Your Christmas party ended three hours ago and the only ones left happen to be your best friends.
Welcome to The 12 Ways of Christmas, where we unpack weird and overlooked holiday films. Because let’s face it: the blog roll could use the attention. With little rhyme or reason, check in from now until The Day That Must Not Be Named for a new entry in our series. And while you’re at it, look back at last year’s entries, too.
Bill Murray seems like the last person who would enjoy the pun-iness of A Very Murray Christmas, Netflix’s one-hour holiday special. It’s too cute, too on-the-nose, too self-obsessed. And Murray’s persona is none of those things. You know the one. His aura of “I’m not trying to be cool and that’s why I’m cool” has become a thing of legend, washing dishes at college parties or stealing strangers’ food and whispering “No one will believe you.”
Bill Murray, Reluctant Force of Pop Culture is here in full, as channeled by director Sofia Coppola. And even at under 60 minutes, it works. A Very Murray Christmas begins with Murray (as himself) gazing out his New York hotel window, sporting a pair of reindeer antlers and singing the Christmas blues with Paul Shaffer tickling the ivories. Blunt, goofy, and with minimal frills, the opening is essential for telling us what’s to come.
Except for maybe Murray’s bum attitude. You see, it’s Christmas Eve and there’s a good chance nobody’s showing up to the holiday special Murray doesn’t want to host anyway. Blame it on the snowstorm, which has forced New Yorkers to stay inside and rendered public transportation useless. Tonight, the subway’s only serving Chris Rock, who stumbles into Murray outside his hotel after traversing the abandoned tracks. The two embrace in a fit of delirium before Rock politely reminds Bill that while it’s great to see him, they don’t know each other that well. But maybe he can help sing just one song?
A Very Murray Christmas takes a while to get into the swing of the season. An awkward meta-moment between Murray and “producers” Amy Poehler and Julie White is amusing for its behind-the-scenes humor, but it’s ultimately a misdirect from the low-key enthusiasm to come. With a bevy of terrific cameos — Michael Cera as a scrooge who zings The Monuments Men is fantastic — Murray gets plenty of backboards to bounce his brand of charm off of. In one scene, Jenny Lewis’s waitress breaks into a “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” duet with Murray. With any other older comedian, the moment would come off as creepy and ill-advised. In Sofia Coppola’s hands though, it’s both charming and a little sad.
If you watched that trailer, you’ll know this turns into a grand production with Murray and friends eventually arriving at — as George Clooney jokes — some “sound stage in the middle of Queens.” There’s a wonderful snowball effect with Murray’s indefatigable ability to have fun anywhere (something he and Coppola nail in Lost in Translation) where his everyman status can blend with Maya Rudolph crooning her heart out, a spontaneous Todd Rundgren cover, and a colorful appearance from Miley Cyrus — who nails the songstress atop the piano thing. A Very Murray Christmas is slight but heartfelt, tired but somehow always welcome. Imagine your Christmas party ending three hours ago and the only ones left happen to be your best friends. And Michael Cera.
Way #1: Christmas With the Kranks
Way #2: Santa With Muscles