Everyone has a birthday… but not everyone is able to celebrate it the way they want.
Mr. Birthday tells the story of Barry (Jason London), a single father who works maintenance in an upscale hotel. Though he’s under constant pressure from his boss and works with a number of uncaring residents, Barry remains a positive soul and works hard to take care of his daughter. However, all of that changes when he encounters the mysterious Mr. Jay (Fred Sullivan). Mr. Jay runs the International Birthday Network, a non-profit agency that offers children around the globe personalized birthday experiences when their special day is lacking. When Mr. Jay offers Barry a job to help bring these birthdays to life, he can’t resist the chance to make other people’s lives better… but balancing his two jobs will definitely be a challenge.
Directed by Dan Hunter, Mr. Birthday is a cute independent family film that wants to remind us all of the importance of the individual. Lighthearted and silly, there’s a lot that works within this little romp. With an adorable script and fun execution, Mr. Birthday is an engaging and sweet film that stems from an entirely unique premise. (Seriously, when was the last time you saw a ‘holiday film’ about birthdays?). In many ways, the film almost feels like a Christmas film where the proverbial Santa Claus hires a new trainee in order to take over his mantle. Although London’s Barry is a man who is beaten down by his boss, he still tries to see the bright side of life and never forgets to put others first. Star Jason London has a delightful energy that keeps the film moving, enthusiastically leaning into the fun.
In fact, the entire team seems to be enjoying themselves on this project. Sullivan is clearly having fun hamming it up as the benevolent Mr. Jay. Meanwhile, as Rick, the film’s moustache-twirling villain, veteran actor Eric Roberts is clearly having a blast as his character plots and schemes to interfere with Barry’s plans. There’s simply a joy amongst the cast that is palpable onscreen and reveals that this is clearly a labour of love for all involved.
At its heart, Mr. Birthday wants to remind us that everybody is important. Although major holidays remain times of celebration for the many, birthdays remain somewhat of an individual experience. Because of this emphasis on one person, Mr. Birthday recognizes that it can also be a really lonely experience for those who aren’t popular or don’t ‘fit into a box’. However, Mr. Birthday isn’t about to let that stand and fully leans into the belief that everybody should be celebrated. Everybody deserves to be remembered and honored, especially on their special day. (It’s also somewhat interesting that the film is that the birthday Institute is seem to be a nonprofit organization. There’s a definite emphasis on helping those who cannot do for themselves.) With each party, Barry and Emily offer an act of grace to those who need care. While the action of spending time with people on their birthday may seem fairly simple, so too does it show them that they matter.
It’s worth noting that Mr. Birthday is also interested about bullying. As Emily attempts to make friends in her school, she comes under fire for being the ‘new kid’. By mocking her for bringing cupcakes and ignoring her party invitations, Emily is left feeling unwanted by those around her. While Barry does his best to cheer her up, this sort of emotional hurt takes its toll. At the same time though, her father also has to deal with bullies at his work. Whether it’s his brutal boss or Rick’s snarky comments, Barry finds himself under constant pressure to meet the unreasonable expectations of others. Even so, this is a film that chooses kindness. Barry’s unflappable optimism frustrates his bullies and encourages his daughter. What’s more, their decision to help others who have been feeling left out gives them an even greater lift. There is a joy embedded in their care for others that enlivens their soul
By helping others, they also help themselves.
Sweet and silly, Mr. Birthday is a fun party that the whole family can attend. Backed by a unique premise, the film is goofy and charming with a cast that clearly cares about what they’re making together. Most importantly though, the film is an opportunity to remind the audience that everyone deserves to be celebrated on their birthday. After all, for Mr. Birthday, every child matters.
Mr. Birthday is available on VOD on Friday, December 17th, 2021.