Overview: A put-upon, alcoholic older brother is forced to make merry and spend Christmas with his family, whether he wants to or not. Dark Sky Films; 2015; Not Rated; 93 minutes.
I Don’t Want To Be Home For Christmas: From director Chris Kasick and screenwriter Mike Demski, Uncle Nick is a vulgar, low-brow, and tasteless tale of holiday sneer that is also one of the most fun Christmas-themed comedies to come out in quiet sometime. Starring stand-up comedian Brian Posehn in the titular role, Kasick and Demski deliver an off-brand take on a regressively shallow, homogenized, and mainstream secular holiday. Posehn is in top form as Nick, the reluctant family patriarch of an unconventionally assembled, blended family, that predictably can’t seem to get along with one another, and would rather be anywhere but home for Christmas. It would be easy to see the faults in a satire as broadly articulated as this one so blatantly is, but there’s also a lot of heart and genuinely well performed characters from a cast of all-star comic actors in what is an otherwise entirely palatable, yuletide distraction.
Errol Morris, Baseball, and Beer: Perhaps the most singular aspect of Kasick’s slapstick comedy comes in its frame narrative, wherein Posehn narrates his account of the events surrounding a historic Cleveland Indians baseball game that took place on June 4th, 1974, when a promotional ten-cent beer night resulted in revelry, debauchery, and, finally, mayhem. The ways in which the prophetically doomed nature of Nick’s own story in the film proper is foretold in his recounting of the fabled events of forty years prior is a surprising means by which Demski’s script sustains itself despite the redundant nature of its thematic content. The means by which this personal history is told throughout Kasick’s film lends the featured comedy more emotional gravitas than it perhaps deserves, and attracted the attention of famed documentary filmmaker Errol Morris to the project as an executive producer, a factor behind the film’s marketing campaign and ultimate distribution that suggests perhaps a little more bite than this fairly conventional comedy of errors has held up within the power of its individual parts.
Minor League Hit: Posehn is an entirely capable comedian on the stand-up stage, and over the years has proven himself an exceptionally talented performer on television and film as well. From his misanthropic role on the late-1990s NBC sitcom Just Shoot Me!, to his work on the seminal alternative comedy sketch show Mr. Show with Bob and David, and even in his roles in such cult-classic features as The Devil’s Rejects, Posehn exudes a calmness that results in a certain sense of clarity in a role that is otherwise afflicted by the fog of what is an essentially boozy motion picture. Supplemented by the likes of contemporary comic actors Paget Brewster, Missi Pyle, and the well-renowned, former performer of Chicago’s Second City, Scott Adsit, Kasick and Demski deliver a film supported by a fine tuned coterie of comic presences. There is certainly plenty to find enjoyable about Posehn and company in this film, as their collective camaraderie in delivering what are a defined set of fairly conventional narrative beats make up for what is an otherwise expected holiday romp.
Overall: Uncle Nick is exceptionally well-crafted, and features a cast of all-star actors and performers who deliver on most of the script’s featured comedy beats, even as this Errol Morris production suffers from an overall lack of ingenuity and class.