It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas (Blu-ray)
Directed by Fred Savage
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 43 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French
MSRP: $ 29.99
Release Date: November 17, 2009
Review Date: November 23, 2009
Nitwit comedy par excellence, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas gives its offbeat spin on the celebrated holiday with its typical combination of idiot hijinks, fun mean-spiritedness, and jovial profanity. With the cast of the long-running FX series in place and spreading their own brand of demented holiday cheer, A Very Sunny Christmas is laugh-out-loud funny for much of its 43-minute running time. And what doesn’t work isn’t prolonged enough to matter. Like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation which has its adherents and detractors, A Very Sunny Christmas may not make everyone laugh, but those with even a slight sense of humor should find some parts of it hysterical.
Siblings Dennis (Glenn Howerton) and Dee (Kaitlin Olson) are fed up with dad Frank (Danny DeVito) always ruining their Christmas by buying gifts they wanted for himself and then rubbing their noses in them. They determine they’ll show him the error of his ways by reenacting a specialized version of A Christmas Carol by showing him his bad decisions from the past, present, and future and hope that he’ll turn over a new leaf. Likewise, buddies Charlie (Charlie Day) and Mac (Rob McElhenney) realize that Christmas traditions which they had previously cherished were actually quite awful, and so they strive to initiate some new holiday traditions which they hope can lift their spirits and help them enjoy the Christmas cheer others seem to experience.
Not wishing to spoil any of the jokes or surprises, let’s just say that both plot strands work very well independently from the other. Charlie and Mac’s quest for new traditions isn’t quite as funny as their recollections of their earlier Christmas customs (both of which had me on the floor), but the special’s real highlight is when the five leading players join together to become part of a Rankin-Bass claymation special with such superb attention to detail and a terrific paean to the legacy cartoons of decades ago that I was both laughing and majorly impressed that so much effort was expended for this Christmas special. Director Fred Savage helms the controlled craziness with unpretentious surety.
The four young members of the cast plus veteran Danny DeVito are so experienced with their roles now that playing these child-adults one step above morons is pretty effortless, and their ensemble camaraderie, essential for the comedy to work when the jokes are lame, is exemplary. True, a little of Danny DeVito can go a long way, and getting to see his diminutive figure nude may be a little more of him than I quite wanted to see (we get to view an elf in the altogether as well), but it’s all in the service of laughter, and the result is most assuredly hilarity, robust and continual.
The special is framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. An introductory segment stresses that the image is upconverted standard definition photography, but the live action and claymation segments (which have intentional scratches and dirt to suggest age) are sharp and clear and nicely hued for the holiday season being celebrated. True, the Philadelphia inserts between scenes are horrible looking with smeared color and lots of compression artifacts and softness, but the rest of the disc looks as good as it can look under the low budget circumstances of the recording. The program has been divided into 12 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is mostly talk sent to the center channel and appropriate music cues which land in the fronts and rears. No effort has been made to add any ambient sound in any of the surround channels, and the subwoofer might as well stay off during the screening. Still, the recording is solid and all the dialogue is easily discernible.
There are three deleted scenes featuring flashbacks of Charlie and Mac as boys. They may be watched separately or together in a 2 ¾-minute grouping. They’re in 480p.
A behind-the-scenes making-of featurette shows director Fred Savage working with the actors on the set and setting up some of the “elaborate” stunt work with a snow blower and with the claymation sequence. This lasts 7 ½ minutes in 480i.
There is a typically demented Christmas singalong with the cast of the show as the camera distorts the faces of the cast in grotesque shapes as they sing. The songs are “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” and “Silent Night.” (There are no lyrics with a bouncing ball provided.) This 480i segment runs 3 ½ minutes.
3.5/5 (not an average)
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas finds the lovable loonies of Paddy’s Irish Pub in rare form for the holidays. The video and audio is of better than decent quality, and the extras are sparse but give a little idea of the closeness of the cast as they work on this low budget project. It’s a fun holiday special.