Red Herrings and Green Jealousy: Chris Kasick's UNCLE NICK (2015) / by Samuel B. Prime

Exuberantly flatulent funny man Brian Posehn has made a career out of memorable bit and supporting roles in film, television, and on the web (detailed to vaguely bitter effect in this local TV news interview), but in Chris Kasick's debut feature UNCLE NICK - in theaters as of today, Dec. 4th, 2015 - he appears in a rare leading role. While it is refreshing to see Posehn at the center of something other than his sophomoric stand-up routine or Dungeons and Dragons podcast Nerd Poker, he is typecast as a fat, schlubby loser whose life is in shambles. Posehn as Nick has an achingly obvious alcohol dependency, porn addiction, and an apparent lust for his busty niece (Melia Renee). However, even though the characters opposite Nick judge him without remorse, the movie seemingly comes to his aid by enforcing that he nonetheless has a roof over his head, owns and operates the family business, and makes ends meet while solely and selflessly covering the retirement home costs for his ailing mother. But who is Nick, really? Is he a good guy or a bad guy? An underdog or just another sad loser? 

The truth is that Nick is the jealous type, but not entirely without reason. He has lived in the shadow of his prissy brother Cody (Beau Ballinger) whose only occupations are trophy husband, stay-at-home dad, and harebrained entrepreneur of a sleazy t-shirt company. By comparison, Nick has only achieved anything by hard work. And though Nick's is an honest life, it is not exactly easy. This is the set-up for a holiday family gathering gone awry.

UNCLE NICK is occasionally charming and mostly harmless, but can never really decide what story it is telling. The result is potentially provocative threads that go nowhere at all and sudden elements that without the proper dramatic gravitas just feel like cheap deus ex machina. For example, in the movie's first three minutes we learn that Nick's ailing mother cannot attend the family's Christmas gathering due to illness. This is reiterated when Nick arrives at the party, but then she is never mentioned again. Also, the movie makes a saving throw attempt to justify Nick's dweebiness with a mid-movie horror story about a former girlfriend who died of an aneurysm on Christmas Eve several years earlier. The added details that she was "so cold" and had "evacuated her bowls, or whatever the medical term is" perfectly encapsulates the schizophrenic, incompatible tones that so often come bundled together in this movie. A simple story about one family's chaotic Christmas is filled with red herrings.

To say nothing of the narratively justified, but unnecessary feature-length sports metaphor that divides the film into innings, UNCLE NICK is a bad Christmas miracle. It is ultimately well-meaning and the notable actors are committed to the fiction, but any good that comes of it is eventually, if not immediately, outweighed by the bad. 

UNCLE NICK opens Friday, December 4th at Arena Cinema for a weeklong theatrical run.

- Samuel B. Prime

Founder, LA Ciné Salon