"The people at Fox Home Video want us to read the following statement, that the content on this DVD (he means Blu-ray) is not filmed in true HD, it is not technically Blu-ray (It is technically Blu-ray, it's just not native HD) because it was filmed in standard definition to continue the established look of the show. It was a creative choice. It was upconverted by a special process..."
Words meant to lower one's expectations, to be sure. It's a shame they aren't forced before 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas' plays, though, as going into this program without watching the special introduction will lead to riots. Not exactly the welcome to the show I wanted.
I'll admit, as I often do in reviews for television programming, that I've never seen a single episode (or even segment) of 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia,' so when I got this release, after hearing so many positive things about the program, I was stoked as can be. Sure, I find Christmas episodes of television programs (even on 'Frasier,' my television favorite) to be incredibly thin, but if this show could impress with such a show, it would find a new fan in me. And it did. Going into this show (which is a home video exclusive), I had zero knowledge of the characters, themes, points, or any portion of the series, outside of the fact that it featured a return to crankiness from portly funny man Danny DeVito.
For 'A Very Sunny Christmas,' there's no sunshine to be found, literally or metaphorically. Twins Dennis (Glenn Howerton) and Deandra (Kaitlin Olson) Reynolds, Dennis' childhood friend Mac (show creator Rob McElhenney), and Charlie (Charlie Day), the last part of the friend trio and owner of Paddy's bar all have Christmas spirits haunting them. The twins suffer at the hands of their father Frank (DeVito), who would rather play pranks on the kids and buy himself the presents they want, while Mac and Charlie revisit their Christmas past to discover things weren't always as great as they remember. The Reynolds siblings employ their father's past partner who he scammed (the always great David Huddleston, that guy you can always recognize but rarely attribute a name to!), while the bumbling duo confront past wrongs and try to make amends.
I didn't expect 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas' to be the darkest holiday program since 'Bad Santa,' but it most certainly is. There aren't as many obscenities, but they do fly at a nice disarming pace. Fond remembrances of Christmases long gone leading to the discovery that one's mother was a prostitute, the stealing of gifts from others, and naked escapades (including the eye scarring image of a nude DeVito that is much akin to the elephant birth scene in 'Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls') are the norm here, with a twisted tale that parodies the classic 'A Christmas Carol' plot.
I can't imagine taking a trip to my Christmas past, and would prefer not to, honestly. I can imagine there are some things in there as scarring as what you'd find here in this program, that I've conveniently put them into the dark recesses of my memory to only remember when I want a reason to not go home for Christmas. That said, a trip down memory lane was certainly in store, as 'Sunny' has a "trip" sequence that parodies the claymation classic 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town' in one of the funniest segments of the show. The fact that this horrific, gut busting sequence isn't even the greatest bit of this program is a testament to the show's strengths.
Christmas specials may be derivative and dull as a whole, but the 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia' Christmas special is a superb feature, that is a great introduction to the dark comedy.
If only I could recommend this disc....
"Merry Christmas, bitches!"
'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas' debuts on Blu-ray only to show that it's certainly not always sunny on this format. This glorified upconvert (and not even a good one at that...it looks terrible) is presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio with an AVC MPEG-4 encode at...ahem..."1080p."
I really wouldn't mind a video looking this ugly if it were, say, an entire season of a standard definition television program jammed onto a single disc (or two if there were extras like commentaries), but when an entire BD25 is wasted on an upconvert and a measly pile of extras, this means war, Fox.
How's it look? Like someone force fed a VHS tape in my Playstation 3. The introduction stated there was a "special" upconvert. Does special now mean ugly as sin, or half-assed and lazy? To put it politely: there are artifacts everywhere. If this were a game of Pacman, where artifacts represented ghosts, you'd be dead before you could gobble a single pellet. Skin tones are unnatural, orangey, and red, there's banding all over the place, and to top it off, there's a barrage of awfully soft shots (especially establishing shots, that are so bad that light-up block letters naming a hospital are illegible) and an all around flat, two dimensional feel.
Whites are poor. Blacks lack any depth. Colors are splotchy. Dark shots (the graveyard sequence) is an utterly dreary abomination that is enough to induce tears. There's no fine object detail as there are no fine objects or detail here. The entire program has a gauze looking grain, much like a checkerboard pattern. This effect doesn't make the fact that there are vertical lines of varying brightness in the picture at random intervals (and by random, I mean frequent).
The video is much like Frank's Christmas gift giving...you are warned upfront it's going to be bad, and then, pow, out of nowhere, it's even worse.
While the video is an utter atrocity, the audio has to be much, much, much better, right? By comparison? Which means it's much less offensive to the senses, right?
Sure, the program is presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, but it's really, really problematic. Dialogue is clear, but extremely harsh sounding, with regular talking voices sounding like yelling. When characters yell? It sounds like the train hitting Mama. High ends are extremely shrill, while low end presence finds itself playing hide and seek in a garbage disposal. The entire program is very front heavy, with rears getting some random atmosphere (that is far, far, far too loud compared to the important parts of the show), while mixes of music and dialogue don't play nice together, competing for attention. The worst part has to be the mall sequence, where the entire food court is running frantically, yet there's no motion or rear presence or localization from astounded patrons.
Every extra from the DVD release finds its way aboard the extras section of this release, including:
"Why would grown men throw rocks at trains?"
Maybe said men saw this disc, and found a boxcar loaded with crates of it. The way this release is handled, I'd throw rocks too, as I felt one was hurled at me. As a newcomer to this show, I found so much humor and twisted warmth I'd want to see more of it (making the program itself a success), but I can't say I ever, ever want to watch video this ugly again. I wish I could recommend this one, I really do, but it's just too ugly.