UNCLE NICK (2015)
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Nick (Brian Posehn) is a down-on-his-luck slob who has been in a slump since losing the love of his life, Emily (Annie Savage in flashbacks) to an aneurism. He reluctantly runs the family landscaping business while his younger brother Cody (Beau Ballinger) seems to get all the breaks. Case in point, Cody has recently married wealthy older woman Sophie (Paget Brewster) and lives in her luxurious home while doing little work for a living. They have invited Nick and sister Michelle (Missi Pyle) over for Christmas dinner and the only reason Nick is going, is to try to score with Cody’s hot and flirty twenty-year-old stepdaughter Valerie (Melia Renee). But with his jealousy and bitterness over his brother’s fortune bubbling to the surface, this could be a Christmas none of them will ever forget.
Ohio set Christmas comedy is rude, crude and has its share of dark humor, but is actually funny at times, too as directed by Chris Kasick from Mike Demski’s script. The story of the slobs vs the snobs, the train wreck character having his day and the Christmas dinner turned disaster, have all been done before, but the formula works fairly well here thanks to some legitimate laughs and a few moments of surprising sentimentality as when Nick relays during dinner the discovery of Emily’s body upon waking up. There are some very cliché moments, too, such as Nick finally getting his moment with the vixenish Valerie, but doing the noble thing, only to find out Cody is having an affair with her, under his new wife’s nose. Again, we’ve seen it all before, but writer Demski does come up with some funny bits and Cody is such a douche that we side with the oafish Nick even when he is wallowing in self-pity. The film also uses an interesting framework of being told in nine sections each in comparison to an inning in the June 4th, 1974 “Ten Cent Beer Night” Indians/Rangers baseball game that ended in a riot. This bit of cleverness does add an interesting slant as Nick relates the tale of that infamous ballgame, inning by inning, which echoes how his Christmas dinner outing is playing out. Maybe the only original thing the movie does, but it did add an interesting touch and was amusing in itself if nothing else.
The cast works well in portraying their misfit characters. There are some good performances here and Posehn’s deadpan delivery makes a lot of the lines work better than they should. His Nick may be feeling sorry for himself, but Posehn does make him likable even with his boorish behavior and slightly creepy pursuit of his younger step-niece. As for that, there is a basic bond between the two that does work. Melia Renee is perfectly cast as the sexy, tease Valerie and the actress gives her a little depth beyond the kittenish behavior. There does seem to be an actual affection for Nick, who shares her dislike for her new family situation, and she has moments where we understand her rebellious behavior. Sleeping with Cody is just a way to hurt her mother for divorcing her dad. The actress has sex appeal and a bit of a presence, and it would be nice to see her in something else, such as final girl duty in a good slasher. Paget Brewster also gives what could have been a stereotypical rich shrew role…though to degree it still is…a bit more three dimensional-ity, especially after the film’s big family showdown. She’s a woman who may realize she was selfish in her decisions. Beau Ballinger is fine as douche Cody, his role is shortchanged of any sort of depth in the writing, but the character works as it’s supposed to. The rest of the cast are fine from Pyle’s, oddball sister to Scott Adsit as her clueless companion and Jacob Houston as Sophie’s teen son Marcus.
The film doesn’t have much in terms of originality but does have some laughs and there are some moments of depth character-wise through all the smoking, drinking and cursing the main protagonists do. The actors are fine and lead Posehn has a solid deadpan delivery to get some extra mileage out of the lines. It may be a forgettable comedy when all is said and done, but an amusing enough holiday diversion to add to your list of Christmas-in-ruins flicks, if that’s your thing.
Rated 3 (out of 4) Christmas trees.