I was hoping for something along the lines of Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special.
If you remember my review of that (or visit the above link), you’ll recall that I enjoyed the off the wall humor and self-parody that the special provided. And since that show was, theoretically, a followup to A Very Murray Christmas, I figured that I was in for more of the same—or even much better.
What I got was…quite different.
Bill Murray at his Lowest
The story takes place on Christmas Eve, as Bill Murray finds himself trapped inside the Carlisle Hotel in New York City as a blizzard rages outside.
The only problem is that he is set to host a live Christmas special with a broad swath of celebrity guests, none of which have made it through the storm. Contractually obligated to host the event anyway, he fails to ad lib his way through a truly dismal performance.
So he just…hangs out at the hotel with the other stranded guests. They sing a few songs and have a few dance numbers. And that’s it.
Who do They Think They’re Fooling?
One of the strangest aspects of this Christmas special is the way it treats celebrity cameos, with some celebrities playing themselves (Bill Murray, George Clooney, Miley Cyrus) and some playing characters (Rashida Jones, Maya Rudolph).
That this is never addressed or even winked at makes for an awkward viewing experience. Am I really supposed to believe that Bill Murray is unaware that the “ordinary” people trapped in the hotel with him actually have more relevance to a modern audience than he does?
Worst of all was the shoehorned cameo by Michael Cera, because it is never made clear if he is playing himself or someone else. And though his one scene is set up as a “trouble is brewing” moment, he is never seen again. The whole exercise gives no payoff. What was that scene not cut?
Song and/or Dance
Being a Christmas special, you would expect a lot of musical numbers, and even hope to enjoy a few of them.
Sadly, though, the only one who brings the pipes is Maya Rudolph, who I am starting to think should have been the host of this special. Everyone else is mediocre at best, even Rashida Jones (and I like Rashida Jones).
Of course, Miley Cyrus can sing, but her rendition of Silent Night was just the slightest bit tainted by the pop style of her voice. Ignoring the fact that we’ve had enough celebrity covers of the song to last ten trillion lifetimes, Silent Night is never better than when it is sung plainly, without a jazzy reimagining. And to her credit, Miley shies away from a bombastic or ornate approach. But she doesn’t bring the reverence that the song calls for.
A Very Murray Christmas tries to capture the feel of a classic TV Christmas special…and fails.
I wish I could put it more delicately, but there’s only so much lipstick in the world to put on this pig. Bill Murray, a man known and loved for his comedy, gives us a disturbingly unfunny performance. What could have been an event for the TV-streaming ages instead has the same impact as a dud firework on New Year’s Eve.
Netflix keeps it around all year, despite having better stuff to offer you. Maya Rudolph is this special’s saving grace. If she’s not enough for you, then you’d better not waste your time with this one.