It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has long been an offender of…well, everything. But they had left the holiday seasons alone for the most part, choosing instead to focus on episodes each season that were non-time, year or holiday specific. Well that’s all changed with the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: It’s a Very Sunny Christmas special, now exclusively on DVD and Blu-ray (or until FX decides it wants to air it). It doesn’t destroy your perceptions of the holiday, but it will likely leave you with an odd feeling whenever you look at a Santa in the mall.
Ho, ho, heyooo! Christmas is nearly here and the Paddy’s gang has got the spirit. Well, not really. For them, the holidays have always been a time of trickery, backstabbing, and disappointment. But this year things are going to be different as they are determined to rediscover the joy in Christmas. Join Mac, Charlie, Dennis, Dee and Frank as they embark on a holiday adventure filled with stolen toys, childhood videos, naked elves and a bloody run in with Santa Claus that is guaranteed to blast Christmas spirit all over!
This season of the show hasn’t been quite as daring or offensive as past seasons (or maybe it’s just that I’m used to it now), but it’s still been quite an enjoyable ride. It’s a Very Sunny Christmas falls into a similar vein, with a great deal of violence, cursing, mayhem and general inappropriateness. It’s also surprising in that it actually has some genuine cheer to spread at the end, even if it is delivered in the usual twisted It’s Always Sunny way.
Quite honestly there isn’t even a whole lot to review with this special. It’s an extended episode and really doesn’t feel much like a movie (it runs a brief 43 minutes…which is fine if it were an hour-long special on the network, but it isn’t. Well, yet anyway…I highly doubt this will remain DVD/Blu-ray exclusive for long), but that doesn’t really matter as there are some bits in the piece that will likely go down as some of the more “classic” Phili moments.
The film takes advantage of the direct-to-video format by tossing in some nudity (all of Danny DeVito), some extra explicit bits of dialogue, and…well, that’s it, really. Other than the addition of a few f-bombs (which at first feel a bit forced…but then feel 100% natural, especially once Charlie starts the stream of them), the special is pretty much the same as an episode of the series. Which isn’t a bad thing, but it definitely doesn’t feel like a feature-length film by any means.
But when it comes to this show, it’s best when they don’t dwell on plots for too long. This Christmas special works only because there are two very different stories that branch off and come back together in the end. As is the usual formula for the show, one of those sketches is absolutely hilarious (the Charlie/Mac bit) and works on almost all levels, while the other leaves you a bit bored (the Dee/Frank/Dennis bit). Of course even the boring story has its moments, such as a naked frank crawling out of a couch, severely sweaty and…well, let’s just say it looks like the couch is giving birth to him. It’s a visual they’ve been using in the advertisements for the new season and I didn’t really have any idea that it belonged in this special until Frank started talking about hiding in a couch. Then it all made sense…and it was as hilarious as I thought it’d be.
Overall the It’s a Very Sunny Christmas special really is nothing special, but it’s still a lot of fun to watch. Plus the genuinely warm (kind of, anyway) ending to the film did leave you a bit more in the Christmas spirit than it was originally setting itself up to. Everyone learns something horrific about their past and everyone moves on…aside from one person, anyway. But hey all that matters is they got to throw rocks at trains on Christmas morning. That’s really all that matters in the end. Recommended.
Fox has released this special on DVD and Blu-ray…which is questionable, but I’ll get to that in a bit. First off the disc arrives in a standard Elite Eco Blu-ray case without any inserts. No slipcover either, but it doesn’t matter as the cover itself is more than enough funny for this package. Menu is simple and easy to navigate, although my Blu-ray PC software had a bit of trouble with it (but I might just need to update that…again).
Video…well, here is where my query about why this was given a Blu-ray release exists. This season is the first that has aired in HD on the FX network, yet while watching it in the broadcast it is clearly not full HD. The series, in fact, is filmed in standard definition widescreen so there really isn’t a single HD print of the series that exists. So what’s that mean for this Blu-ray transfer? Well it means we get an 1080p AVC encoded picture that literally looks like a 480p upscale. It is even noted on the back of the package that this is a “1080p up-converted” transfer (in the tiniest print imaginable) and the producers mention it on the intro to the disc…but man. This is a bad looking transfer even for an unconverted one. There is no boost in clarity and in some instances (exterior shots especially) the picture quality is downright ugly. I’m thankful the show switched to a widescreen ratio, but you’d think that Fox would pony up the cash for an HD setup…but I guess not. Which makes this Blu-ray release all the more questionable because it truly looks like crack most of the time. It attempts to mask its flaws with a layer of grain, but underneath that grain is just…well, a 480p video transfer. You aren’t getting anything out of this Blu-ray that you couldn’t get from putting your DVD in your PS3 and letting it upscale that way. In fact I daresay the PS3 might do a better job.
The audio is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix but like the video transfer the audio track is underwhelming. Crystal clear audio, sure, but it’s a front channel focused show so at best you get a few brief moments of surround activity…which is mainly just children and people screaming when Charlie goes bananas on a Santa. Not a bad mix by any means, but severe overkill for this show. Also included are English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Extras? Well dammit, those are light too. Included:
• Producer’s Intro (0:55, SD)
• Young Charlie & Young Mac: Deleted Scenes (2:48, SD, 3 Total)
• Behind the Scenes/Making Of featurette (7:24, SD)
• Sunny Sing-A-Long (3:12, SD)
Now don’t get me wrong. I love this show. It is one of my favorite shows that I watch on TV, but…why are these home video releases so sparse with extras? How did this, a special DVD and Blu-ray only release, not get a freakin’ commentary? The behind-the-scenes piece is nice but a tad too brief and the deleted scenes, while funny (I can’t get over how much Young Mac looks like Adult Mac), just don’t provide enough content. And the sing-a-long is pretty forgettable as well. I really would’ve been at least satisfied with this release if there was a commentary but…nada.
Overall this is Recommended for fans but a Rental for those who haven’t seen the series. It’s not a bad special to jump in and familiarize yourself with the series, although Frank especially acts a bit out-of-character so you may be rather put off by how he acts in the series itself. But in any case this is a hilarious special and one I’ll gladly add to my seasonal viewing schedule. I just really wish there were some more extras. And you could really save yourself a couple bucks and just go with the DVD version…the Blu-ray really doesn’t even need to exist, to be completely honest.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: It’s a Very Sunny Christmas is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.