If you think that ring-ting-tingling you hear is the sound of jingle bells jangling on the side of Santa's sleigh, you're probably just hearing spare change bouncing around in the pocket of a homeless man as Frank Reynolds tosses him out of a dumpster to make way for a possible grave spot. Hitting DVD shelves is It's a Very Sunny Christmas, a quality Christmas special following in the tradition of British television and cartoons of yesteryear. No, we don't see Frank tossing a bum, but we do find out that he wants to be buried in trash when he dies. This is one of many nugs of wisdom this special presents to its audience, an audience that has grown with each season of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It's a good sign that instead of grouping similar episodes together for a themed release, we get an all new production to enjoy, and if you're even the slightest fan of the show, you're going to enjoy this.
I wonder if there will ever be a time when kids only recognize Dickens' A Christmas Carol as plagiarism of all of their favorite forms of media. It's a vastly overused morality tale whose original story actually stands that much higher when placed against almost any one of hundreds of retreads and re-imaginings. Every once in a while, though, somebody will subvert the original story to make it relevant and original again, and it will reinforce the idea that imagination is forever. Well, I don't know about sub-version, but the guys from It's Always Sunny... certainly add per-version, and loads of it. Almost all Christmas trappings get the finger in the rear, from obvious ones like presents and Santa, but there's also a B-story extension of the song, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," and some Grinch story threads. Taken apart like that, it's a pretty solid entry into the Christmas-episode canon, though it was released on DVD first. (It's 43 minutes long, so you know it's going on TV later.) But this is an unedited version, and even when you look beyond all the holiday homage, it's also one of the best episodes of It's Always Sunny... ever.
There are two stories involved that unfortunately split the group up until the last third or so, but both work solidly together, and it helps if you're a fan of the show, because a lot of smaller details are paid off that way. The main story consists of Dee and Dennis trying to give Frank some ill-willed payback for all of the Christmases he's ruined in the past. The siblings recruit Frank's old business partner (whom Frank screwed over majorly) to act as a ghost of Christmas past in order to change Frank's selfish ways. Danny DeVito is pure comedic energy in this. I have such a hard time watching his movies now without seeing Frank all over the roles. The plan backfires, of course, but along the way we're treated to an awesome couch gag, if I can call it that, because it involves a couch, and something that taps the gag reflex. Dennis and Dee are in top form as well, stuck in their "gimme gimme" ways.
The other story involves Mac and Charlie redefining their preconceptions about Christmas. If this sounds ambitious, it's only because Mac's parents weren't honest about their presents' origins, and Charlie's notion of Santa Claus turns South. To see Lynne Marie Stewart returning as Bonnie Kelly was great, and the younger versions of Gregory Scott Cummins and Sandy Martin as Mac's parents were also great in their brief moments. This storyline defies logic, as Mac and Charlie would have to be near retarded to misconstrue the things that they only now are understanding, but whatever. We get to see the origins of Charlie's glue sniffing, so there's a plus. Also, a Captain Caveman reference.
A child sniffing glue is only one of the things in this special that would probably never make it on the air. There's some nudity and a lot of blood. Some of the gory moments happen during a playful claymation sequence serving as an epiphany to Frank. It's accompanied by a bloodbath of a carol sung by the cast. But most of this happens during the second half. The first half plays very much like a usual episode, and then somewhere around the middle, you realize that the slow burn towards the more adult material was intentional and well worth it. There's not much more to say, as it's not that long a show, and the jokes speak for themselves. It's available for a digital download, and that would be the best bet, as full price for this disc was a Buster Brown.
There really isn't much to say about the disc either. The unedited aspect is wonderful, but the extras are few. There's a behind-the-scenes featurette that just has some of the cast talking briefly about things, and a bit about the claymation, and a bit about the end scene with a large snow machine. There are three silly deleted openings with young versions of Mac and Charlie, both of whom are amazingly like they're supposed to be, and are great in the footage they get in the actual show. Little Mac and Big Mac's excited karate gesturing is hilarious. Lastly, there's a bizarre sing-along feature where the cast sing carols to someone playing a piano. But there's a lot of hokey/weird editing involved, including funhouse-mirroring their faces, that make the thing a psychedelic Wonder Showzen-like aside. It was great, as something like that would never be seen elsewhere, except maybe as a website promo. Maybe it was one, or will be. It should. It's creepy and goofy all at once.
And that's it. No commentary, even. It's a definite must-watch, but don't buy it unless you do things like that, like I do. I wonder if I still have the receipt. Maybe I can regift. Does that work if you bought it yourself? Oh, sorry, different show. Merry Christmas?