The Daily Show‘s Jason Jones and Samantha Bee costar in this low-budget comedy, which filters the unique torture of holiday familial bickering through the rubric of a Blair Witch-style collection of captured footage.
Set on Christmas Day in 1985, the movie centers around a dysfunctional suburban clan, the Cooper family, headed up by Gordon (Jones) and Nancy (Bee, Jones’ real-life wife). After accepting a secondhand VHS camcorder from a perverted neighbor (NewsRadio‘s Dave Foley, who bares a lot for the film) in order to settle an outstanding debt, Gordon cedes control of the (then-newfangled) device to his youngest son Teddy (Dylan Everett), who in good kind proceeds to torture his curiously stunted 17-year-old brother, Marcus (Nick McKinlay).
More chaos ensues, naturally. When the kids’ gregarious uncle Nick (Mike Beaver) shows up at their door, normalcy becomes lunacy, and the rest of the family — including Nancy’s sisters Bev (Jennifer Baxter) and Joanie (Jenny Parsons), Joanie’s new African boyfriend Okeke (Onyekachi Ejim), and disgruntled parents (Jayne Eastwood and Jock McLeod) — is hardly any more sane. The most disruptive influence, though, is Gordon’s estranged brother Tim (Peter Keleghan), who used to date Nancy in high school, and hasn’t seen his brother in, oh, 17 years or so. As they say, some memories should never be recorded.
The script for Coopers’ Christmas is co-written by Jones and Beaver, which gives the project a certain streamlined efficiency. In addition to plenty of comedy of the sort one might expect from a period piece (Star Wars and Facts of Life references, say, along with terrible sweaters), there’s no small amount of amusement in the dialogue (Marcus’ sourly notes that the gift from his grandmother is addressed to “older boy”). The ceiling for this type of tossed-off entertainment may be fairly low, but all the participants here are game and on the same page regarding the type of movie they’re making, and director Warren Sonoda and his behind-the-camera collaborators actually come up with inventive staging tricks to keep the gimmickry of the conceit from getting stale. Coopers’ Christmas doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but neither does it aim to; instead, it just delivers a fairly solid supply of laughs… who knows, perhaps even enough to make you think your own family is completely sane.
Housed in a regular, white, plastic Amaray case, Coopers’ Christmas comes to DVD presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, with a Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound audio track, and optional English SDH subtitles. A feature-length audio commentary track with director Sonoda and producer Sean Buckley gives plenty of amusing and interesting insight into the film’s brisk, 11-day shoot, with anecdotes about Jones raiding the deep storage of his nearby parents’ garage to help complement the movie’s domestic clutter, and co-editor Aden Bahadori working just offscreen during filming. There is also a 17-and-a-half-minute making-of featurette, full of cast and crew interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. B- (Movie) B- (Disc)