dee and a Lamborghini (“I’m gonna burn up the rubber! Rrrrrngggeegeegah!”) to torment Dennis. The “lesson” in it is that Frank wants to teach his children that everything in life must be earned—though as they point out, Frank stole his fortune from his business partner (David Huddleston). This leads Dennis and Dee to perform their own take on A Christmas Carol and show Frank what a horrible person he’s been by reintroducing his partner (who’s since converted to Christianity) and having Frank go undercover in the couch of his old office to hear his former employees badmouth him.
Meanwhile, Mac and Charlie revisit their own childhood traditions, which, in retrospect, seem even worse. Mac’s under the impression that the standard practice at Christmas is that families go from house to house opening presents, “then when the next family showed up, you would run.” While Charlie labors under the delusion that a bunch of Santa Clauses show up at your house, give you a present, and then go spend some quality time with your mom. And in a rare effort to make amends, the two go on a Yuletide crusade apologizing to every family Mac stole from. It goes without saying that they don’t actually return anything.
In a way, the straight-to-DVD special seems to be the ideal format for It’s Always Sunny because the freedom from FX’s censors lets the gang explore some even darker themes and employ some curses they otherwise couldn’t.
It’s actually surprising and even a little admirable how long the special takes to drop the f-bomb, but when they do, and in the context of the scene, it’s a bit of a shock that gives you little time to prepare for an even bigger one.
And even though some of the scenes with Frank’s ex-associate occasionally fall flat, but on the whole, this is still the best takedown of Yuletide spirit since Bad Santa.
Holidays have knack for bringing out the A-material in TV shows—I don’t watch The Simpsons anymore, but if I’m going to watch one episode from the season, it’s going to be the Halloween special—but since Sunny is so often on its game, that tendency could have worked against this in not living up to expectations. Of course, it not only reaches over the bar, it grabs the bar on the way up and hilariously bludgeons some poor sap coming down. It also manages to deliver the wretchedly disturbing images of Frank bursting naked from a couch (and bless you, cameraman, for sparing us the sight of Danny DeVito’s genitals [even though you came dangerously close]) and Charlie going, well, Charlie on a department store Santa. I didn’t have an especially burning desire to see either going into this, but in the context of the special they fit beautifully and once more demonstrate the show’s flair for dredging the most horrific parts of life and finding a way to laugh at them. Hard.
All that said, the cost (Amazon lists the DVD at $16.99, the Blu-Ray at $19.99), given the episode’s 42-minute running time, is going to deter fans of the show, but it’ll make a swell gift from their friends and loved ones–unless they happen to be Frank Reynolds.