Show Name: A Very Murray Christmas
Studio: American Zoetrope
Release Date(s): December 4, 2014
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
It is Christmas Eve, and Bill Murray has a problem. He’s supposed to do a live holiday Christmas show, but the city is being hit by a massive snow storm and everything is shut down. There’s no audience and no guests, and Murray learns from his managers (Amy Poehler and Julie White) that the show must go on. What can Murray do to save his Christmas special?
Directed by Sophia Coppola, A Very Murray Christmas is a holiday comedy special. The hour special features multiple guest stars and was released on Netflix on December 4, 2015.
A Very Murray Christmas is a throwback to old celebrity Christmas special. The special was written by Murray, Coppola, and Mitch Glazer and features many of the tropes found in the specials which used to dominate the airwaves around the holiday season. It is a fun trip back in time that is both an homage and something new (for younger viewers).
The plot is typical of the plot of one of the specials (which generally didn’t need plots, but the producers and stars still gave them one). Christmas appears to be ruined and by good fortune (much like something from White Christmas), the day is saved…sort of. The true events of the special is that after dragging Chris Rock on stage the power goes out and Murray hangs out with the staff of the hotel. The glamorous view is that the staff is celebrities, they sing Christmas carols, and Murray has an elaborate dream sequence. It is fun and intentionally downplayed to create this retro style.
The cast is also representative of what an old Christmas special would be. The show bases itself around a star like Murray and his “friends” (Paul Shaffer is the obligatory “necessity” friend for his piano playing). You have popular and diverse comedians like Amy Poehler, Chris Rock, Maya Rudolph, Michael Cera, Jason Schwartzman, and Rashida Jones…they are good but not A+ list stars and they have to feel like they are what you can get for a Christmas special. You then throw in some musical guests like Jenny Lewis, David Johansen, and Phoenix, but you also need a bigger selling name like Miley Cyrus. For the grand finale, you add one linchpin big celebrity in George Clooney. It is a great set-up for this show.
I like the dream sequence of the special most. I would have almost like the whole thing to be a dream after the Chris Rock portion, but it works here. Primarily, what I enjoy is the idea of these specials where you have people singing (uncomfortably) who might not sing normally. Chris Rock’s solo is meant as a David Bowie/Bing Crosby moment (the best is Murray trying to put his hand on his shoulder and deciding not to), and you get Maya Rudolph belting out “Santa Baby, Please Come Home” slightly off. The big celebrity (Clooney) just as a little to the song since he’s only meant to be the hook for viewers (in the terms of a retro special). The only thing I felt was missing was a big number at the end of the show with all the cast (but the dream sequence also serves the purpose of showing that not everyone was available to record at the same time…something frequent in the specials).
A Very Murray Christmas is a surprisingly well thought out special that will go over the heads of many younger viewers who never saw any of these specials. I was born at the tail end of the Christmas special boom but do recall them. Older viewers might not get the irony of A Very Murray Christmas but it is rather enjoyable overall so check it out! I’d love a A Very, Very Murray Christmas sometime in the future.