Fox // 2009 // 43 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // November 30th, 2009
Spend the holiday at Paddy's on Blu-ray!
I had never seen an episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia before watching this Christmas special. Not that I hadn't wanted to. For a couple of years now, I've been hearing from various folks that the show is an immensely funny (if rather crass) comedy that's just been getting sharper as it's gone along. Since I haven't seen the four seasons produced before this Christmas special, I may be missing a handful of in-jokes, but generally I found It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas to be a mild disappointment. Sure, it's amusing enough. I laughed on several occasions. However, parts of the special rely on too-easy demonstrations of crass behavior that grew tiresome.
The story goes a little something like this. Charlie (Charlie Day, Third Watch) and Mac (Rob McElhenney, Wonder Boys) are attempting to recapture the magic of Christmas by reminiscing about the happiest experiences of their childhood. However, upon considerable reflection, the guys discover that their Christmases were very...unsavory, to say the least. This makes them desperate, and they'll stop at nothing to recapture that elusive "Christmas Spirit." Meanwhile, Dee (Kaitlin Olson, Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Dennis (Glenn Howerton, Serenity) are bitter towards their father Frank (Danny DeVito, Throw Momma From the Train) for all of the crappy Christmases he's given them over the years. Employing the services of one of Frank's old business associates (David Huddleston, The Big Lebowski), Dennis and Dee attempt to stage their own version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol in the hopes of making Frank re-examine his life.
It's a fun, filthy little Christmas tale that provides 43 minutes of modest entertainment. The highlight for me was undoubtedly DeVito, whose gleefully selfish Frank Reynolds is a joy to behold. DeVito also gets the most memorable moment of the special; a scene in which he is birthed by a big leather couch (yes, you heard me). That being said, I don't know that I need to see that much of Danny DeVito's flesh very often. Or, uh, ever again. The bits in which Charlie and Mac discover their true nature of their childhood holidays are quite entertaining, as is a subversive little Rankin-Bass-style animated musical number toward the conclusion (which is followed by one of the special's best dialogue exchanges). On the basis of this special, I'm not sure I buy the argument that It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a comic gem on the level of Curb Your Enthusiasm or Arrested Development, but it's entertaining.
I'm not sure that the straight-to-video format does the special any real favors, as the R-rated portions of the special are perhaps the least imaginative. Much of the foul language employed seems designed for nothing other than cheap shock value. The more controversial the content of the special, the more childish it tends to become. Still, if you're desperate to see a generous dose of rear nudity and hear a bucketful of f-bombs in your It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, here you go.
Now, here's the part that's going to really piss some people off. The special was filmed in standard definition ("an artistic decision," insists an introduction from McElhenney and Day), and simply upgraded to hi-def for this Blu-ray release. Basically, it looks like an upconverted DVD. I was not impressed. In fact, I've seen many DVD transfers that are considerably superior to this Blu-ray transfer, particularly in terms of depth and shading. If you filmed the special in standard-def, why even bother releasing it on Blu-ray? Bah. Anyway, the audio is fine but unremarkable, coming through with clarity but never giving your speakers a reason to show off.
The extras are also disappointingly thin. Aside from the aforementioned 1-minute introduction, you get a 7-minute making of featurette, a couple of deleted scenes, a 3-minute music video, and...well, that's it. Really?
Considering the lousy transfer, the short running time of the special and the thin extras, I really don't see any reason to spend 15-20 bucks on this disc. Fans of the show will want to give it a rent, but I can't recommend a purchase under any circumstances.
The special itself is not guilty, but this Blu-ray release is very
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 43 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes