A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Merry Friggin' Christmas is about a dysfunctional family spending the holidays together, with some long-buried grudges ensuring plenty of tension. There's a crotchety old dad, a bitter adult son, and assorted oddball siblings. Expect a fair amount of drinking, with some characters getting pretty drunk; one character also likes to smoke cigars. There's also frequent swearing, though the words aren't as salty as in some films (it's' mostly "crap," "ass" and "bitch"), and some discussion about a married couple's less-than-active sex life. One scene takes place in a gas station restroom, with men urinating.
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What's the story?
Boyd (Joel McHale) has spent years avoiding his family, trying to make sure he's a better father than his own neglectful dad. And now that it's the holidays, he's working even harder to make sure that his son believes in the magic of the season. But all of his plans are upended when he and his family must spend Christmas with his parents (Robin Williams, in one of his last roles, and Candice Bergen). And just when Boyd thinks things couldn't get worse, he realizes he left his son's presents at home and must drive through the night -- with his dad -- to retrieve them in time for Christmas morning.
Is it any good?
A MERRY FRIGGIN' CHRISTMAS has its heart in the right place. Boyd is trying to be a good dad, while his own father is finally starting to come to terms with how he raised his kids. And some of the pain rings true, as Boyd and his siblings recall growing up with their often-drunk father.
But too much of the film has a sour taste, including slapstick humor that borders on insulting and demeaning (including recurring bits about how Boyd's brother was injured while in the army and his brother-in-law's police record). The script veers from moments that try to evoke warm familial feelings to crude humor, without managing to find a sweet spot for viewers to enjoy. In the end, the family does patch up some of its differences, but it's not all that fun to watch.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Boyd's relationship with his son. How is it different from his relationship with his own dad, and how are they all connected? How is it similar to/different from other father-son relationships you've seen in movies and TV shows? Does it seem realistic?
Does it make sense for Boyd to make such an effort to preserve his son's belief in the magic of Christmas? Is there a larger underlying issue at play?
How does the family holiday in this film compare to holiday celebrations in other movies about the holidays? What are your own holiday traditions?
- In theaters: November 7, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: November 25, 2014
- Cast: Robin Williams, Joel McHale, Lauren Graham, Candice Bergen, Oliver Platt, Clark Duke
- Director: Tristram Shapeero
- Studio: Entertainment One
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Holidays
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: language and crude humor throughout
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