American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"A Merry Friggin' Christmas" is being sold as a parting gift from its late co-star, Robin Williams, but it's a better example of Williams' tendency to enliven rather slapdash films by imbuing his characters with more sincerity and soul than they might have otherwise had.
Williams has a small but colorful supporting part in this Yuletide-themed comedy, which was directed by Tristam Shapeero from a screenplay by Michael Brown. He plays Mitch, the alcoholic patriarch of an extended family that he's been disappointing since the '70s. His son, a tight-sphinctered hedge fund manager named Boyd (Joel McHale of "Community"), is haunted by childhood memories of his father, a cynical, boozing crank. A recurring flashback finds drunk daddy telling little Boyd that there is no Santa, and that the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and other childhood constructs are b.s. as well. "The whole world is full of lies, boy," Mitch slurs. "The only road to heaven is to realize there's no road to heaven."
As a grownup, Boyd overcompensates for his father's chaotic darkness, embracing an Ozzie-and-Harriet idea of domestic stability in a marriage to Luann (Lauren Graham of "Gilmore Girls," in a thankless reactive part), instituting a rules-and-nutrition obsessed lifestyle for his two kids Vera (Bebe Wood) and Douglas (Pierce Gagnon of "Looper"), and forsaking his childhood interest in bridge and painting for a boring but lucrative job in the financial services industry. And he's obsessed with preserving his young son's illusion that there is in fact a Santa Claus.
Wacky Christmas misadventures ensue when Boyd's PTSD-suffering brother, Nelson (Clark Duke), asks him to be godfather to his new adopted baby, who's being christened on Christmas Eve. This leads to a forced family reunion in Boyd's native Wisconsin, during which we spend stressful quality time with Mitch, his long-suffering wife Donna (Candice Bergen), and Boyd's stereotypical redneck sister (Wendy McClendon-Covey) and her no-account husband (Tim Heidecker), a convicted flasher and all-around pig.