- First Place Critical Review – Joseph Van Vranken, Multimedia Editor
- First Place Picture Story – Dave Creaney, Photographer and Preston Bezant, Layout/Design Editor
- Honorable Mention News story – Manal El-Haj, Reporter
- Honorable Mention Feature Page Design – Preston Bezant, Layout/Design Editor
- Honorable Mention Illustration (Non-photo) – Daniel Groh, contributor
Joseph Van Vranken, Multimedia Editor
“A Merry Friggin’ Christmas” tells the story of Boyd Mitchler, played by Joel McHale, whose Christmas spirit and belief in Santa Claus were stolen at a young age by his alcoholic, ill-tempered father Mitch, played by Robin Williams.
Now a father himself, Boyd slaves tirelessly to ensure that his son doesn’t experience the same holiday disenchantment.
However, when Boyd is informed of his nephew’s baptism, which is to take place on Christmas Eve, he is forced to pack up his wife and two children and return to the last place he’d want to spend Christmas — his childhood home.
Upon arriving back home, Boyd realizes he forgot to bring his son’s Christmas present. He must then make the eight-hour, round-trip drive to save Christmas before the kids wake up.
For a film about family, the characters need to be well-written, well-acted and most of all believable.
Unfortunately, the Mitchlers don’t really fit into any of those categories.
Outside of a few stand-out performances by Williams and occasionally McHale, the Mitchler family seems as if they are meeting each other for the very first time.
Most character dialog serves only as exposition, including but not limited to stopping dinner to explain what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is and how a particular character developed it. It is clear that no one at the table is being told this for the first time. The dialog only serves to inform the viewer instead of building any kind of meaningful, let alone believable, relationships among the characters.
About 30 minutes into the film, Boyd embarks on the road trip with his father. At this point the film does pick up a little in terms of pace and interest.
Fortunately, placing the two best acted characters alone in a truck for the majority of the film helps the family dynamic just enough so that they start to appear believable. However, about half way through the road trip, the writers deem it necessary to add a third wheel to split up the father/son dynamic, after having just created it. Although the third wheel does put a damper on Williams’ and McHale’s best efforts to bring the film back, there are still a few laughs to be had during the trip itself.
Overall, “A Merry Friggin’ Christmas” doesn’t feel like the proper send off for an accomplished and beloved actor such as Robin Williams, who died earlier this year. Instead, it just feels like a mediocre Christmas flick.
Nonetheless, there are enough laughs and a sufficiently well acted performance from Williams to make the film worth renting once the Christmas season is in full swing come December, even if only to see Williams in one last leading role.
“A Merry Friggin’ Christmas” is available now for digital purchase or rental from Sycamore Pictures, with a limited theatrical release beginning November 7.