Some of the most anticipated shows during this Christmas season, and every season, are It’s Christmas Charlie Brown, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, and A Very Murray Christmas.
That last title probably raised eyebrows. What’s A Very Murray Christmas? Why, that would be Netflix’s nod to televised yule fabrications of Christmases past (think Bing Crosby and Dean Martin) starring Bill Murray. Yes, Bill Murray now his very own Christmas special for all the world to stream on Netflix. Before anyone starts to speculate that Murray just makes a cameo in the special, let me be first to tell you he’s all over the fifty-six minute special. He’s a laconically dominant presence amid a cast that includes George Clooney, Amy Poehler, Chris Rock, and Miley Cyrus (just to name few). Is the special cheesy? Yes, but aren’t most Christmas specials cheesy? But make no mistake that this special is much more than cheese – it’s funny , touching, and strikes the right balance for what audiences want to check out over the holiday season.
A Very Murray Christmas presents Murray as a T.V. version of himself, a famous person who somehow was talked into doing a live Christmas Eve Special by very talkative producers (Amy Poehler and Julie White). He isn’t happy about this at all. Anybody who likes Murray being “Bill Murray” – extremely self-effacing with a desire to try and be sincere while always being the smartest person in the room – will think this is brilliant. A Very Murray Christmas is not for those overly chipper holiday T.V. viewers (we all have one or ten of them in our family). It’s for people who just want an escape from holiday stress.
Now that you all have a good idea of what you are getting yourselves into it, the show opens with Murray and his piano player, Paul Shaffer (he was also Nick’s piano player during Murray’s lounge singer act on Saturday Night Live), doing a soulful, but relatively dead-pan “Christmas Blues” in his suite at New York’s Carlyle Hotel. Murray laments “God hates me,” as a snowstorm seems to have disrupted plans for his Christmas Eve special.
Murray seems to be a dislocated man trapped in a fancy hotel, very similar to the character he played in Lost in Translation. This was no coincidence. The special’s director is Sofia Coppola and she co-wrote the script with Murray. Mitch Glazer (Scrooged) rounded out the writing team.
Various plot twists include Micheal Cera as an agent trying to sign Bill Murray, Phoenix (the band that features Coppla’s husband Thomas Mars), and Rashida Jones as bride whose wedding has been ruined. Murray is at the pinnacle of snarkiness when he suggests to the distraught Jones that she should take a picture with him because “that really seems to cheer people up.”
Everybody but Micheal Cera sings in A Very Murray Christmas. George Clooney even belts out a few notes with Miley Cyrus in a very elaborate dream sequence. The most effective performances during the special is Maya Rudolph singing “Christmas ( Baby Please Come Home)” and Rilo Kiley dueting with Murray on “ Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”
Overall, A Very Murray Christmas isn’t some deep Christmas special, but it really shouldn’t have been to begin with. Murray is fun, engaging, and quite the showman on stage. Will A Very Murray Christmas become a time honored classic ? Maybe … Maybe not. But later on that night when you are frantically stuffing those stockings by the chimney with care, and you hear a raspy voice trudging through “Do You Hear What I Hear?” you will immediately ask your better half, “Is Bill Murray singing Christmas Carols with Chris Rock?” And the answer will be, “Yes.” It will be at that point that you experience the magic of A Very Murray Christmas.