I’m a fucked up man, so I LOVE dark comedies. I’m also sweet, sugary, and sentimental underneath all this alcohol and anger, so it’s no surprise that I love Christmas. Combining the two is like being drunk and disorderly in a crowded Christmas Tree Shop (which is awesome). Dark Christmas comedies are the staples of this holiday season for me. When I read the description for ‘Uncle Nick’, I had flashes of ‘The Ref’, ‘The Ice Harvest’, and ‘Trading Places’ (not sure why the last one popped into my head, it’s nothing like ‘Uncle Nick’, but it’s a good movie, so go fuckin’ see it).
Picture this, drunk uncle Nick (Brian Posehn) goes to his brother’s “traditional” family Christmas dinner where through his alcohol fueled escapades, family secrets are dragged out with the presents. Add to this a cast of characters that’s equally fucked up. His asshole of a brother Cody (Beau Ballinger), who had everything in life handed to him, married Sophie (Paget Brewster) a rich cougar with two kids. Valerie (Melia Renee) is a 20 year old who’s smoking, drinking, and doing…well, other people, while Marcus (Jacob Houston) is the complete opposite, content with sitting by himself playing games and generally not doing much with his life. Nick’s sister Michelle (Missi Pyle) is just as rude and crude as he is, which is amplified by her husband Kevin (Scott Adsit) who is desperate for attention despite only ever talking about his podcast (something all of us at Slack Jaw Punks can relate to).
Doesn’t this sound awesome?!? It’s the perfect mix! It sounds like ‘The Big Chill’ if ‘Bad Santa’ dropped by! It could be the next Christmas tradition for all the poor souls who have nowhere to go on Christmas day and had to resort to using their last ten dollars and a free movie pass in order to find a place that’s serving food because everything is fucking closed and there’s nothing in their house to cook, while praying to the baby Jesus, who’s already forsaken him, that the gas in the tank is enough to get them there and back… (I mean…um…look, my delete key is broken so if you could ignore that last part that would be great)
‘Uncle Nick’ is tonally all over the place. In the dark comedies already mentioned, the bleakness of reality and the humor are mixed in the beginning, building up to darker moments that can be taken seriously. This allows the audience to both understand the heavier moments while allowing themselves to laugh again once they’re over. ‘Uncle Nick’ will have an uncomfortable scene one minute (really, Really, REALLY uncomfortable scenes), witty drunken jabs then next, and finish off with a completely serious soliloquy about being alone and losing someone. It’s like the movie was daring me to find something about it funny. I know that’s not what the movie was doing (anyone who thinks that kind of manipulation is art, doesn’t understand that they’re an asshole, not an artist), but because of this I couldn’t enjoy it on the level it wanted me to.
Along with the tone, framing (in the context of character and story, not the camera) appears to be off. When each character in introduced, I got the feeling that everyone was on the same level. Everyone had that “thing” that made them no better than any other character. Yet as the story went on, some of the characters weren’t nearly as bad as originally portrayed, despite the movie setting up scenes to make it seem that way. Let me give you an example.
Sophie is portrayed as a stuck up rich girl who only married Cody for superficial reasons. Any time she objects to how someone is behaving or tries to shut down an inappropriate conversation, the reaction from others really tries to frame her as the bad guy. Except that I found that everything she objected to was something I wouldn’t want some cockbag to do in MY HOUSE. If my kid gets drunk and pukes, you better believe that they’re getting shit from me the whole night. Drunk brother in law making a scene and breaking my decorations? Fuck ‘em! Hell I probably would have kicked the fucker out and took his shoes! Sophie has a past where she made bad decisions, and by the end some of it is rectified, but compared to other characters that are doing REALLY fucked up shit, she’s FAR from equal.
There’s also this wraparound story where Nick recounts Ten Cent Beer Night, an infamous baseball story where in 1974, the MLB promoted that they were selling beer at ten cents a cup, with no limit, in order to increase attendance to a game between the Cleveland Indians and the Texas Rangers. Each inning parallels the main story itself from the initial bad idea to the violent downfall. I understand the analogy being presented, but it doesn’t work as well as the movie thinks it does. It’s just a series of circumstances similar to what Nick experiences that wraps up with a mild plot point and a punchline. If it had a bigger “Ah HA!” moment at the end, it would have been satisfying. As is, there’s no real value to it in and of itself. Replace it with the story of someone with the flu trying not to shit their pants while hiding from a psychotic Santa and you’d have the same result.
Beyond these flaws, it’s an entertaining flick. It got a few chuckles out of me and as uneven and uncomfortable as the movie made me at times, I wanted to know what happened next. That’s the most important part to any movie; I actually gave a shit. I’ll probably never go out of my way to watch it again, but I’m glad I got to see it. I’ll definitely recommend it during the holiday season as an alternative to the twisted Christmas movies that are more popular, yet come January, I’ll probably tell people to pass. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Who the fuck watches ‘White Christmas’ in March? Rapists, THAT’S WHO! Don’t be a rapist. THIS is the time of year to watch and enjoy ‘Uncle Nick’. Don’t forget the whiskey…
…or the 20 year old niece you want to fuck (seriously, SUPER uncomfortable).