Bill Murray’s idolatry exists because – for the most part – he’s unaware of it. His humbleness threads through his film roles and who he is outside of the cinema. It’s why we don’t roll our eyes when he’s crooning up a storm or when we see a viral video of Bill crashing someone’s wedding. He knows of his popularity, but he doesn’t bother to dissect it.
The SNL alumn plays himself in Netflix’s A Very Murray Christmas, and although the musical has inspired moments with great talent, the humour is occasionally misguided due to how much the film’s version of Murray knows about his public image. The audience happily listens to him belt out some tunes, but we’re confused as to why the Ghostbusters star is so needy for attention. It’s too far out of the element the movie expects its audience to click with.
In A Very Murray Christmas, a harsh snowstorm hits New York City. The disruption restricts movement in the air and on the road, leaving Bill to host his televised Christmas special alone. Despite the lack of attendance, he’s told by his producers (Amy Poehler and Julie White) that the show must go on – reaction footage from the Golden Globe Awards is on standby. Murray reluctantly shambles through songs, and soon finds himself in a bar talking to barflies and jilted lovers. The musical happens outside of Bill’s messy production and during this celebration amongst the tipsy misfits.
The musically unconventional A Very Murray Christmas flows from one song to the next without much narrative – this was most likely what director Sofia Coppola was going for. After Lost in Translation and The Bling Ring, this is essentially Coppola letting her hair down and kicking off her shoes. It’s jarring to watch the filmmaker portray fame without a message behind it, but it’s an easy slide into Coppola’s holiday escapism. As people sing, action plays out in the background and restrains to draw away any attention. My guess is that this is Coppola’s touching tribute to the energy found in films of the late Robert Altman. The left-in grins and flubs also provide telling evidence.
However, A Very Murray Christmas splits from its set up, and proceeds to deliver a typically glitzy seasonal extravaganza when Murray is knocked out cold. Giving the audience two different presentations has Coppola sticking her neck out (especially when the special punches out at 50-minutes), but since the exaggerated cheesiness is entertaining, her audience doesn’t mind the sudden change of pace.
The most impressive qualities of A Very Murray Christmas are the voices. Murray’s crooning is infectiously fun (his duet with Jenny Lewis is a delight), Miley Cyrus slays with a nuanced cover of ‘Silent Night’, and Maya Rudolph shows off her incredible pipes when singing ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’. Chris Rock’s ‘Do You Hear What I Hear’ has a funnier payoff than the piece itself, and even George Clooney finds a way to amuse during his fleeting appearance. Everyone is accompanied by musical director Paul Shaffer, who also appears as a more-playful-than-usual version of himself who follows Murray everywhere like a lost puppy.
A Very Murray Christmas maxes out its “celebrity card” to collect laughs, but it’s a good show nonetheless and we can’t help but smile. Watching it won’t become an annual tradition, but Coppola and company offer enough to give it a watch this holiday season.
Do You Tweet? Follow These Tweeple:
Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie