Wednesday, December 21, 2016

25 Days of Christmas: A VERY MURRAY CHRISTMAS

Welcome to Day 21 of our 25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS series, where we will be taking a look at holiday classics each day in the lead up to Christmas. Today, we'll be reviewing the 2015 Netflix Original Christmas special, A VERY MURRAY CHRISTMAS.

What could possibly go wrong with an hour-long Christmas special featuring beautiful people singing carols around a piano on a snowy Christmas Eve? A lot could go wrong. A lot did go wrong. In 2015, Netflix released A Very Murray Christmas, a throwback to old Christmas specials from years long past. It went on to be nominated for an Emmy and garnered mediocrely positive reviews, currently boasting a 78% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average Critic Score of 6.4/10. Perhaps I am simply not old enough to truly appreciate the classic nature of Bill Murray’s Christmas ramblings. Regardless, this Christmas special successfully sucked all the Christmas spirit from my cold, Scrooge-like heart.

Here’s the “plot,” such as it is: Bill Murray is contractually locked into doing a Christmas special that he is recording on Christmas Eve, the day of a massive blizzard that has locked him and his crew in the basement of a hotel. Murray is not happy. He does not feel that a cheap collection of carols and ambient lighting are befitting of a man of his acting caliber. However, as he is snowbound, he encounters a series of people who gradually bring out the Christmas spirit within him.

My recap of A Very Murray Christmas? Over the course of an hour’s time, viewers realize how truly atrocious of an actor Amy Poehler can be, how awful of a singer Maya Rudolph can be, and how completely unlikeable and uncharismatic Bill Murray can be when he just doesn’t care. Rashida Jones and Jason Schwartzman submit passable performances, largely undercut by how little they seem to want to be onscreen. Chris Rock’s unbelievably painful cameo appears to have been negotiated at the end of a shotgun. As I watched A Very Murray Christmas, I found myself remembering Movie 43 and the similarly dead eyes on the faces of those poor, unwitting actors. Throw in a “Murraycane” of “Hail Murray” Murray-puns that slap you in the face with their inanity and accentuate those with a slew of talented actors that seem to only be there because Bill Murray conned them into being in a Netflix movie and you have a relentlessly slow, depressingly lifeless Christmas special.

There are some shining points. Michael Cera appears for thirty seconds and his typically-punchable face is as needing of a slap as always, which at least felt genuine in a movie that epitomizes “forced.” Bill Murray, even at his most insufferable, is still a charming fellow and, once you accept that he’ll never be peak-Murray in this hour-long cinematic experience, then he isn’t absolutely hatable. George Clooney makes a strange cameo that will leave you scratching your head and mildly chuckling at Hollywood’s classiest gentleman being reduced to a cheap punchline. And, shockingly, the best singing and most engaging moments of the movie come when Miley Cyrus appears on screen in the movie’s final moments. In a movie featuring Clooney, Murray, and some wonderfully talented comedic actors, Miley Cyrus stole the show. Let that sink in.

Netflix has given us some great art. Bill Murray and Co are legends in Hollywood for very good reason. However, lazy writing, subpar performances, and camera work that looks straight out of a college freshman’s Film-Making 101 final project drive A Very Murray Christmas down past “forgettable” and squarely into the realm of “bad.”

Jonathan’s Score: 3/10

Be sure to stay tuned throughout the rest of the month! We're posting a new Christmas review every day, both old and new! Check back to see what movie we'll have you singing carols next!

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