Bill Murray’s latter career renaissance has been going on for some time now. Who can even pinpoint when it really started? Perhaps with 2003’s Sofia Coppola-directed Lost in Translation. In the wake of his unquestioning popularity, it seems as though people have forgotten that, yes, Murray is capable of making a faux pas.
In this case, it’s A Very Murray Christmas, a Netflix distributed Christmas special that finds Murray teaming up with his old friend Sofia again. Centered around the premise of Murray doing a Christmas TV special (meta is always trending, isn’t it?), his ability to go through with the performance is hindered by bad weather that prevents all his guests and audience members from attending the taping at the Carlyle Hotel. As his producers, Julie White (herself) and Liz (Amy Poehler), encourage him to get out on the stage or risk legal action for not fulfilling his contract, Murray reluctantly slinks down the back stairs of the hotel only to be confronted by a shysty talent agent (Michael Cera, naturally) lurking in the wings, waiting to tell him his special is going to be a disaster if he doesn’t sign with him. To try to psych Murray out, Cera pitches a special that would be infinitely better, one with Miley Cyrus in a “sexy skirt.” Murray ignores him and continues on his forlorn way to the sound stage where very few crew members are waiting to get the show started.
With, for some reason, Paul Shaffer as his piano man, Murray takes the stage with all the enthusiasm of a corpse. “Dashing through the snow, in a one-horse open sleigh/O’er the fields we go, laughing all the way,” he sings before delving into a weep over the embarrassment of having to do the special for no one and with no one. He then runs off the stage and tries to leave the Carlyle, only to be met with a blast of cold air and the reminder that there’s a terrible storm. Luckily, at that moment, Chris Rock arrives for no apparent justification, telling Murray he walked all the way through the subway rails to get there. When Murray insists that he should help him carry out the rest of the Christmas special, Rock refuses. But of course, Murray won’t take no for an answer, guiding him to the stage for a rendition of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” The second the blizzard causes the power to go out though, Rock disappears into the night, leaving an even more depressed Murray no other choice but to drown his holiday woes at the hotel bar.
It is at this point that the overload on songs is palpable. Yes, we get that Murray, Coppola and Mitch Glazer (who wrote the script for Murray’s much better Christmas effort, Scrooged) are trying to recreate the whimsy and musicality of classic holiday specials past, but when the time frame is so short (roughly fifty-six minutes), it’s really quite noticeable that there’s nothing but people singing, detracting from the already absent plot. In fact, so banal is it from this point forward that one is better off simply listing the cameos that occur throughout the rest of A Very Murray Christmas: Jenny Lewis, Rashida Jones (where there’s Poehler, there’s Jones), the members of Phoenix (because Sofia Coppola is married to lead singer Thomas Mars), Jason Schwartzman (no stranger to Murray), Miley Cyrus (who also sings for a vexatious amount of time, making it something of A Very Miley Christmas) and George Clooney. Not much else to say about it, other than you might just want to stick with watching Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special for a richer plot and better guest stars.