‘A Very Murray Christmas’ Review
Director: Sofia Coppola
Starring: Bill Murray, Paul Shaffer, and a ton of other people.
Plot: Bill Murray’s Christmas special goes horribly wrong.
There is a class of celebrity that becomes so famous that people just sort of stop liking them. You have your tabloid jockeys like Kim Kardashian who are just constantly exploiting an aspect of themselves, and you have people like Jennifer Lawrence who spring to fame so quickly that people start to detest them out of principle. Bill Murray as far as I can tell is the only exception. There is no one as universally and immortally liked as Bill Murray. You can’t even hate him ironically, and if anyone says they do it is a sure fire way to realize that that person is a piece of shit.
Here, he plays a version of himself who is hesitantly talked into hosting a Christmas special where he croons some Christmas carols with an array of special guests, including George Clooney and The Pope. Unfortunately, none of these people can make it because of a blizzard that hit New York. Murray, his producers (played briefly and hystiercally by Amy Poehler and Julie White), and his man on the piano, Paul Shaffer, are already at the hotel where they would have been broadcasting, and Murray is being forced to follow through with it by his lonesome. Murray wrings some great comedy out of the ensuing panic attacks, but not before, in a Muppet-Show-like behind-the-scenes musical number, sings “Let it snow” with his small entourage on the way to the stage. It is this kind of spontaneous singing that makes this Christmas special…um….special.
One thing leads to another, and Bill Muray can only perform one musical number before the blizzard knocks out the broadcast, a renditon of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” paired with a nervous Chris Rock, played almost entirely for laughs (successfully). Form then on, Murray and Shaffer are stranded in the hotel bar, where Murray has spontaneous moments with the other workers, all of whom happen to be played by actual musicians. David Johansen, lead singer of the New York Dolls but you might remember him as the cabbie from Murray’s Scrooged, is tending bar. The band Phoenix are the cooks covering the Beach Boys’ “Alone on Christmas,” and best of all is Rilo Kiley frontwoman, Jenny Lewis, showing up as the waitress. Lewis and Murray perform a very cool rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Lewis sings beautifully, and Murray hangs up the pipes and instead just vamps some honest to goodness flirting between her turns.
A few other people are snowed in as well. There is Rashida Jones and Jason Shwartzman as a couple who are supposed to get married that night, as well as Maya Rudolph as a lounge singer who gets to belt out some “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home).” All of these tales and tunes up to this point have been a tiny bit rough around the edges which helps to really emphasize the spur of the moment quality. The special excels when it acts as if it is one of those internet stories about people just running into Bill Murray in public, which makes it all the more sad when it tries to have its cake and eat it too.
The special sadly takes a turn when Murray and Shaffer are suddenly transported to a soundstage that looks like a festive Apple store. He is joined by George Clooney to help him croon and Miley Cyrus because someone should know how to sing. The songs they play here are much more polished. Cyrus’ “Silent Night” is nice, and Clooney and Murray’s “Santa Needs Some Loving” is memorable. It just amounts to what you would expect from a customary Christmas special. That’s disappointing since Coppola seemed to be fighting that urge. It damn near sinks the whole thing.